Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pappy Moore Archives

Loving and Hating Television
2 days 17 hrs ago | 78 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
YOU’RE watching your favorite show on television. The sound is just right. They break for commercial THEN SUDDENLY THE TV IS BLARING AT YOU!!

That’s the most annoying part of watching television. I’ve read the claim that they don’t actually turn the sound up when the commercials come on, but that strikes me as a big old lie. The station may not turn up the sound, but the commercials are recorded to be a higher volume than the shows we are watching. That sounds suspiciously like the claims made on television commercials which say “Acme products have unparalleled quality!” Notice, they don’t say it is better than other products, simply not exactly the same. It’s true, but it’s a clever misdirection, intended to deceive.

You’re watching a weekly television show. You don’t always watch, but catch it now and then. It’s a good episode, but as it fails to close the plot when the hour ends, you suddenly realize you are about to enter the “to be continued” zone. Nooooooooooo! What if I’m busy next week at this time? What if I forget when this show is on next week? Ambushed again.

OR HOW ABOUT how they use critical information to tease you to watch their news? “Has the swine flu hit your child’s school, yet? Find out with your Channel 12 News Team at 10 p.m. tonight!” It would be too easy to make a real announcement and say “still no swine flu cases in our area.” That wouldn’t get anxious viewers tuning in for the 30 seconds of news in the 10 p.m. hour saying “just kidding, there aren’t any cases in this area!”

No, they won’t break in to tell you the real news about a real crisis. That’s for teasing. But let a thunder cloud get within 30 miles of the television station, and the weather guy will be preempting the first five minutes of Law & Order — the ones where you find out what the plot is going to be — to warn you that thunder clouds mean rain, and sometimes lightning or water run off. Do the station bosses go home at 6 p.m. and leave the weather man in charge of the station? That’s sure what it seems. Why else would they let the weather man hijack a show to tell us one more time that sometimes it rains hard in this area, and that means thunder, lightning and flooding?! We get it! It’s raining again. Run the weather warning banner at the bottom of the screen if you must TV stations, but don’t have the weather man interrupt unless it’s really, really an emergency.

SPEAKING OF local news, remember when the news was mainly news? Remember when they had reporters, instead of an eye witness news team? Eye witness. Really? Isn’t the guy they’re interviewing supposed to be the eye witness? Remember when every newscast didn’t include mindless chatting among the “eye witness news team” members about everything from their kids, to their dogs, to their extra curricular activities? As Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday used to say “just the facts, ma’am.”

I make these rants as vox populi — as the voice of the people. I am merely speaking for you, giving voice to your own peeves. We all have them, but I get the pleasure of writing publicly about them.

No rant about TV would be complete without the unscheduled change in the TV schedule. According to the TV Guide, a certain show is on at a certain time. You make note of it, and plan on watching, but as you turn it on, you find that “your regularly scheduled program will not be seen tonight, so that we may bring you the Olympic Curling Semi Finals from Oslo, Norway.”

Now, where did I put that lying TV Guide?

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Don't Let Subtlety Cloak Your Feelings
6 days ago | 146 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHILE SUBTLETY has its value, it interferes with good communication. If your spouse doesn’t want to eat barbeque tonight, wouldn’t it really be better if he or she said so, instead of saying “fine” in a manner that suggests otherwise?

Subtlety is a way of avoiding conflict. It’s looking to the side, instead of staring back into the eyes of the beast, whatever the beast is. Subtlety allows us to avoid confrontation. It lets us skirt verbal tussles, with words that remain unspoken but largely understood.

Our children quickly learn to study our faces, watch our body language, and understand when we are in a good mood, and when we are serious about not hitting that drum one more time.

SUBTLETY often results from a person lacking the confidence to state plainly what they want. Rather than say what they want explicitly, they soft peddle their wishes, and end up short of their goal. Whether you are dealing with a plumber, a lawyer, a doctor, or a carpenter, you have to be willing to say “hey, that’s not what I wanted you to do,” if that expresses your desires. Don’t be subtle. Don’t drop hints. Say it, whatever “it” is.

Subtlety about matters of the heart can be counterproductive, too. Don’t assume your loved ones know you love them. Did you tell them recently? It’s the rare person who gets tired of being told they are loved. “Oh, my kids know I love them,” you might say. Yes, but we all need and want reassurance. If there’s one thing this life has taught me, it’s that we are all merely overgrown children, still needing the same things we needed as children. We want someone to be proud of us. We want someone to cheer for us. We want someone to kiss our bobos, to comfort us when we are disheartened.

LOVE OF family is the bedrock of a life worth living. Loving your family and telling them you love them is essential to making that bedrock a solid foundation for life. That love should reach out in all directions — to parents, to children, to siblings, to aunts, to uncles, to cousins, to grand parents, to exes.

We all have things we want to say that we avoid saying directly. We don’t wish to hurt someone’s feelings. We are afraid we might upset someone and create a bigger problem. We figure, perhaps rightly, that it will make matters worse, not better. All those can be true, and if we determine that such is the case, we should not bring up the topic. If you don’t want to address the topic, then don’t hint at it, either. That’s where most of us go astray. We can’t just leave something alone, so we make subtle comments that suggest we have an underlying opinion that differs from the one we claim to espouse.

Be direct with those you deal with. Don’t be subtle. If you believe some topic should be left unsaid, then leave it unsaid. But if it needs saying, spell it out, in plain words.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

1950s & 1960s Wrestling
Gorgeous George & Fritz Von Erich
13 days ago | 297 views | 1 1 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN I was a tyke in the 1950s and television was securing its place in America, one of the weekly family favorites was wrestling. My dad, my uncles and I loved watching and booing a wrestler named Gorgeous George. He was the original flamboyant wrestler.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Gorgeous George was really a man named George Raymond Wagner. He wasn’t a huge man, at five feet nine inches tall and 215 pounds. But he had a flair for the dramatic, and understood that his antics were his biggest draw.

GORGEOUS George attended Houston’s Milby High School, but dropped out at age 14 in 1929, when financial demands on his family grew heavy. He became a professional wrestler during the Depression because that’s how he could make a living. It wasn’t until he was 26, however, when he developed his Gorgeous George character. He had heard about another wrestler who used pompous, over-the-top behavior to antagonize fans. George decided to become Gorgeous George.

His character fawned over his looks, his longer than usual blond hair, and his somewhat effeminate behaviors. He was the Liberace of the wrestling world and he relished taunting his audiences. They loved to hate him.

Gorgeous George went to meet his maker the day after Christmas of 1963, at only 48 years of age. By that time, I was a young teen and knew that wrestling shown on television was basically fixed, that it was a theatric performance. My friends and I enjoyed watching it late at night on Saturday nights in the mid 1960s, though.

A television station out of Houston would run wrestling from an older venue in Houston, with a host who had the cauliflower ears to prove he’d spent too much time in the ring as a combatant. Sometimes a group of us would get together at Steve Reid’s house and watch wrestling. Lynn Parker, Eldon Ricks and Bill Bartlett would often be there.

OUR FAVORITE wrestler was Fritz Von Erich, who used a highly dramatic hold he called “the Claw” on his opponents. He would suddenly reach up and grab his opponent by the skull, using his hand on their head like a claw. He would grip them by the head, and they inexplicably could not manage to get free of the Claw.

Fritz Von Erich—whose real name was Jack Adkisson— would use the Claw to walk his opponents around the ring. They were helpless, the way only a professional wrestler can become suddenly helpless. They could go from being 250 pounds of muscle to an eighth of a ton of Jello in seconds.

Lynn Parker and I would sometimes reenact the Friday night wrestling in our Physical Education class. We would drag out the mats, arrange them for a ring, and get busy with our fake wrestling. Reprising the role of Fritz Von Erich, Lynn would get me in the Claw, and march me around the ring. Coach Poole always got a kick out of our performances.

Gorgeous George and Fritz Von Erich represent 1950s and 1960s TV wrestling.

If you grew up in East Texas, I will wager you watched them, too.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Fluff & Stuff or Stories With Meaning
18 days ago | 216 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A FEW years ago, a journalist who specializes in righteous indignation political opinion pieces asked me why I write the columns I write. This particular journalist considered such columns “fluff and stuff.” That made me chuckle.

My acquaintance is what I call an advocacy journalist. Such a person has strongly held opinions, and they draw upon the world of facts to write the stories they wish to write. In the world of journalism, this is a trend that has become fairly normal. Radio, television and the print media are full of pundits who opine indignantly about their peeve of the week. I don’t mind them. I often read them, but that’s not what I want to write about.

MY WRITING is a different approach. Political stories never really change. Oh, sure, the faces and the names change, but the storylines are as stale as a sitcom that has run too long. People get power. People misuse power. Corruption follows. Outrage follows. Throw the rascals out. Rinse and repeat.

I believe the stories that touch the lives of all of us are the stories that matter most. If I can tell a story that causes readers to detach momentarily from their day, to take a short mental vacation, and to find something to smile about — even for a moment — that is all I need to do.

I write first and foremost for my own amusement. I write about things I want to read about. When I complete a column, the first and harshest critic is me. I have over 50 columns that are under construction. Some sit idle for years, until I write a proper conclusion for them.

I write secondly for the amusement of my readers. I want people to enjoy them. I want people to be reminded of little lessons we all know we need to hear — being gracious to others, appreciating every morsel of good food we eat, loving our family members, helping the needy among us, enjoying the beautiful natural setting where we make our homes and raise our families. I want to strike a personal chord with readers, so they feel they got something from reading my column.

POLITICAL battles come and go. During the first 45 years of my life, there were times when I became deeply involved in politics. I decided in the mid 1990s I was through with my active involvement in political races, however. I wanted to reach people more directly, which led to my work with certain charities and ultimately, my writing this column. I want to leave behind a body of work that anyone can pick up and know the stories I have to tell, the messages I believe are important — the themes I find in life. I think my columns do that.

A story should have a point. Sometimes that point is only to amuse. Sometimes that point is to edify. Sometimes it is simply to remind of us the important things in life. It was once written by a wise man “I write to learn what I think.” I think that sums it up nicely.

If that’s fluff and stuff, I plead “guilty,” your Honor.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Things I Learned From My Mama
1 day 23 hrs ago | 191 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THERE ARE many things I still do as an adult which I first learned from my mother, when I was a child. I do it the way she taught me.

Like the way to use the egg shell to dip out the little piece of egg shell that fell into the frying pan with the egg.

Like the way to fold sheets or towels. Like how to hold the pillow with your chin while you put the pillow case on it.

One of the most important lessons she taught me was to put in writing and mail a formal letter of complaint, if I had a complaint to lodge.

Whether it was to a newspaper editor, the superintendent of schools, a teacher, or someone who promised to do something, but didn’t, she advised preparing a well thought out, well-composed letter.

That lesson is one all adults should learn. If you do not put your complaint in writing, you might as well not make it. When you send someone a letter—a piece of paper—they have to do something with it.

THAT’S HOW organizations are put together. They may ignore phone calls or e-mails, but a formal letter requires some kind of action. As my mother always said “be sure to keep a copy of the letter you send!”

My mother taught me good trip planning. Like her, I can tell you exactly where I am going before I leave. I have a road map in my head, one that I got from studying the maps before ever getting into the car. I know the miles between each town, and as they roll past, I check them off the mental list. My niece, Courtney, loves the fact that when we are on a driving trip, I can tell her to the mile how far we’ve come and how far we have to go at any point in the trip.

Good trip planning is more than just the map and the miles. It’s making sure you have all the things you may need—water, tissue, maps in the front; battery charger, fire extinguisher, windshield cleaner, tools in the trunk. It’s getting enough food to last as snacks, and figuring out which towns we will stop in. If you are taking kids, it’s having things along to keep them entertained and distracted. Mama taught me well to get little things, maybe even educational things, for kids to use for road distractions.

MOTHER TAUGHT me that good planning ahead of time saves time and makes life more efficient, in all things. I do not head out the door without thinking ahead of time exactly where I will go and in what order. I like to be efficient, and lack of good planning is an efficiency destroyer. My mother and I still like to mimic Barney Fife’s frequent declarative line from the Andy Griffin Show: “So, that’s the plan!”

Any time I find myself facing any kind of problem, particularly the big ones, the sooner I sit down and start working on my plan, the better off I will be. Once I start mapping out my options and the varying plans that might work, I find that the act of planning helps to soothe my concerns. My goal is to alter the things I can, and work with the things I cannot change.

My son is following in our footsteps. I remember the joy I took the time he came out of his room at age seven, with his checklist of things he wanted to take with him on vacation. My mother taught me by example, and I taught him by example. Twenty years later, his job is coordinating and planning at a University. He’s a chip off the old block, just like I planned it!

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Wild Bunch
12 days ago | 185 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE SPRING TIME often reminds me of my law school years in the mid 1970s in Austin at the University of Texas. The school is located near the University of Texas baseball field. The brand new Disch-Faulk Field opened while I was there, and it was state of the art when it was built. Sitting just east of Interstate 35, it was a great place to see a ball game.

As the spring would progress, law students and main campus students would trek over to the baseball field to watch the UT Longhorn baseball team, coached by Cliff Gustafson. The UT baseball team was a perennial powerhouse, so they always put on a good show, and won virtually every game.

THERE WAS an ad hoc group of 50 to one hundred fans who would always sit right above the opponent’s dugout. They were called “the Wild Bunch.” Their goal was let the opposing team hear them and be painfully aware of their antics. If an opposing player in the on-deck circle was swinging his bat rhythmically, they would shout “whoosh,” with each swing. It had a way of making those players aware of their actions and self conscious about them.

Sometimes if the opposing pitcher would start walking around the mound to collect his thoughts, they would start chanting with each step “hump, hump, hump.” It was rude, but it was also very funny.

When the opposing pitcher was pulled from the game, they would all stand up, right behind the opposing dugout, and applaud as the pitcher walked to the dugout. It was audacious and mean spirited, but we all sure got a kick of watching those antics.

Former University of Texas regent Frank Erwin liked to come watch the UT baseball games in those days. Austin’s premier entertainment venue, the Erwin Center, is named after him. Frank was a legend for many things, and drinking booze to excess was one of them. He was known to party a little too hearty.

THE WILD BUNCH loved to interact with Frank Erwin. They had a running gag when Frank was in attendance. Whenever the UT baseball announcer would say “well, it’s the bottom of the fifth,” the Wild Bunch would stand up and start taunting Frank. As they gestured drinking a fifth of liquor, they would yell “hey Frank, it’s the bottom of the fifth!” Everyone, including Frank, would laugh riotously, just like clockwork.

One time Frank wandered over to the Wild Bunch with a big bag, and started handing out hamburgers. He had bought a bunch of the burgers, just to give to the Wild Bunch.

That was over 30 years ago. I do not keep track of UT baseball any more and haven’t in a long time. I have no idea if there is still a Wild Bunch, but if there is, I hope they still have good natured, but not hateful, fun. Those guys rode opposing teams, but there was no meanness in what they did. It was just a bunch of young college guys making cat calls and being silly. Those were fun, carefree days and the goofiness of the Wild Bunch helped keep it that way.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Love a Rainy Night!
14 days ago | 212 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ONE OF my favorite Country and Western songs is Eddie Rabbit’s melodic and rhythmic tune, I Love a Rainy Night. The tempo mimics the swishing of windshield wipers, as they try to clear the rain for half a second. It’s one of the few upbeat tunes one will hear about the topic of rain. Most songs about rain tend to be sad or maudlin, but Rainy Night stands out as an anthem for those of us who love a good rain.

Unlike the former truck driving singer named Eddie Rabbit, I do not like to drive in that kind of rain. I love to hear it on my home’s roof, however. When the skies burst with rain, there’s no place like home.

If one is safely and warmly indoors, a heavy rain is usually welcome. There’s something about being inside our own personal lair when the rain is pelting the vicinity. It’s comforting in a way that seems natural. Many of us comment to each other about how such events are “good sleeping weather.”

GIVE ME a rainy night, the sounds of rain and wind on the roof and windows, and I’ll likely find an excuse to snooze. I can curl up and get some great Z’s during those rainy evenings.

The commonality of this feeling — that rainy nights are somehow comforting to us in a way which encourages us to sleep soundly — is something I have given thought to, trying to understand better. I have a theory.

We are animals. Like all animals, we sit somewhere on the natural predator and prey continuum. As animals, particularly in more remote times in human history, we fear being hunted at night by animals that hunt at night. This fear of being hunted at night compelled humans to use fire to protect the human camp sites, the human communities.

But predators do not typically hunt in the rain. They need their ability to see well at night, and to smell and hear potential prey. A rainy night would therefore likely signal humans that our concerns about predators should abate during such a time.

IT IS my surmise that early humans came to feel safe from predators when rainstorms came at night. While the rain might make it difficult to maintain a fire, it would also make it virtually impossible for larger predators to smell the scent of humans or their food. It would make unlikely any risk of attack by predators.

If I am correct about that, it would help explain why humans find sleeping at night during rain so natural. It tells us we can sleep more deeply, and with less worry about monsters that might get us while we sleep. I have long felt that nightmares and bad dreams are partially driven by the very real risk of attack to humans by predators, a fear that humans have had for much of human history. It has only been in the past few hundred years that relative freedom of humans from such predation has been inhibited by the homes and security we now have.

Whatever the reason I feel this way, whatever the reason humans seem to share this trait, I do love the rainy nights. They comfort me in a way that seems innate.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Worst Phone Call of My Life
22 days ago | 444 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JULY OF 1971, a half a world away from these piney woods, I got the worst phone call of my life. I was in the military, stationed in northern Taiwan. Communications back to the United States — “the world” as we all called it — were very limited. Phone calls to or from home were infrequent.

When I arrived for duty that day, I learned that the Red Cross had been trying to get in touch with me. For a soldier a world away, the word that the Red Cross is trying to reach you is never good news. They don’t do that for anything but the most serious of family emergencies, typically death or grievous illness. I knew it was bad news. I just didn’t know who the bad news would be about — a parent, a sibling?

THE CALL came through, and they were calling about my father, my 44-year-old father. He was alive, but he had cancer, they said. I was already well into my second tour over there, but my Dad wanted me home as soon as possible. “I’ll be home in five months,” I told them. After a pause, the voice on the other end said “he won’t be alive in five months.”

Of all the things we imagined as my father drove me to leave for Taiwan 19 months earlier, of all the fears we had, the one that never occurred to us was that his life might be at risk.

When I heard those words — “he won’t be alive in five months” — it was as if my mind went blank, unable to compute this piece of information. I wondered how that could be possible. He had just written me, telling me his recent check up was great. I had clippings from the Lufkin Daily News showing a story about how my Dad was a cancer survivor, helping raise money for cancer treatment! I had the written proof that he was fine, but this voice on the other end told me that was all gone, all history that no longer mattered. This was my new world, the world of realizing my daddy was about to die.

AT FIRST, I could not wrap my head around it. Back in East Texas, Dr. Basil Atkinson was helping my family get Senator John Tower to get me back home immediately. I had worked for Dr. Atkinson’s candy company in Lufkin my senior year of high school, and my dad knew him from civic activities.

Suddenly, three days later, I was on a big plane heading back to the world. Twenty-four hours later, I would hug my Dad on the front lawn, seeing him for the first time since we parted as I left 19 months earlier. Except this time we were both crying. When I left, only he was crying. This time, we knew our days together were numbered.

Everyone who has ever gotten one of those life changing phone calls knows this experience. My life is measured by the knowledge that my father’s death was imminent. He was not the first or the last important person in my life to die, but his death remains the one that has most influenced me. Thirty-eight years later, the thought of that day is like a kick in the gut.

I AM SO thankful my phone call gave me a chance to come home, to see my Dad, to talk with him, to spend time with him, and to prepare myself for his passing. I am so thankful to Dr. Atkinson and everyone who helped get me home so quickly. I know that others have had that worst phone call ever, and not been blessed as I was to enjoy their loved one a little longer. I count my blessings even for that worst phone call ever.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Springtime, the Vernal Equinox and the Easter Bunny
4 hrs 11 mins ago | 133 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IT IS NOW officially spring. The first day of spring is the vernal equinox, a day when the sun is directly above the earth’s equator, that imaginary line around our planet’s centermost point.

From ancient times through the present, springtime is an occasion for celebrations and ceremonies. The winter has passed. The cold has subsided. Trees and other plants are showing their buds. Flowers are in abundance. Animals are breeding and pollen carries the reproductive future of trees and other plants. Bees do their part to spread the pollen.

Ancient humans traced the movement of the stars and other celestial bodies in the night skies, and measured the sun’s daily, seasonal and annual movements. The sun was life giving, and after a cold winter, humans longed for the warmth and energy of our planetary system’s lone star. It is no surprise that ancient cultures often romanticized and even worshipped the sun, the moon, and the stars that lit up their skies.

The vernal equinox marked the official end of winter and the official beginning of spring. It was therefore a time marked for celebration. If you’ve ever wondered what bunnies and eggs have to do with Easter, a look at ancient rituals celebrating spring’s onset will enlighten you.

THE RABBIT has long been a symbol of fertility, and the breeding of rabbits and other animals follow the arrival of spring. Bunnies became an icon used by ancient cultures to celebrate the coming of spring, and the new crop of animals it harkened. These ancient people survived because spring brought life-giving warmth, energy, and consumable food in the form of newly grown grains, fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables and newly born animals.

The egg is a symbol of birth, fertility and renewal of life. It was also used in ancient times for the springtime celebrations, the marking of the spring equinox. The egg hunt is likely based upon the original egg hunts undertaken in spring time, when people would actually hunt and find nests containing eggs. Bird eggs come in many different colors, and the practice followed of coloring eggs. This practice is found in many diverse cultures, including some which are not Christian.

How did the bunny and egg practices become part of our Easter celebration? As most have noted, they have absolutely nothing to do with the trial, crucifixion, or resurrection of Jesus. The answer lies in the establishment of Christianity in France and England many centuries ago.

THE WORD Easter derives from a pagan goddess named Eastre, of Saxon origin. Among the Germanic tribes in the Saxon heritage, Eastre was a goddess of dawn, springtime and fertility. She was worshipped or celebrated during the vernal equinox, marking the coming of spring.

As Christianity was brought to the British Isles and modern-day France, the church found it convenient to attach church holidays to the pagan celebrations of those regions. Rather than resist the spring celebrations the pagans had long practiced, the church incorporated them into the church’s own celebration of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The rebirth of spring theme fit well with the theme of rebirth through resurrection which the church advanced.

Even the name of the pagan goddess was used to designate the church’s celebration of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Easter became the day to celebrate both the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the earth. The bunny and the egg hunt became a part of the crucifixion and resurrection celebration in order to help sell Christianity to pagans in the Roman Empire.

The next time someone asks you what bunnies or eggs have to do with Easter, now you can tell them.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Influence of a Good School Teacher
10 days ago | 236 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN I was making my way through Junior High and High School in 1960s Lufkin, one of my favorite teachers was ninth grade Science teacher Wilton Killam. I was a good student, attentive and not given to misconduct in his class, so Mr. Killam appreciated those qualities.

He was also the tennis coach, and I played tennis for the Junior High School team, such as it was. My doubles partner was Arthur Nelson, son of noted Junior High algebra teacher, Mrs. Nelson. She was a favorite of both my older sister and me.

Mr. Killam was an intense teacher. He had passion about Science, and not a lot of patience for students who did not see the relevance of science. He would occasionally get this look on his face that surely said “how can you be so clueless?” He never looked at me that way, but he would definitely look that way at others, who certainly lacked the motivation to pay attention.

MR. KILLAM would occasionally lose his patience for some of the rebellious misconduct of a male student, and would express his displeasure by applying a grip to the shoulder of the misbehaving juvenile offender. The rest of the class took great glee when the measured professor would grit his teeth and through them say “would you like to go to the principal’s office?” while applying the Killam death grip to their shoulder. I always got a huge kick out of such occasions, as did many of my classmates. It wasn’t really severe, more of a physical exclamation point.

Mr. Killam mainly coached the boys’ high school tennis team, and in those years, Lufkin had a tennis doubles team that was simply the best in the state: Jan Marshall and Skip McBride. The problem was they had no one in Lufkin to regularly hit balls with, so Mr. Killam recruited me to be his doubles partner against Marshall and McBride, who beat up on us every time we hit against them. We weren’t much better competition than a back board, but we were live humans on the other side occasionally getting a ball back.

Mr. Killam and I would often have to resort to lobbing shots over whichever of our opponents was at the net. Of course that meant the other opponent would drop back and hit an overhead slam, whizzing it past us on return volley. When Jan Marshall played back, you could count on him leaning back and making a perfectly timed overhead slam that would be on target and too fast to return. I don’t know that I literally cringed, but inside my head, I was definitely cringing.

JAN AND SKIP were great tennis players, and nothing improves your game like playing top talent. Whatever I learned in tennis was largely due to having Wilton Killam as a coach, and being his doubles partner and co-punching bag to Jan Marshall and Skip McBride.

Teachers often wonder if their efforts are really influencing the young people they teach in our schools. I can attest that they do. Wilton Killam was one such teacher, and his enthusiasm for science, for tennis, and for life influenced me as an adolescent. He made an impact on my life with his tenacious attitude about science and tennis.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Kicked My Long Time Love to the Curb
1 hr 45 mins ago | 4 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SHE’S GONE, the one who entranced me the past 20-plus years. I have kicked Diet Coke to the curb. She was a temptress who poured into my life in the mid 1980s, and quickly seduced me with her tangy, sugar free effervescent.

She would tickle my nose and infuse my mind with caffeine before I was out of bed more than a few minutes. She would keep me up late at night, having a good time, forgetting about bedtime.

I’LL ADMIT IT. I was addicted to her, couldn’t live without her. I thought of her from day break to bedtime. She was always at my side, traveled with me everywhere, worked side by side with me on everything I worked on. If I didn’t spend some time with her by noon, I would get a headache.

Friends and loved ones told me she was no good for me. They pointed out her salty ways. They revealed the acidic truth about her bubbly personality. They told me of her ability to fool me into thinking true sweetness was on its way to my heart.

I loved every bad and good part of her. Her sodium, her acid, her carbonation, her carmel, her artificial sweetner, her caffeine, they all sang me their siren song, and I was her boy toy, her lap dog.

As the new year dawned, I decided my long-term health called for curbing her ever-present role in my life. As I’ve done with other loves who ended up doing me wrong —milk, peanut butter, popcorn—I had to cut her role in my life significantly. She fought me, at first, but day by day, her hold on me lessened.

I STILL CANNOT let her go entirely, if only for the sake of the love we have shared. I still like to see her sitting there nearby, just in case I get the urge for a swig of her baneful bubbles. My new approach is to limit her to one a day, and try to end the day with most of that unimbibed.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson said “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Diet Coke and I had a thing that lasted from Reagan to Obama. She accompanied me through many of life’s events, for more than a score of years, but now I have to move on.

Water is my new constant companion. She’s plain, but she’s good for me! I take her everywhere, all the places I used to take Diet Coke. There’s a new sheriff in town, and her name is H-2-O. I like her at room temperature, or just a little cold. She’s good to go with ice, too.

Wherever I go to eat, there she is, waiting for me. I’m concerned about this lemon slice that’s been hanging around every time we go out to eat, though. Water, you little scamp, you. My trophy beverage!

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

In Praise of Local Banks
3 days ago | 297 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WITH ALL the hullabaloo in the nation about a crisis in America’s banking system, the business wonks who fill the airwaves of cable and network news channels do not tell you the harsh, clear truth: the problem is not in our local banks. It is in those huge, multinational banks the government is constantly pouring billions of dollars into. Your local banks are doing their job, while the big bankers of Wall Street are picking your pocket.

Twenty years ago, the federal government could not wait to take over smaller banks and savings & loans across American. They quickly turned over the failed local institutions’ good assets to some big bank out of New York City. Small community banks were given the back of the government’s hand, while big banks in trouble got rescued. We heard the term “too big to fail” far too often.

IN THE late 1980s and early 1990s, the government bailed out big banks and let smaller banks go under. For the local banks, the standard was “let the free market take its toll.” But, as usual, for big banks it was socialism — welfare for the well-fed. Hometown investors nationwide saw their equity in their local bank disappear, as federal banking authorities sold off the good assets in those banks on sweetheart deals to big banks.

If there is one lesson history teaches us repeatedly, it is this: whichever big companies most need regulation are the companies that will end up running the federal government’s regulatory bodies assigned with the task of regulating them. Once they have effectively taken control of the government entities designed to regulate their industry, they use the power of government to gain advantage over smaller players in their markets.

LOCAL BANKS in America know this lesson all too well. They have to be lean and tough, and cannot expect Uncle Sam to bail them out. If they step out of line in the least, they have federal bank examiners breathing down their necks.

This time around, it is the smaller banks that are most sound, and the big banks that are in big trouble. Banks such as Gilmer National Bank and First National Bank of Gilmer have good ratings by groups which rate banks for their economic soundness. The local banks learned lessons from the failures of the late 1980s and early 1990s. They are tied to their communities, and that makes them less likely to become involved in truly speculative banking practices.

THE BIG banks went nuts during the past 10 or more years. They got involved in very speculative commercial paper transactions, and that means they are either holding paper that is less than its face value, or they have legal responsibility for large packages of debt that have gone bad. It’s Wall Street, not Main Street, where banks did not do their job. They got involved in making bets that should be found only in casinos, not in the banking system. Now they have to pay the price, but instead of their stockholders, directors and officers paying the price, they call on every American to fix their trillion dollar messes.

It ain’t right.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

This Little Piggy Cried ‘Wii! Wii! Wii!’
13 days ago | 101 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I FINALLY bought one of those computer/TV screen video games called the “Wii.” It is great! I can play tennis, golf, bowling, baseball and boxing, all in my living room, using a paddle and some simple keys on the paddle.

At my age, getting daily exercise is important. Much of my day is spent sitting in a chair, reading materials, reviewing materials, studying documents, typing on my computer, watching business news that never ends, and generally failing to get more than a modicum of exercise.

THE WEATHER is often too hot, too cold, too humid, or too wet to go for a walk or otherwise engage in outside activities. I enjoy shooting hoops at my house, but even that is limited by weather and physical considerations. My ankles and knees are not what they once were, and that means it’s easy to turn or twist something unintentionally.

But the Wii? Oui, oui! It is fantastic. I recommend it for anyone middle aged or older, for it allows one to engage in some level of physical activity while pursuing games or sports one would otherwise not likely engage in.

I loved playing tennis until my 40s, but found that it became too hard on my ankles. I blew out an ankle when I was 39 playing softball, and that about ended my softball days. Golf was fun, but time consuming, expensive and fairly annoying. I loved bowling, but my knees began to give me problems with that game. I played basketball four times a week into my late 40s, but the next day I could hardly walk down the stairs in the morning, and was eating anti-inflammatories like breath mints.

I HAVE TAKEN to Wii like a fish to water. It’s really fun, and I get an amazing amount of exercise from using it. The tennis is especially exhilarating. The way the computer is modeled accurately after the games is an amazing feat of computer programming.

In addition to games, there are tests to determine one’s fitness age. Don’t ask me how, but I have scored an average of age 38 for my fitness, while my actual age is 59. How a man who has eaten as much bacon, eggs and gravy as I have can score that is beyond me, but I’ll take it!

My son is quite the expert at the game, and can beat me at just about everything. He’s 27, and has played computer games all his life, while I fell off the computer game activities some time back around the time of Miss Pac Man or Donkey Kong. We have a good time playing on the Wii, and it’s something old folks like me can enjoy with their grown children or grandchildren.

GET OFF your duff, get out your wallet, and invest in your health and your relationship with your kids or grandkids. This is one gizmo that won’t disappoint. If you loved the hula hoop or Pong, you’ll think you’re in hog heaven with a Wii.

You will cry “Wii! Wii! Wii!” all the way home!

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Can We Die at Home, Please?!
5 days ago | 162 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MY BEST friend, Mike Capps, and I often discuss life and death issues these days. We’ve seen parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends pass away these past several years. It’s never easy losing loved ones.

One thing that we really agree on is this: people should be allowed to die at home.

There seems to be a modern drive to segregate the dying from the rest of us, by putting them in hospitals or in hospices, so that they can die removed from the home. Is it any wonder those who languish, awaiting death, are so unhappy with this situation?

In recent years, I have observed several people who have been dying, and knew they were dying. While they could still communicate, they practically begged to go home. They knew death awaited them, but they wanted to be in their own homes, with their own pets, their own family, their own things. Who can blame them?

THIS OBSESSION we currently have for prolonging the inevitable at the cost of thousands of dollars per day is insane. We seem trapped by a culture which takes its orders from people in white coats at hospitals, who, sadly, fear lawsuits from members of my profession.

I think highly of our doctors and nurses, too highly to have them spend their time tending the soon-to-be dead among us. The way we seem to do it, the last few days of life for many of us will be spent unconscious, our bodies wasting away in organ failure. Who is served by this process?

Anyone who has ever had to fight to get constant pain medication for a loved one who is dying knows the agony of dealing with staffers who insist it’s not time for another shot just yet. Says who? While radio talk show hosts seem able to obtain massive quantities of significant pain relievers for recreation, average Americans wait in pain for more morphine or other opiates. It makes no sense.

WHEN MY time is upon us, please let me die in my home. Please give me a morphine drip and the opportunity to use as much as I need. Do I not own my life, if I own nothing else in this world? Am I not the best person to decide when “enough is enough?” Is the world enhanced if I last three more days under constant care, as strangers watch my organs fail, as a machine breathes for me?

Death is a part of life, and we cannot corral it and make it something foreign. We all have to take that journey. We leave this world by ourselves, and we should be able to make that journey to whatever awaits us without getting a permission slip from someone we barely know.

Home. It’s my favorite place, the place I spend most of my time, and the place I cherish the most. I suspect it is your favorite place, too. If you want to die at home, make your wishes known to your doctors and family while you can. Let them hear your wishes now, while you have the ability to tell them.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Outlaw Josey Wales
12 days ago | 75 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
YOU DON’T have to be a son or daughter of the South to love the Clint Eastwood film, The Outlaw Josey Wells, but it doesn’t hurt if you are. This 33-year-old film is the story of a man whose Missouri home and family were destroyed by Civil War era Jayhawkers out of neighboring Kansas.

Missouri was not part of the Confederacy, but parts of southern Missouri were de facto supporters of the Confederacy. Kansas was strongly pro Union. A vigilante group out of Kansas called the Jayhawkers had raids on southern Missouri areas which were pro Confederacy, and those raids were largely slash, kill and burn raids. These raids had a viciousness that made lifelong enemies of the Missourians.

THIS WAR within the Civil War led to seriously bad blood between the men of the two neighboring farm states in what was to become America’s Midwest.

Even today, the University of Kansas has as its mascot the Jayhawks. It is a reminder of those days of the Civil War, when the Jayhawkers were riding into Missouri, often killing and maiming men, women and children, often destroying without mercy farms and communities.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is a fictionalized account of the end of that war, and of a man from Missouri who had seen his wife and son die at the hands of the Jayhawkers, his farm burned to ground. It is loosely based upon the tale of a man by the name of Wilson.

I do not defend the slavery which was a centerpiece of the Confederate states, but we can discuss the excesses of the victors and still revile the misconduct the Jayhawkers committed both before and after the Civil War ended.

The film is one of the best films ever made about the Civil War and its effects on both sides of the battle. There was little about the men from Kansas and Missouri to distinguish them except their loyalty or non-loyalty to the Union during that war. The lesson of their conflict is one which stands even today: good men can become monsters when they find a reason to see each other as evil, when they lose their humanity.

THE OUTLAW Josey Wales can be seen on television just about any month. It’s always being played, because it has a timeless message, delivered with wit, charm, action, and a smattering of real history. It was one of Eastwood’s first really outstanding performances, and his first classic of the variety which would become his standard fare.

Sam Bottoms delivers a compelling performance as Josey’s young Southern sidekick, but the film is frequently stolen by the always charming and irrepressible Chief Dan George. Sondra Locke provided a love interest for Eastwood, and her capture by some very bad men is a hair-raising episode, no matter how many times viewed.

There are too many good lines to repeat them all, but my personal favorite has always been Eastwood’s comment, upon refusing to bury two vanqished foes, “buzzards gotta eat, same as the worms.”

The film is about history, about the excesses of war, about men losing their humanity, about strangers thrown together in a quest to find a new home, a new life. If you’ve never seen it, take the time to do so. It’s a keeper.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
19 days ago | 54 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I WAS driving south on Texas Hwy. 30 from College Station last week, after conducting some personal business in that city, when I came upon an unusual sight. In the middle of this 2-lane road near the town of Carlos, a chicken stood silently on the middle stripe. It looked even more bewildered than chickens usually look.

This chicken was just standing there, dazed and confused. Although it was out in the country, there was no sign of a farm nearby, or any other reason a chicken might be crossing the road in mid afternoon.

As I drove toward Roan’s Prairie, I soon noticed an occasional white feather floating in the air immediately in front of my car. The number of feathers whipping through the air increased exponentially, until I could see in the distance a large truck that appeared to be carrying crates. Chicken crates.

I PASSED the truck and gazed momentarily at the chickens, on their way to someone somewhere, surely as food for you and me. These chickens were in transit. They were becoming a meal in the near future.

But one chicken escaped. He made it out of a pen and onto the highway. As I drove on, I wondered what happened to that chicken. Maybe someone picked him up, took him home, and made him a pet. I doubt it, though. Maybe he got run over by another truck within minutes. That wouldn’t be surprising. Maybe someone who is burdened by a poor economy picked him up, and took him home to a family that could use a free meal. That’s my favorite choice. He gave his life for someone to make a meal of him.

There was something about that chicken in the road that prodded me to think about how he got there, how he might end up, and whether his getting out of the pen on the truck really changed his future. I suppose there is the chance he was made a pet for someone who cared for him lovingly ever after, but that seems unlikely. In all probability, he ended up dead sooner than he would have otherwise, and he also ended up eaten.

EVEN IF he was run over by a truck, he ended up eaten by something, just not by humans. Is the purpose of a chicken to be a meal for someone or something? In most cases, yes.

And yet, he did experience freedom outside that cage for some period of time. I’m a meat eater, but I lament the conditions of stock raised for food. Used to be, they lived a decent life, and were killed for food when the time came. I can remember my Granny Moore wringing a chicken’s neck and preparing it for a meal back in the 1950s. Just like the saying, it ran around with its head chopped off, a phenomenon that stills seems fairly unique to chickens.

Perhaps my road chicken gained some short-term freedom but died sooner, perhaps horribly. Was his additional freedom a good trade off for the end he might have seen? I’ll never know, but everywhere I look, I find mysteries of life that make me ponder. When we break free of the world we know, we are never certain of that which awaits us, are we?

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Did a UFO Appear at the Inauguration?
1 day 5 hrs ago | 211 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There is a piece of really interesting video that was shown live on CNN the day of the inauguration. As Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper are outside at a table, discussing the activities, what appears to be a large, cigar shaped silver object darts across the screen in the background, at what appears to be a speed much faster than aircraft. The Washington Monument is seen in the distance, and the object appears behind it and is quickly out of the picture.

The internet is abuzz with the story, although mainstream media has failed to address it, thus far. Perhaps they will. Today's corporate media seldom perform the function we once expected of major media. Now, they're mainly cheerleaders talking incessantly about stories that once were seen mainly on entertainment shows.

If you wish to see screen shots made of the object, they can be found at this internet site:

The video can also be seen at CNN, provided it remains up. Earlier, it was taken down for a while:

That site still has the video up, so I invite you to look at it and make your own determination. I do not know what it is, but I am open to all possibilities. That's what the true scientific mind is about. It's not about excluding anything that cannot be proved in a court of law or through objective evidence. It's about reaching out into the unknown and searching until a hypothesis can either be proved or disproved.

Some incorrectly believe the scientific method means anything that cannot be proved to one's satisfaction is therefore untrue. That sort of thinking once kept humans in the dark ages, once kept great scientific minds considered heretics for stating that our planet was not the center of the universe.

There are an incredibly large numbers of Americans who believe that UFOs are something that require open and public investigation. The silliness of UFOs detractors appeals to the lowest kind of debate: the ridiculing of those who say "why don't we keep an open mind about it?"

I look forward to the detailed and thoughtful analyses I know will follow this event. Sane, well adjusted, rational individuals will be ridiculed for their investigations into the event. Isn't it about time our government took a more intelligent, open minded look at UFOs, particularly this event? It was an Unidentified Flying Object, and no matter what it was, don't we, as a nation, need to know?

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

TV Commercials We Love to Hate
5 days ago | 38 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE WORD “eternity” should be defined as “the amount of time between the first moment one of those screaming Billy Mays commercials comes on until you can get the channel changed to anything else.”

Why do people who sell cheap crap on TV commercials think yelling at us makes us want to buy the ordinary stuff they’re pushing? Are there citizens among us who are sitting in their homes, unmotivated until some ridiculous loud mouth blares into their ears? I don’t know who these consumers are, but I sure wish they’d do us all a favor and stop buying things that are advertised using such sales tactics.

The Billy Mays commercials are easily the worst on television. His high-pitched whine only exacerbates the annoying volume and absurd urgency. I can’t remember the last time I had a real emergency involving an immediate need for ordinary household products. And Super Glue is so hard to find in stores. It’s not like they sell that stuff in just any store. You have to find a store or 24-hour gas station that is open if you want to buy Super Glue.

I’ve never once looked for a particular brand of Super Glue, on the few occasions in my life I’ve felt a need to buy some. A tube lasts 10 years, or until you lose it, which usually comes first. And the expense! That stuff can’t be bought at dollar stores. Oh, wait, yes it can. For about a dollar.

THOUSANDS OF real actors are out of work, but Billy Mays still has jobs on television. What could possibly explain this phenomenon? There are only two reasonable conclusions to the inexplicable presence and excitement with which Billy Mays screams at us about ordinary household products we can find in any store: (1) he’s never had any other television gigs except his screaming commercials, so he’s very, very happy to have the work; or (2) he is wealthy and pays the sponsors to use him.

I suppose I should be happy he doesn’t have one of those fake British accents some of these TV snake oil salesmen evidence. Apparently some consumers, who can’t tell a phony British accent when they hear it, believe a badly presented London accent makes a product less mundane and more regal. How regal can something be which picks up lint or dust? Does The Queen use these products while dusting Buckingham Palace?

I imagine Her Majesty, flanked by those guards at the Palace, busying herself with tidying up the mansion for visits from other nobility, such as Sir Elton John or Sir Paul McCartney. Royalty! Hundreds of years of inbreeding, with no reason to exist other than to fulfill the emotional needs of gullible English citizens cherishing a past that never really was.

Changing the channel is just about our only option to avoid those annoying commercials when they blast suddenly and loudly into our homes. Of course, there is always yelling back, which I must admit I do with a certain glee.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

An Acre of Knowledge an Inch Deep
12 days ago | 100 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“MOORE,” intoned my old friend and law school buddy, John Castleton, “you’ve got an acre of knowledge an inch deep!” As Texas story tellers go, John is one of the best, and he’s got a way with words that charms his friends and bedevils his foes.

When he started law school in the mid 1970s, John was already a successful land man, researching and understanding all sorts of intricate legal aspects of land titles and the rights of each, particularly as they related to oil and gas interests.

When our class was graduating and taking jobs, just about everyone went into law, except John. He was making twice as much as anyone else in our class, doing land work and evaluating oil and gas interests.

JOHN CASTLETON reads business news like a bunch of ants eats a dead cricket. He devours news, and quickly makes it part of his ongoing analysis of where we are and where we are headed. If it has to do with oil and gas, he probably knows it.

Once in law school in a business corporations and partnerships class, the professor — who was extraordinarily arrogant and self satisfied, even for a law professor at the University of Texas — made a big blunder while talking about the major oil companies. In his usual certitude, the professor threw away this line: “Of course, all the major oil companies are owned strictly through corporate interests — stock holdings!”

The class of 160 students was as shocked as the professor, when John’s baritone voice bellowed “Are you sure about that?”

The professor’s jaw dropped, having not been called down like that by any student in memory, as did the jaws of most of the students.

Attempting to regain his composure and footing, but looking as if he was a lot less certain than before, the professor replied “well, I can’t imagine that they would in this day and age.”

JOHN REPLIED: “T. Mellon and Son, a family partnership, owns a portion of Gulf Oil, even though most of the Mellon family holdings are in stock. If you’ll consult Forbes magazine, they had an article last summer which mentioned it.”

No one in the law school ever looked at John the same way again after that day. He was “the guy who cut Professor Bighead off at the knees.”

John was up here to visit a while back, and we went to get some shrimp at a nearby restaurant that really makes delicious fried shrimp. Always ready to kid people, John very seriously asked the lady at the restaurant, in his best good old boy “do y’all really catch these shrimp rat cheer in this here lake?!”

John Castleton has the gift of gab, and with it he can make friends laugh and foes frown. Me, I’ve got that acre of knowledge an inch deep.

© 2009, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

American Excess — Don't Buy Into It
3 days ago | 9 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There’s a credit card company that runs television commercials which can only be called arrogant. You know the one. If you don’t have their card, you might as well not bother inviting a business customer to lunch. If you don’t have it, your spouse will not be impressed with whatever you get them for their birthday.

If your self image depends on having a certain kind of credit card, you have a lot more problems than your choice of credit card. You need to check yourself.

Somewhere in the past few decades, incurring debt has become America’s biggest addiction. Our parents had it right. We should incur debt for things we need that we cannot get without credit. A house, maybe a car, perhaps some appliances the family needs. That lesson got lost, however.

My mother worked full time. She took a sack lunch to work every day. She rationed her Dentyne gum, chewing only a half a piece each day after lunch. These were the actions of a frugal woman who knew her family needed the two incomes she and her husband provided. She understood the value of a dollar.

She made clothes for herself and her children. She taught us not to waste food. She taught us not to waste money. She taught us to buy things we could afford.

My dad died nearly four decades ago, and a few years later, she remarried. My step dad, Pops, has been my step dad almost 36 years. My Mom and Pops lived economically sound, too. They saved. They worked hard. They created out of nothing but their skills and dedication a business. A few years ago, they sold that business, and now in retirement they enjoy the fruits of their labors of many years.

You know what they never needed while doing all that? A credit card that markets itself to people who need a certain kind of credit card to feel validated.

If I want to take a trip, I have many ways of finding and booking the travel arrangements. If I want to take someone to a play, I can figure out how to call the theatre and buy tickets. If I want to take someone special to dinner, it takes about three minutes to get a reservation. Am I to believe all of this is somehow too complicated without asking someone sitting in a cubicle God only knows where to handle it for me?

I am opposed to excessive use of credit. The country is in the process of coughing up a giant hairball of debt right now. We got it because we are addicted to consumer debt, because too many have wants that exceed their needs or ability to pay for their purchases.

Besides, most merchants don’t take that obnoxious, pretentious, self important card any more, and it’s about time. Do leave home without

Star Trek — The Original
10 days ago | 18 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
STAR TREK only ran three seasons, from 1966 to 1969. In my hometown, we only got one channel, and it did not carry Star Trek, so I never saw it when it originally aired. But a few years later, the show was in syndication, and I was a law student in Austin.

The year was 1974, and I had just begun law school at University of Texas. One of the local UHF stations carried Star Trek in syndication every evening. I would allow myself no more than two hours of television a day, which was all intended to refresh my otherwise weary mind. That’s what Star Trek did for me. Over the three years of law school, I must have seen every episode of the original Star Trek at least three times.

For the true Trekkie, Star Trek is many things. It’s the music, including the intensely dramatic chords commonly used any time Captain Kirk was battling some alien. It’s the lusty encounters Captain Kirk always had with strange, exotic females across the galaxy. It’s Spock’s Vulcan mind meld, or his ability to grab someone’s shoulder and put them to sleep. It’s the engineer, Scotty, saying “Cap’n, she can’t take much more of this!” It’s Dr. McCoy saying “I’m a doctor, not a rocket scientist, Jim!” It’s Spock giving the Vulcan salute with his hand and saying “live long and prosper.”

STAR TREK was science fiction which challenged us to consider the permanency of the human condition, showing us that the native ambitions and needs of humans do not change so much over time, even as technology changes. Ego, and its imperatives, is always a factor in human interactions. Fear, anger, hurt, ambition, selfishness are all seen in the future as they exist in our world.

During the mid 1970s, the actor who played Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy, attended an art school in Austin, one I passed all the time. I really did want to stop by there and just say hello sometime, but I resisted the urge. I had read he loathed the attention he continued to get from Star Trek, and felt it hobbled his acting career. Consequently, it was clear he did not want to be approached about Star Trek, and I did not want to be the guy who did so with him.

Star Trek was a wonderful mix of drama and humor. Some episodes were clearly more humor than anything, as in “The Trouble With Tribbles,” a cute little parody of drug addiction, using furry little animals that the crew members addictively petted. They simply could not resist picking up the furry little balls and the serene experience of petting them.

SOME PEOPLE consider Star Trek frivolous, but I feel it did a nice job of speaking to our better selves, of looking to the future with an eye that suggested we would improve our ability to get along with other humans.

The introductory music of the original Star Trek is a classic. I enjoy it always, and still will occasionally watch an episode showing on the cable channel TV Land. I love hearing that standard voice over in the intro: “To seek out new life, and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

“These are voyages of the Starship Enterprise.”

Food Should Never Be Wasted!
17 days ago | 41 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MY PARENTS were frugal, children of The Great Depression, who did not waste food, and did not allow their children to do so. If we did not finish eating something one meal, we would finish eating it the next.

Food represents time worked, things picked and processed, things moved miles and made ready for us to buy and consume. When we waste it, we waste all the time, energy and resources it took to get that food to our home.

Many of us learned that old saying from many years ago, that we should eat our food “because there are starving children in China.” I don’t know if that was ever true, or just a saying, but it’s unclear why one should eat more because there are children without food somewhere else. I think it was well intentioned, but guilt-tripping children to make them eat food they do not want is not a sound approach, in my view.

LET ME be clear. I do not favor requiring children to clean their plates. Child psychologists and psychiatrists think that is a bad idea, and on that I certainly agree with them. It is far better to teach by example, to demonstrate through one’s practices that we never waste food. Children follow our examples, not our instructions.

I am a meat eater. I eat meat because I’m human, and humans are designed to eat meat, fruit, nuts, vegetables and certain kinds of roots. But I respect the things I eat. I do not want an animal’s death to be wasted by tossing aside the meat its death produced. If it gave its life for me, the least I can do is not waste the meat derived from it.

The throwing away of food troubles me. Restaurants throw away some food, of necessity, but it is the groceries stores that must really toss a lot of items. Because of expiration dates and the nature of most produce, grocery stores always have food to throw away. I wish there was a way all that food could find its way to a senior citizens center, or some similar venue. It seems a shame to waste it.

WE HAVE the most plentiful food in the world right here in the United States. Even with the economy hurting so many in the manner it is, with the banking problems, the auto industry problems, the foreclosures, and the falling of the stock market, we still have the best food in the world. We have plentiful food, and it is conveniently available. We are never hungry. We never do without any food we need.

No country in the history of the world has ever had as much food readily available to it, and that’s something we need to remember, when we think things are rough. My parents knew what limited food meant. They communicated to me the importance of respecting food and not taking it for granted.

Those who have ears, let them hear.

Joel Poinsett and the Story of the Christmas Poinsettia
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IT IS Christmas time, and that means our schools, businesses, stores, churches and homes show off a Texas delight, the Christmas plant which we all know so well. We call them Poinsettias. Have you ever wondered how they got that name? It’s a really good, old time story.

Back in 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain, and the young United States immediately sent diplomats to the new government to the south, which included Texas, of course, at the time. An American diplomat named Poinsett was sent to Mexico in the foreign service of the United States.

A former congressman from South Carolina, Joel Poinsett was deeply interested in botany, and found the study of plants most interesting. While in Mexico, he discovered the indigenously growing cuetlaxochitl, which was the Aztec word for the leafy plant that bloomed in southern Mexico in the winter.

POINSETT WAS intrigued by the plant, and quickly began promoting it to those in the United States he knew. He grew it in hot houses he maintained in the United States, and tirelessly promoted it. He sent the plant to friends and relatives, and its popularly was instant. Its compact size, combination of green and red, and its Christmas time blooming made it a plant that was made for America.

By 1836 the plant had become known in the United States as the Poinsettia. Since then, the plant has become synonymous with Christmas and is emblematic of Texas, where our days are the perfect length to make the plants bloom near Christmas.

I first learned about the intriguing story of how we can came to have a plant called the “Poinsettia” 35 years ago. I was a student after Stephen F. Austin State University majoring in History and Political Science. My favorite History teacher was the same Archie McDonald who writes for many newspapers about Texas History, the same Archie McDonald whose columns have many times adorned the page four Op-Ed page of The Gilmer Mirror.

AFTER MY military time from 1968-1972, I had a hunger for historical knowledge, and pursued it daily at SFASU. It was not long before I took my first of several courses from Professor McDonald, author of a biography of famous Alamo commander, William Barret Travis, and author of a dozen other books.

It was Professor McDonald who first told me the story of how Joel Poinsett’s ambassorship to Mexico led to the introduction of the seasonally blooming plant to our country.

In this Christmas season, it is appropriate to thank Professor McDonald and so many others like him, who give us the gift of knowledge. We know about the Joel Poinsetts of history because the Archie McDonalds tell us.

I Wish I Could Be Santa Claus to the World

2 days 22 hrs ago | 7 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I READ a column recently about the impact economic upheaval has had upon Santa, and the requests he hears from young children. Some are asking not for a toy, but for a job for Daddy. They’re asking if Santa can help Mom get the house back.

I wish I could be Santa Claus. I wish there was a way I could bring everyone what they want for Christmas. I wish there was some way we could give Dad his job back, or give Mom her home back.

I wish I could convince people to give away things they own but do not need. I wish the joy of giving was truly experienced by everyone. I wish we were all Santa, all freely giving that which we created just to give away.

There was a time in my life when I was proud of my material possessions. I grew up in a family of modest income, and life was a constant reminder that others had more money, more and better possessions, and could enjoy the benefits of having more dollars available. That drove me in early adulthood to measure myself in terms of dollars and things. I wanted to make money, so I could lavish myself in the manner to which I wanted to become accustomed.

BUT A funny thing happened. One day I woke up and realized buying stuff was not all I had thought it would be. I could buy cars that were audacious. I could spend money on clothes, and horses, and all sorts of things I could never have afforded growing up. While it was fun, it did not take long before I realized I did not really like living that way.

I lost, spent, or gave away pretty much everything I owned - some to good causes, some to causes not so good. I went back to working for a living, and vowed never again to be caught up in the accumulation of material things. I have honored that vow. I live a life free of any asset that is impressive. Not my home, not my car, not my clothes, not my furnishings, not anything I own. They’re compellingly ordinary, even old and undistinguished.

Jesus once told a wealthy young follower to give away all that he had, and the young man could not do it, for he owned great wealth. He could not let it go. He owned it, but it also owned him. Not letting our assets own us is a challenge for all Americans.

I wish I could be Santa for the world, but all I can do is give what I can, and ask others to do likewise. It really is more fun to give than to receive. Get in the Christmas spirit, and be Santa to someone who does not expect it of you. Find a family that can use a little extra for Christmas, and be their Santa who were there to show us what they could do.

Act Well Your Part

9 days ago | 23 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN THE mid 1980s, I was with a big downtown firm in a big city in Texas, practicing law and training young lawyers in the firm. During the summer, we had summer law clerks recruited from various law schools who were there to show us what they could do. Grades are important, but performance on real cases gives insights to skills.

Many lawyers in the firm assigned work on actual cases they were working on. I had a different approach, however. I would find in the Supreme Court reporters a very recent Supreme Court case where prevailing law had been changed by the court’s new decision. I would then craft a question which could only be answered correctly if the law clerk found the new Supreme Court case.

I ASSIGNED each of the four law clerks separately the same research project. I told each not to consult with anyone else. Each did research, and each wrote a memo on their research. Three failed to find the new Supreme Court case, and therefore gave me bad information. One found the case and gave me the right findings and the correct controlling law.

When a lawyer is working on a case, there are few things worse than going into court and subsequently learning you have relied upon a case that has been recently overruled by a controlling appellate court. It is a catastrophic failure. It simply cannot be allowed to happen.

My test research projects were designed to tell me which law clerks were ready to be relied upon, and which were not. I could not afford to rely upon their work before I knew for a certainty their research skills were top notch.

The firm hired all four of those summer clerks, but the only one I ever used for any work was the one who found the recent Supreme Court case, and therefore correctly briefed the law point for me.

THIS STORY is about the importance of being thorough at the job one is hired to do. If you’re hired as a summer law clerk, your job is to be right on the law when asked to do research. No amount of glad-handing or happy talk, no amount of golfing or partner schmoozing, will make a substandard talent a good enough law prospect. Being good at the important things really does matter.

“Act well your part,” wrote Alexander Pope, “there all the honor lies.”

There are few things in life I respect more than a person who cares enough to do their job right, and it doesn’t matter whether that job is working in the kitchen of a café, running the cash register at a business, unclogging a drain at my house, or getting my old car running right. Doing a good job matters, because others are always watching, and like me with those law clerks, they’re deciding whether they want us to serve them next time.

Give Away Your Car

3 days ago | 12 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There’s a place in the Bible where it says we should not make our alms before men, meaning we should not make our charitable efforts known to others, because in doing so, we reap the benefit we truly seek: adoration and approval here, in this life. There’s also a place where it says to let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise God for it.

Sometimes two worthy goals can collide.

For two decades, I have been giving away cars, as I can afford to do so. These are not new cars. They’re cars that I bought, either new or used, and have driven a number of years. By the time I give them away, they might be worth a third or less of their original value.

I’ve given away a Ford F-150 pickup, a Chevy Suburban, a Honda Accord, a Nissan Stanza, a Ford Bronco and a Dodge Caravan. I could have used the money each one of those vehicles represented. I could have spent it on things I needed, things I wanted. But I chose to give each one away, because the person to whom I gave the vehicle needed it worse than I needed the money.

We tend to think of “charity” as being an organization approved by the IRS and to whom our contributions are tax deductible. While it is true that is the definition of “charity” under IRS guidelines, the word “charity” knows no such bounds.

When men and women of good heart have encouraged us to be charitable, not one of those sages had tax deductibility in mind. They had the act of being charitable in mind. The greatest charitable act is the one that isn’t deductible, the one that gives no economic benefit to the contributor.

There are worthy organizations that will accept your vehicle as a gift, and will sell it to generate revenues for good causes. I do not oppose such organizations and believe they do good work. However, each of us knows someone who could use a better car than they now have. We know a relative, a friend, a church member, an employee, who could use the car we will use as a trade-in of dubious value.

I know it’s not for everyone, and I know everyone is not in a position to do it, but think about it. Surely you know someone you love enough to give a car that would mean a great deal to them, a car you won’t miss when you buy your next one.

I have given away six vehicles in the past 22 years, and I do not regret a single one of those times. I could have bought a brand new car with the values I’ve given away. I could be driving a new car, instead of the 14-year-old car I bought when it was eight years old. I have chosen to live this way, to have less and to give more. It’s a good way.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Don't Know What Day It Is

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MY FAVORITE kind of day is the day I forget what day it is. It’s usually a Saturday or a Sunday, a day when I’m less likely to get calls, a day when the morning can slip away without anything happening.

I’m something of a hermit, perhaps a modern version of Thoreau, complete with internet and cable television. You’re not really a hermit if you know whether the time is AM or PM. To the dedicated hermit, three AM and three PM look the same, ensconced in his cave.

I love the great outdoors, but now love it most from the great indoors, looking through a sliding glass door. Nothing comes close to the joy of being inside my home. My office is the smallest room in the house, and naturally, that’s where I spend all my waking hours. It contains all the useless stuff I’ve been dragging around for three decades, whose aggregate value is roughly the price it would cost to have it hauled away.

Being a hermit means dressing the part. Cheap clothes are mandatory, but only part of the way there. They should also be old clothes, and worn. Bonus points for stains.

If you’re never mistaken for a homeless person, you’re not really dressing like a hermit.

Occasionally I’ll be in a store that I’ve not been in before, and I’ll see some clerk eye balling me with that “you’re not in here for the air conditioning, are you?” look. Aw, come on! I don’t look THAT bedraggled!

THERE ARE DAYS I simply never go outside. Why? Don’t need to that day.

Two or three times a month, I’ll go for 24 hours or more without speaking to anyone or being spoken to, in person or by phone. Silence is a powerful inducement to thought. When we are expected to speak, we are constantly thinking about what we will say when it is our time to speak. This clouds our ability to listen and hear properly that which is being said. Our duty to respond interferes with our ability to listen. When this duty is absent, we listen better and understand more. When I am silent, I understand better that which I hear.

The remarkable difference between humans and all other animals is our ability to perceive and label units of time. Our dogs, and cats, and horses have a freedom we do not have — the freedom from knowledge of the passage of time. They live in this moment, because it’s the only moment they understand.

Great figures of religion and philosophy implore us to live in this moment. They teach us to avoid dwelling on the past or being distracted by the future.

I think that’s why I like when I forget what day it is. That’s freedom of the mind from the calendar and the clock.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Milli Vanilli

7 days ago | 22 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN 1990, a duo who called themselves "Milli Vanilli" hit the scene with a batch of songs that were immediately well-received. The two men who comprised the group were named Rob and Fab. They dressed and looked the part of pop singing stars. They were pretty, and they were fashionable.

Of course, there was one problem that would doom them: they didn't really write or sing the songs they would lip sync for TV music videos or live performances.

The scandal broke when it was discovered that some other guys were really singing the tunes we heard played nationwide under the name Milli Vanilli. Immediately, there was outrage by pop music aficionados, as MTV and radio personalities banned the playing of any Milli Vanilli tunes.

LOST IN the shuffle was one simple fact: someone had written, arranged and sung those award winning tunes. If one actually liked the music, the smart thing would have been to locate the real artists and honor them. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The world of pop music looked more like the villagers intent on killing Dr. Frankenstein's monster, instead of holding the good doctor responsible for the creation.

Against this backdrop, I wrote a poem, which I submitted to the reasonably well-known periodical, Entertainment Weekly. With my permission, they published it, and somewhere in my boxes of "stuff I'll never look at again, but don't want to throw out," I saved a copy of the magazine.

I'll conclude this column with my original poem about Milli Vanilli, written in 1990 and first published with my permission in Entertainment Weekly.

Milli Vanilli

By Jim Moore

Maybe it’s me,

but I think it's silly

to make such a fuss

over Milli Vanilli.

The music's the same,

it's the picture that's not,

So don't get confused

and forget what's what.

Whether it’s Rob or Fab

or some other dude,

the music’s what matters,

and its affect on your mood.

So kick back, listen,

and ignore those dreadlocks.

And simply forget

Two nameless face jocks.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Passport to Dancer

6 days ago | 1 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE YEAR was 1970. I was stationed in northern Taiwan. Our mission was in support of the war, but we were a good thousand miles away from it, and lived a life of relative comfort.

My wife had joined me over there. We were a young couple in love, and because I was a sergeant, we could have her come join me. We had to pay her way, but she came over and joined me after I had been there five months.

We lived in a 3-bedroom apartment for which we paid $65 a month. It was among the Chinese/Taiwanese people, your average neighborhood, and we were the only Americans in our building. Another American military couple lived in the next building over, a lovely Mormon couple from Utah named Jeff and Peggy Hansen, with their little girl, Shari.

In those days, Taiwan only had one television station, and it was only broadcasting five or six hours a day. Every broadcast day began and ended with a long, long tribute to warfare against mainland China, the People’s Republic of China, which we called Red China in those days.

THE SHOWS on Taiwanese TV were all really bad. There were Chinese dramas based upon ancient story lines, which were essentially the equivalent of English and Spanish Soap Operas. The commercials were cheaply produced and blasted the product name over and over. That is where I first saw and heard TO-SHI-BA!

One of the TV shows we did like to watch was an old 1950s American television show starring Cesar Romero. It was called Passport to Danger. The show was about Romero, as the main character. He was a diplomatic courier, taking important messages all over the world for America’s foreign policy interests. Intrigue. His passport took him to DANGER.

The funniest thing, however, was the way the show was advertised and promoted. Someone mistranslated the title, and they always called it Passport to DANCER. It still makes me laugh, thinking about that title. The show would have Chinese subtitles, but we could hear the original dialogue spoken by the English-speaking characters.

ANOTHER SHOW we loved to watch, also in English but with Chinese subtitles, was the famous family western show, Bonanza. We saw the earlier episodes, and there was one important difference. All references to the Cartwright’s cook, Hop Sing, were removed and he was removed from all scenes. The Taiwanese government, then still run by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek Kuomintang party, apparently did not want those images seen.

I grew up with television in the 1950s and 1960s, and even though we only got one channel in my East Texas town, we still got current programs 18 hours a day. So, the next time someone tells you “there’s nothing on TV,” tell them about the time I had only old black and white reruns of Bonanza and Passport to Dancer.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved.

Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Writing the King's English


I PICK the strangest things to be persnickety about. Like ending a sentence with a preposition, which is what I did in the previous sentence. I was taught that one must not end a sentence with a preposition, and I am wedded to that thought like it was my one true love. I will defend her against all who do not respect and love her as much as I do.

Winston Churchill was said to have responded to one who corrected him for ending a sentence with a preposition by saying “that is the sort of criticism up with which I am fed!” He summed up nicely how ludicrous it is to always follow in speech the rules of the King’s English.

I learned the rules of writing the King’s English from the seventh grade through college. In law school, I advanced the understanding of those rules considerably, if not rigidly.

I did not begin writing for amusement and entertainment until over 40 years old. I decided to start writing down some of my thoughts a number of years ago. First, I wrote poetry, then stories of my life.

HERE’S THE real irony for me: I absolutely loathed the reading and writing assignments we had in English in junior high, high school and college. I hated writing in those days. Every writing assignment given to me by Mrs. Wooten, or Mrs. Chastain, or Mrs. Williams, or Mrs. Seago, or Mrs. Irish was a painful experience.

In spite of myself, I must have learned something from them. The poetry I still love most, I learned from them. The prose I love most, I learned from them.

If one wishes to write, one must first read. By reading extensively as an adult, I learned the way writers bring to life their thoughts, how they organize them, and how they make a point. I absorbed from the world of writers and journalists their approach to describing and analyzing events. The reading and writing I did in junior high, high school and college was the basic training for the journey I would take on my own as an adult.

The point of writing is to express thoughts in a way that a reader can absorb and enjoy at the same time. Information can be found in instruction manuals, but people want entertainment with their information when they read.

I WRITE because it’s fun. I write to see what I have to say today. Some days, I’ve got nothing. Some days, I have something. When I start writing, often I do not know where I will end until arriving there. Sometimes, I write part of a column, then put it away — for a day, a week, a year — before returning to it.

As the Steve Martin character told the John Candy character in Trains, Planes & Automobiles, a story should have a point. It should have a beginning, a middle and an end. It should take the reader or listener on a short journey, and leave them feeling like they’ve had a snack, not a whole meal, just a little something to get one past that mid-morning hunger.

My stories are intended to be a coffee break in a reader’s day. I write because I love to do so. If others like to read it, that’s even better.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

George Laur
Gentleman Farmer and Patriot


THE GREATEST Generation is getting up there in years. George Laur is in his 80s, but when he was 23 years old, he was the captain of a 12 man crew and flying his B-24 bomber deep into enemy territory. He led that crew on 35 bombing missions in World War II, and still has photos of his plane and crew.

Among the photos George Laur has of those days are shots of the airplane with damage from catching flak while making its bombing missions, with huge chunks of the airplane’s skin gone. There is also the photo taken just before their 35th and final mission, and the one taken just after they returned from that last bombing mission. You can imagine the difference in those young men’s faces.

GEORGE IS a farmer in Missouri (say Miz-ur-ah), living in a home his father’s family built in 1901. It looks exactly like the wonderful house in the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. His family has been farming that land continuously for over 100 years, which means they’re very smart farmers.

One of George’s favorite jokes is about farming. The farmer went on a TV show and won a million dollars. They asked him what he was going to do with the money. He replied “well, I guess I’ll just go on farming until it’s all gone!”

George will grin and tell you that for farmers, it’s always raining too much, or too little. And if it’s just right, everyone has a bumper crop and that drives the prices down! His good sense of humor has kept him grounded and gracious his eight plus decades on this earth.

George is my former father-in-law, so I stayed with him at his home many times, and we have had many wonderful discussions. One winter when it was bitterly cold in northwestern Missouri, he came home from going to town and said “Jim, it was so cold in Tarkio today that I saw a lawyer walking down the street with his hands in his OWN pockets!” You can’t buy that kind of humor.

HIS SON DAVID is in the farming business with him. David adds “I guess y’all heard about the farmer whose wife ran off with the tractor salesman?” We reply “no.” David responds “yeah, he got a John Deere letter.”

My ex, Linda, recently returned from the family farm in Missouri visiting George, David and all the Laurs in northwest Missouri, and she brought me some of George’s special white sweet corn and tomatoes, which he grew in his personal garden. George’s sweet corn is the best corn in the world. It’s so good I had to share it with friends and relatives, who all agreed it’s the best corn they’ve ever tasted. Those big, fat vine-ripened tomatoes were delicious. I have to admit, my son and I didn’t share them. We ate them all in two days.

George Laur, youthful hero, good neighbor, and gentleman farmer, I salute you.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

It’s Not For Me To Say
My Johnny Mathis Memory


WHILE READING my Gilmer Mirror recently, I discovered in Sarah Greene’s column that long time crooner, Johnny Mathis, is from Gilmer. As Johnny Carson was fond of saying “I did not know that!”

Although I’m an old school rock and roll guy, I have a soft spot in my heart for the crooners of the 1950s and 1960s. It started in the early 1950s, when I was but a pre-schooler, standing in front of the television singing “Oh, My Pa-Pa!” with Eddie Fisher, father of Star Wars’ Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher.

I loved to hear Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Bobby Darin, and Andy Williams do their thing. Each was a magnificent singer, and love songs were the grist of their mills.

JOHNNY MATHIS joined the fantastic crooners in 1957, emerging as a soulful, soothing, poignant voice of the 50s, 60s and 70s. His distinctive modulation was mimicked pleasingly by a number of comedians, with the best being John Byner, who would impersonate the staccato and reverb of Mr. Mathis, in caricature.

I’m certain that no one enjoyed the good-natured impressions better than Johnny Mathis.

When I was in the military and living in Taiwan in 1970 and 1971, all the soldiers had more record albums than you could imagine. Taiwan had pirated records, which we could buy and listen to while there, but we could not bring them back to the states. At 25 cents for each long playing vinyl record, every soldier had every album he ever wanted. For $25, a guy could buy 100 albums. And when soldiers left for the states, they would give away all their albums. We were drowning in vinyl. We had every record since the beginning of rock and roll, a period of under 15 years at that time.

AMONG MY records was my Johnny Mathis collection. I listened to all my records on my Pioneer headphones, with my 25 foot cord. This blocked out the sound from everything else, and gave me periods of quiet that were greatly appreciated. The music of Johnny Mathis was always soothing, relaxing and hopeful.

One of Johnny Mathis’ tunes that I greatly enjoyed was It’s Not For Me to Say. I was listening to that tune, when another soldier who lived in the next building stuck his head in my place and said something excitedly. I took my headphones off and said “what?” He replied “the National Guard shot and killed four students at Kent State!”

Here it is nearly 40 years later, and that song and that event are forever tied in my mind. The human memory is fascinating. A moment in time has wedded a song I love by an artist I admire to an event in the turbulent anti-war days of Vietnam. Not a war song, or a peace song, but a love song.

I still enjoy listening to Johnny Mathis, and knowing he was born in Gilmer just makes it all that much more enjoyable.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Hey Jude!
The Beatles
September 1968


IN THE last week of August, 1968, the Beatles released Hey Jude, a 7-minute song that would capture America’s ears for months. I was attending electronics school at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. We rolled out of the bunk at four in the morning, and marched to the chow hall by a quarter after four.

The march to the chow hall would take us past row after row of barracks. It was two hours until the break of day, but the place was teeming with activity that time of morning. In September of 1968, all over the base, from early morning until lights out, one could hear Hey Jude played from every barracks. There was no air conditioning in those barracks, so the windows were always open, and sound carried. It was literally impossible to walk across the base without hearing Hey Jude playing not just once, but many times.

HEY JUDE captivated America in that fall of 1968, after so many rapid shocks to the country — the Tet Offensive, the siege at Khe Sahn, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the street warfare outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

The country needed something to help it get back on its feet, and Hey Jude seemed to be that tonic. By the time it got to the repetitive chorus, everyone was singing its simple and melodic message. La, la, la, la-la-la, la-la-la, Hey Jude!

It would be about 20 years later before I would learn anything significant about the poignant song that so inspired us in the fall of 1968. The advent of MTV would bring around a newcomer to music, the son of John Lennon by his first marriage, Julian Lennon.

As stories about Julian Lennon hit the MTV scene in the 1980s, a story was told about the song Hey Jude. It turns out it was written by Paul McCartney for a young Julian Lennon.

IN EARLY 1968, John Lennon left his wife, the mother of young Julian Lennon, for his girlfriend and future wife, the infamous Yoko Ono. Paul McCartney wrote the song while on his way to see Julian Lennon and his mother, to reassure them his friendship would continue. He wanted to say something to Julian, a special message, and Hey Jude was the song he wrote. It was originally written as Hey Jules, but McCartney changed it for his own reasons.

McCartney did not disclose the true object of the song until many years later, and John Lennon thought the song was written for him, as did several others who knew Paul McCartney in 1968. Julian Lennon was in his twenties when he learned the song was written by McCartney for him.

“Hey, Jude. Don’t make it bad. Take a sad song, and make it better. Remember to let her into your heart. Then you can start to make it better.”

Those words and that song will always take me back to September, 1968, to soldiers marching in unison to breakfast, long before the sun peeked above the eastern horizon.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Galveston Island, Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach & Smith Point


I'M A good old boy from East Texas, so Galveston has been a favored spot for me and my family since the 1960s. Staying at the Flagship Hotel or the San Luis Hotel has been a part of my life for decades.

Walking the seawall, visiting the seawall vendors and playing on Stewart Beach have been a part of my life. Going to the stores along The Strand has been a part of my life. Driving down to West Beach, staying in a house on the beach, seeing the various sights of west Galveston Island have been a part of my life.

ENJOYING THE wonderful food on the Island has been a part of my life. Mexican food and seafood are awesome on the Island, and yet another reason to go there.

In high school, my buddies and I always went to Galveston for the Splash Day celebration, which used to be in May. I still drive down there just to see and feel the ocean.

I've fallen in love in Galveston, riding the Bolivar ferry at night, under the moon light, the spray from the ocean in our faces.

Riding the Bolivar Ferry over to Bolivar Peninsula, seeing the Lighthouse there, and driving the beach there have been a part of my life. Enjoying the sights, sounds and denizens of Crystal Beach have been a part of my life.

I spent my honeymoon in Smith Point almost 40 years ago. I have fished and shrimped in the East Bay and in Trinity Bay. I spent many happy times staying with friends and relatives at Smith Point: Aunt Martha, Uncle Hollis, Faye, Iris and many others.

FOR MANY of us here in East Texas, Galveston has been our beach place for decades, a place we could get a wild urge to go, and be there in 3 to 4 hours. It's been that place we can call our vacation home away from home.

I am shocked by the damage I see to Galveston, Bolivar and Crystal Beach. I feel for all those Texans displaced, losing their homes, losing their stuff, losing their businesses. As we try to deal with our own problems throughout East Texas, let us think kindly and often of those at the brunt of the storm, who paid far too much this time.

They will rebuild and we will return to spend our money and enjoy our free time in our coastal neighbors south of here. I'm counting on vacationing in Galveston and Bolivar next year, and hope you will, too. They will need our dollars coming into their communities.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Hurricane Carla hit Texas in 1961


EXACTLY 47 years ago Thursday, on Sept. 11, 1961, Hurricane Carla hit the gulf coast of Texas. One of the most horrific hurricanes of the 20th century, Carla drove millions of Texans north, into East and Central Texas. Sept. 11, 1961 was a Monday, and in those days we didn’t start our school year until the Tuesday after Labor Day. Since Labor Day was Monday, Sept. 4, in 1961, we started our school year on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

I was starting Junior High that year, the seventh grade, and had Mrs. Wooten for all my classes. There were six grades schools in the area then, and all six fed into the one Junior High School. Of course, there was an entirely separate set of grade schools, junior high, and high school for black students. We were still 100 percent segregated in 1961 in schools.

MY BUDDY Dale Duren was in my class, but there were not many in our class I knew other than him. The school year had begun the previous week like any other. Boys our age were doing two things at lunch for recreation: Yo-yoing and shooting marbles. Every 12-year-old boy worth his salt had a Duncan yo-yo, and could make it do tricks. “Walking the dog” was one trick. “Rocking the baby” was another.

We all carried our favorite marbles in our pocket, so we could shoot marbles at lunch. We would draw a circle in a sandy, flat spot, and proceed to play for keeps. Playing for keeps meant you were betting your marbles by playing with them. You could lose your favorite marbles by “playing for keeps.”

The first week of school ended with dire warnings that there was some kind of big storm in the Gulf of Mexico headed to the Texas coast. We didn’t have weather satellites in those days, but we had airplanes that flew up above the storms and tracked them the old-fashioned way. We had never really experienced a hurricane, and only knew it must be some kind of storm if they were evacuating cities like Galveston.

TEXANS DROVE into East Texas by the tens of thousands, and in every community, school gyms and churches were opened and cots were provided for the evacuees fleeing the storm. While it was troubling, it was also very exciting for 12-year-old boys, who had never seen anything like it.

At age 12, we were just beginning to understand that there was a world outside the insular one in which we lived our lives. As our marbles and yoyos gave testimony, we were still little boys, just on the cusp of adolescence. We still had our high little boy voices, and some of the girls we knew had growth spurts that left them taller than us. That was kind of weird, to see a girl you had known in grade school suddenly get taller and look more grown up.

Hurricane Carla hit the coast and did heavy damage to much of the coastal area. The winds and rain soon came inland, and we learned firsthand that a hurricane was a storm bigger and more furious than any except a tornado, which was so much smaller as not to be comparable.

There have been many hurricanes head toward the Texas Gulf Coast since 1961, but Carla is the one I will always use as my baseline experience for hurricanes in Texas.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Need a Court Reporter to Follow Me Around


I HAVE a mind like a steel trap. An old, rusted, out-of-service steel trap that no longer works like it once did. I can remember 50 years ago, but five years ago, five minutes ago, may be another thing entirely.

One of the good things about being a lawyer and taking depositions is having those wonderful, most excellent, court reporters. They meticulously take notes of everything you say. If you forget what you said last, you simply ask the court reporter to read it back to you. With that prompting, you can continue right where you left off.

Oh, if I only had a full-time court reporter to follow me around, keep track of everything I say, and stand ready to consult her notes from last month and tell me what I said and did.

WHEN I was younger, I remembered the names of people I met. Now, if they’re not wearing a name tag, I’ll be lucky to remember their name past that day. In fact, the older I get, the more I favor requiring everyone to wear a name tag, all the time!

I imagine each morning, after I would get up, the court reporter would show up and swear me in. She states: “Do you swear not to talk when other people are talking, because I can only take down one of you talking at a time?” I so swear. She continues “Do you promise to tag all your exhibits ahead of time, and not expect me to tag them for you?” I reply “I swear to do so, Madame Court Reporter!”

Finally, she says “Do you promise to keep your voice up, so I can hear, because if I can’t hear you, I can’t take down your testimony?” I reply “yes, I’ll do it, now can I get a Diet Coke and go watch the news?”

MY COURT reporter would follow me around, listen to every phone conversation, listen to every personal conversation, and be available in case I needed to say “Shirley, could you check last week and see what I told my mother I would do about Labor Day? I can’t remember for the life of me.”

Shirley would begin checking her notes from last week, and after a couple of minutes, she’d start reading the shorthand symbols. “Ah, here it is. You said ‘Yes, I’ll come to the farm on Labor Day if Pops is cooking fish!’”

With the court reporter as my instant memory, I could answer all those unanswered questions, like “what did I do last week?’ Right now, all I have are my notes from my work and my emails, which are the bread crumbs I follow back to retrace my steps, like Hansel and Gretel, with about the same results.

I can’t really afford to have a court reporter to follow me around, but if I could, boy would I have a story to tell you about something that happened last week, that I can’t quite remember right now, but give me a minute ….

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Sister Denny and Sister Balch


MY MOTHER will be 80 in a couple of months, and her last remaining sibling is my Aunt Vannah, who is 82. We all correspond with each other about stories that are of interest, particularly memories of family history.

My long since departed father, Clyde, and my mother, Helen, married in 1946, after a year together as a couple at a church college in Tennessee, where my Aunt Vannah also attended. Dad worked as a preacher and my mother worked as a waitress.

In mid 1947, just eleven months after they married, my older sister, Judy, was born. Now you have the set up for that which follows, a story about those times by my mother, Helen Linscott Moore Bollier. I’ll let her tell it:

When Clyde and I were young marrieds, his first experience as a full-time preacher was at the little town of Annapolis, Washington. It was located on the shores of Puget Sound, and we rode on a small passenger ferry across Gorst Bay to Bremerton to do our shopping and other business. We had no car. We lived in a nice little apartment upstairs on the back side of the church.

WE HAD some elderly ladies in the church which we felt we should visit regularly, so one day a week we walked about a mile to see Sister Denny, and the next week we walked about 3/4 mile to see Sister Balch. We enjoyed the walk along the highway as it followed the shore line, but often got caught in the rain the area was known for.

Some of the church people always brought Sister Denny to church. She was a short, squat woman and always wore a brimmed hat to church, and high-top shoes under her long dress. She wore horn-rimmed glasses and she rarely produced a smile. Her husband had died a year or so before, and his hospital bed was still in the living room. The room by which we entered was bare except for a few items on the floor next to the wall. The “living room” had a tall wood-burning heater in the center and apparently she did her cooking on it. She spent most of her time working in her yard - which was on a hillside extending from the road to her house on the hilltop, accessible by foot only!

I corresponded with Sister Denny for many years after we left the area. Her letters always began, “It is a gray day.” She was not the most chipper person in the world.

SISTER BALCH was quite a contrast. She was a proper lady and talked at length about her deceased husband and grandson, and had a sparkle to her eyes as she spoke of them. When we had made our walk and climbed the hill to her house, she always had a treat prepared - baked egg custard, in china custard cups. We always enjoyed her company and conversation - in addition to the egg custard!

These weekly walks must have been “just what the doctor ordered” as Judy came into the world in short order once I got settled in the hospital. Clyde had a meeting scheduled when Judy was just 3 weeks old. Sister Balch had just moved down the street from our place so she was my self-appointed attendant and care-taker during the two weeks Clyde was gone. Admittedly, I knew less than nothing about caring for a new-born, but as your Daddy described her, “Sister Balch was a nurse during the Civil War.”

Judy was born in May, and it was a little cool outside mornings. Sister Balch was vexed because we had no long stockings to put on her, so would pull the top of her anklets up and her diapers down enough to pin them together.

My electric range had a deep-well cooker which was the perfect size for sterilizing bottles, inserting them upside down. But her “proven method” was to lay them down and stack them in a huge kettle which made a big mess, and left the bottles full of water and too hot to handle.

THE SAYING “she meant well” surely fit our situation. I was overjoyed when Clyde made it home and we could insist that she GO HOME “to get some rest.”

We really needed that meeting for the income. Clyde was paid enough for his meeting that we were able to buy our first car - a faded blue 1932 Chevy coupe. But that’s another story.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Summer of 1960


THE SUMMER of 1960 had two events which enthralled and educated me, two events I'd never paid any attention to in the past. One occurred before my 11th birthday, the Democratic convention for nominating their presidential nominee. The other was the Olympics, which took place around my birthday at the end of the summer.

We didn't have an air conditioner to help with the sweltering heat, but we did have an air cooler, a black and white TV, and a local station that was NBC affiliated. IN MID SUMMER, the Democratic convention began, with much coverage by NBC. This was the first election that I had any awareness of politics. My dad was interested in it, so I was, too. I knew that we preferred the Texan, LBJ, and we were sorely disappointed when that Kennedy fellow ended up with the nomination.

We had hardly begun fretting good about losing before we became aware that LBJ was going to suddenly join JFK on the ticket as his vice presidential nominee. I could not make heads or tails of this new development. It made no sense to me. LBJ had been in a fierce fight with JFK, and they had been saying terrible things about each other.

THE LAST THING I expected was to see LBJ kiss and make up with JFK. But then it happened, right there on television, right in our living room.

Daddy was happy to see LBJ on the ticket, but he was not happy about that JFK fellow. He was a Catholic, which to my father was a Roman Catholic, which meant he would "take his orders from the Pope!" Daddy was a preacher, and you could say it was his job to be worried about such things. He turned out to be wrong, but it seemed like a sound concern at the time.

SPEAKING OF Rome, the Olympics were held in Rome, Italy, late that summer, and we watched every hour of coverage NBC provided.

The Olympics of 2008 have Michael Phelps as our hero, but for the 1960 Olympics, one name stands out: Wilma Rudolph. In a matter of weeks, she became a household name. This long, slender, incredibly fast woman sprinted her way into our hearts.

WILMA RUDOLPH had a compelling life story. She had been very ill as a child, suffering from polio. She was from a very poor black family, the 20th of 22 children. There were serious doubts about whether she would ever have full use of her legs. But like a slender, black, female version of Forrest Gump, Wilma ran until she was the best runner around.

She was a sprinter, and we would watch her go through her pre-race ritual. We knew every move she would make, as she prepared to run. We knew how she would warm up and shake loose her leg muscles. We knew how she would set herself in the starting blocks. We knew how she would raise up to ready herself. And we knew how she would turn on the speed as she flew down the track, to our cheers!

Wilma Rudolph was 20 years old when she won three gold medals in those 1960 Olympics. She won the gold in the 100 meter sprint, the 200 meter sprint, and was one of four in the 400 meter relay. My sisters and I would whoop and holler, as if Wilma Rudolph was our best friend. She got the gold, and America got a crush on her.

I TURNED 11, the summer ended, and school began. I had two new major pieces of the world — the Olympics and the presidential election process — firmly in my grasp as the 6th grade began.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Vacation Bible School


I NOTICED there's a Vacation Bible School at one of the nearby churches. Oh, that brings back some fond memories of summer days growing up in a church-going community in East Texas in the 1950s.

Every summer, we would have various vacation Bible Schools we might attend around town. It was exciting to go to classes at a totally different church than we attended every week. It meant new teachers, new kids to meet, and mainly, new times and places to play with new friends!

If the weather allowed, we might have classes outside part of the time. Usually, we were inside, however, which meant we were in the air conditioned church or church annex. Since our family didn't have an air conditioner, going to Vacation Bible School was a great way to get some free cool air, not available at home.

Vacation Bible School was usually in the mornings, usually for about 2-3 hours, and usually out by noon. We would sing songs, get told or read stories, play games, and generally have a good time.

IF WE WERE lucky, there would be some kind of snacks or drinks after the classes and related services were concluded. A cookie and some punch went down smooth after a fast game of chase. Moms visited with each other while kids played for 30 minutes after each day's classes.

By the time I got home from Vacation Bible School, I was always hot, sweaty, and a mess. How did my mother put up with all of us?! She's a saint.

My favorite part of Vacation Bible School was singing songs. I was always an exuberant singer, particularly as a young child. I put everything I had into it, and zealously believed every word I sang. I had the commitment and dedication only a child can have.

"You Are My Sunshine" was one of those tunes we sang. One of my other favorites in Vacation Bible School was "Jesus Loves Me." It's a song that is very comforting to a five year old. "JESUS LOVES the Little Children" was another favorite. How simple but how important was its message: "red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world." Wow! That thought still bowls me over.

When I die, will y'all sing "Jesus Loves the Little Children" at my funeral? And sing it with the joy of a five year old who hasn't yet learned to doubt.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Regrets? I’ve Had a Few, but then again …


THE CHAIRMAN of the Board — Mr. Frank Sinatra — sang the words written for him by Paul Anka, and that song became a huge hit in 1969. Paul Anka, former teen heart throb and creator of the Tonight Show theme song, penned those words for Old Blue Eyes. The song — “My Way” — has become one of the best known and most oft sung songs of that era.

Sinatra sings “regrets — I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” That’s a good notion, the idea that life should be positive, it should be optimistic, and it should be looking forward with hope, not backward with regret.

Even in the song “My Way,” there is mention of having some regrets, however. It’s good to have regrets. Having regrets means recognizing that some decision, some action we made in the past fails to meet our expectations of ourselves.

MOST OF MY regrets in life involve things I did to others, selfish things, mean things, thoughtless things. They involve moral failures on my part, like infidelity. I regret not living a life as moral as I should have, particularly during the 1970s.

I regret not being as good a husband as I should have been. I regret the times in my teens when I was harsh and disrespectful to my parents. I regret not thinking of all those people in Vietnam as human when I was in the military. I regret not being a better man.

I regret spending too much time and money on political matters, and I regret not spending more time and money on charitable matters.

I regret the period of my life when I chased dollars too much, bought too much stuff, and lost track of the simplicity that has been my life for most of my life. I do not regret all the time I spent coaching Little League. I do not regret one moment of time I spent with my son or nephew when they were growing up. I do not regret giving of myself selflessly many times, to many people, for many purposes.

I regret leaving, but I do not regret loving.

WE ALL have regrets, and it is best not to linger upon those regrets, because if we allow such things to dominate our thoughts, we will replace the life we have now with the worry of something in the past. More than any single factor, that one hobbles humans in their journey through this life. Our ability to have sharp, clear, lasting memories of harm allows us to cope and survive, but it also forever bends us around the fears we carry.

A wise man once said we cannot change our height by worrying. He understood that there are some things about which we simply should not worry, as we cannot change them. He also knew that we can change ourselves, and that is where we should place our efforts.

Having regrets is good, if we have regrets about things that really matter, if we learn from those experiences, and in doing so, become a better person.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Take time to be a dad today


THERE IS an ad campaign on television that shows fathers having fun times with their child. It ends with the admonition “take time to be a dad today.” That’s great advice, and a worthy topic for today.

America needs more men to spend more time being dads. Kids need their dad. They need his time, and most of all, his undivided attention. A kid knows if they rate with their dad. They know if seeing them play ball or perform in school events matters to dad. They know if dad makes as much time for them as he does for his playing golf.

We are suffering from a paucity of parenting by fathers in this country. Too many men are fathering children and doing very little beyond that. They seem to think that buying diapers and formula is meeting their parental obligation. Being a dad is far more than meeting the minimal requirements. It is showing up, suiting up, and being on the field and ready to play every day.

KIDS NEED a father who cares how they do in school, who cares that they learn to interact well with others. But the most important thing dad can give his child is a sense of importance and appreciation that will carry the child through even the worst of times. When you know your father is proud of you, when his conduct and words show that pride, you are a blessed son or daughter.

A word of praise from dad is just the tonic many young students need to pour themselves into some new field of study or recreation. Praise is easy to give, costs nothing but a brief amount of time, and soothes the soul like few things can. If you want your child to do well, find a reason every day to praise them, and make it sincere.

Because many fathers are lousy dads, those of us who know how to be good dads must take up the slack in society for the bad fathers. We cannot let their kids fall through the cracks, because they surely will. Kids whose fathers are gone all the time, or simply are not very supportive, are kids who will need the dads of their friends and relatives to help fill that void.

IF YOU’RE a woman, hand this column to any good man you know who can help make a difference in the lives of the kids whose fathers are not showing up.

If you’re a man, be the one who takes a moment to care about the performance of the kid whose father never makes it a practice or a game. That kid wishes he or she had a dad cheering them on. You can be the guy who lets that kid feel just a little more important today. You can be that man. Abraham Lincoln once said “No man is so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” That’s great advice from a great American.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Ow, My Bones!


WHEN MY SON was a little guy, probably four years old, he suddenly acquired the knowledge that he had bones inside his body. He had never given it any thought, until it was explained to him that his body was supported by bones.

This grain of new knowledge captivated him for a short period of time, and occupied his mind in an unusual way. He would fret about whether he might hurt his bones if he did something he had done many times. “Will it hurt my bones?!” he would inquire.

WATCHING A child’s mind evolve like that is part of the true joy of raising children. You get to watch them form the ability to assess new information, as their minds can handle new information. Sometimes, like the “bones” information my son got, that immediately causes the emerging mind to tackle a new concept.

Where before he would merely think that his arm hurt if he fell on it, now he would think “ow, my bones hurt!” when he fell on his arm. Somehow, knowing that there was such a thing as bones, that they were inside him, and that they could be injured or broken, made him react in a protective manner.

I THINK this was a very natural consequence of knowledge that carries with it an appreciation of danger. Humans have to learn quickly when situations threaten their well being. “Once bitten, twice shy” is an old saw for a good reason. Fear is our protector, even when it has become somewhat irrational or obsessive.

Often in life we progress in our development, and gain new information that causes us to experience fears, both real and imaginary, which we would not have without new knowledge and appreciation of those threats. We learn to be wary, and as we do, we lose all semblance of our childhood or youthful innocence.

IT’S EASY to let fears overtake our more rational thought processes, but that does not make our urges any less real. We are animals, and when any sign of trouble shows, most animals are down the hole, up the tree or on the wing. They flee first, and assess threat level later, from a safe distance.

But we can think in ways most animals can’t. It is our blessing and our curse. Animals worry only about this moment. They’re always thinking about today, right now, this moment. We can contemplate. We can envision threats, and from that we can create fears, real or imaginary, which haunt us.

THE STORY of my son and his “bones” is illustrative of how fears can spring full grown from new information, but such processes are normal for us. It’s easier to recognize it in a four year old, but it happens to each us, throughout our lives.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Change You Can Believe In


SOMEWHERE at your house, there’s loose change in a jar, or cup, or can, or drawer. You throw it in there, and over time the pile of coins stacks up. Today is the day you get all those coins and turn them into folding money.

Some local banks allow their customers to bring in their coins, and, free of charge, have them counted by a machine. Those banks allow customers to convert change to paper money, or to deposit the proceeds into one’s account.

Many large grocery markets have a machine that allows one, for a percentage, to have change counted and cashed in. Those can cost close to 10 percent of the total for the right to have loose change counted and converted to money more easily spent.

CAN I appeal to your patriotism to get you to cash in your change? Did you know that it now costs our government over one cent to create one penny? Our government is losing your money on the manufacture of pennies. And it costs them more than a nickel to make a nickel. That’s our government, y’all, losing money even when they’re making money.

We need all those pennies and nickels sitting in jars, and bottles, and cups, and drawers to be returned to circulation. When you turn your coins in at a bank or change machine, you are helping the U.S. government save the cost of making new coins.

If you are inclined to think environmentally, then think about this: the mining of metals is the only way to get them except recycling. By recycling all our pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, we will be environmentally sensitive. We are helping save resources by turning in our loose change.

ONCE A YEAR, I have to make myself gather all my coins, sort out the quarters and cash in the remainder at my local bank. I like having a bank where I walk into the front door and can immediately see everyone working at that bank. I’m a sucker for local businesses. They know what service means.

I like to save some of the quarters back when I cash in my change, because I save them for toll roads, Coke machines and such. But I cash in all the pennies, nickels and dimes, and a good portion of the quarters. I’ll get $100 from a year’s worth of change. I never leave the house with change in my pocket, meaning I always empty my pockets of change whenever I come home.

I don’t know about you, but when I cash in change, it’s like free money! It’s like I won a prize and have money I can justify wasting on anything I want. I’m still a kid when it comes to using free money.

Get your change and cash it in. You’re saving land from being mined. You’re saving the government from wasting money to make money. You’re giving yourself some free money! It’s change you can believe in.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Never Work On My Car


I NEVER work on my car. I can’t afford the medical bills. My dad didn’t know very much about cars, and he never had the tools he needed. Consequently, we were always trying to make do with a crescent wrench and a pair of pliers, when better tools were needed. Everything I know about skinning my knuckles under the hood of a car, I learned as boy from my dad.

Daddy didn’t cuss, so watching him fume and search for words while he worked on the family car was more entertaining than watching a stage full of jugglers on The Ed Sullivan Show. He’d bust a knuckle, and drop a wrench, and hiss “awwww, SHOOT!!”

It was critical that I not let him see me grinning while he was in full exasperation mode. I was usually there to assist, by handing him something he needed. Or, if he dropped a tool, I could crawl under the car and get it.

Mainly, though I learned a very valuable lesson: hire a competent auto mechanic to work on cars!!

THIS BRINGS ME to a standard for living I have followed since those days in the 1960s when Daddy was busting knuckles and resisting the urge to cuss about it: I do what I do well, and I hire others to do what they do well. It’s a simple concept that has served me well the past decades.

Watching my dad try to fix washing machines, dryers, TVs, radios, chainsaws, cars and lawn mowers for years convinced me that I should learn to do something I was good at, and hire someone to do those other things for me. That has turned out to be a wise decision on my part.

The worst messes I have ever made are the ones that resulted from departing from my time-honored system of hiring competent professionals to do what they do, and stay out of such activities myself.

Like the time I decided I really could change out the plumbing fixtures in the upstairs bath tub, and flooded the downstairs ceiling for 30 minutes. Or, the time I worked on my carburetor, and unwisely took the advice of a friend who said “you need to boil it.” Or, the time I used a power sprayer to clean the house and blasted some of the paint off.

You just don’t want me operating equipment, that’s the bottom line. I’m a clear and present danger around an engine of any kind.

WHEN MY car has a problem, I call Robert. When my plumbing has a problem, I call Ed. Whether it is yard work, electrical, air conditioning, or household repair, I have someone I call for that work. They’re all local business people, all own their own businesses, and all the kind of people I want to support in my community. I love to spend money in my local community, and love for it to help keep other businesses going strong. Everyone wins when everyone does what they’re good at, and hires their neighbor to do the work he or she is good at.

Writing, talking, thinking, advocating, and planning are the things I do well. I keep busy with those, and I’m going to keep letting others do all the mechanical things I always make a mess. Lord knows I’m a danger to myself and others any time I open a tool box.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Spiderman — The Very First Comic Book


IN 1962, a new superhero entered the world of comic books. His name was Spiderman, the super identity for a young man named Peter Parker. The first Spiderman comic book came out the following spring, in 1963.

I was 13 years old in the spring of 1963, and got my regular haircut at a little barber shop downtown, in one of those little one story buildings on the fringe of the main business area. The 3- foot-long barber pole inside its glass display case never stopped its circular journey. Inside, there were three barber chairs, but seldom more than two barbers would be working — the owner, Mr. Dennis and another barber working for hire.

Beyond the barber chairs sat a 2-person contraption for shoe shining. There was seldom anyone there, although occasionally an old black man would be there, offering shoe shines to customers, either while they waited or while they got their hair cut. Sometimes he would take their shoes while they were getting a haircut and shine them then.

THE BARBER SHOP had reading material to entertain men and boys waiting to get a haircut, or getting a haircut. I was still reading for entertainment, and looked forward to reading comic books when I went to Mr. Dennis’ barber shop. My dad and I were long-time customers, so we knew the barber shop guys as friends.

On this particular day in the spring of 1963, there was a line for haircuts, and I was looking through the reading material, desperate to find something new. Mr. Dennis, apparently watching and somewhat intuitive, said “Jim, would you like to run down to the corner drug store and pick out a few new comic books?” He handed me a dollar from the cash register, and I high tailed it down to the corner drug store to buy some comic books.

IN THOSE days, you bought comic books mainly at drug stores.

Don’t ask me why. I was a kid, and wondered that myself back then. The drug store would have a stand near the front cash register, and this big wire stand would hold many, many comic books. There would usually be a hand-written sign somewhere nearby that prohibited standing around reading the comic books without buying them.

I quickly started looking for my favorite comic book characters, and picked several of them. Then I had enough money left to get one more comic book. I saw this new character, a new comic book, Spiderman. I thought the cover and the character looked pretty cool, so I bought it.

I TOOK ALL the comic books back to the Mr. Dennis’ barber shop, and put all of them in his bookcase, except for that Spiderman comic book, which I proceeded to read. I was hooked after the first Spiderman, and Spidey became a favorite in my last year of reading comic books about super heroes.

By the next year, I would be taller and leaner. My voice would be lower. I would have my driver’s license, start dating and leave behind forever the fantasy world of reading comic books. At 14, I was a young man, a boy no longer.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Things We Never Notice


IN THE YEAR 2000, I bought a computer, and since that time, I’ve used the same speakers for my computer, even though I’ve changed computers twice. Those same two speakers have been sitting two feet from my eyes every day, for eight years. I just noticed last week that each has the product name “Boston” clearly displayed on its face.

How in the world could anyone sit two feet from computer speakers every day for over 3000 days, and still never notice that each had the word “Boston” clearly on its face? These are the kind of questions I ponder when trying to understand why each of us sees a different world when we view it.

TWO PEOPLE who come from the same town, in the same family, who believe largely the same important things in life, can see the same event and not see the same event at all. Police know this from talking to multiple witnesses to accidents. Everyone sees something different.

So much of what we see is specific to us. Our brain is unique to us. We trained it about what it should notice and what it should ignore, and often, it does too good a job. The result is that we each have terrible blind spots, like my blind spot for the product name of the computer speakers. Since I don’t really need to know the product name of the speakers, my mind studiously ignored it.

MY MIND is more and more like my computer. It doesn’t work very well when I try to make it do too many things at once, and will freeze up on me if I overload it. When I try to store too much information, it slows down my processing. I tend not to pay attention to businesses or buildings I never frequent. My mind’s eye simply ignores them, while seeing them visually in the scene. Someone tells me “it’s right next to that coffee shop.” I may have driven past it 10 times a week for years, and never saw it, because I’m never looking for a coffee shop.

If they sell hamburgers, then I’ll know where they are.

THERE’S A 50-foot sign I drive past all the time. It’s a big fish, and word is it cost the owner $75,000 to have it made. It’s a great-looking fish, perfect for the lake. I could not have told you what it was advertising until my sister mentioned it. My eyes saw the fish sign, but my mind did not read or record the words on the sign.

The differences in how our minds record the life around us explain why two people can share common events and recall different things. Each of us is creating his or her own never- ending movie, in which we star. Our mind can only focus on one thing at a time, in spite of our affection for claiming we multi task. When we focus on that one thing, we are largely blinded to other things.

We should never assume that others are seeing the world exactly as we are. They probably aren’t.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Free Tomatoes!


THE TOMATO SCOURGE of 2008 is upon us. Dire warnings ring out across the nation: a couple hundred people have gotten salmonella poisoning from eating tomatoes. Restaurants have yanked tomatoes off the menu. We’re not sure which ones are potentially lethal, but we’re sure that somewhere in the United States, there are dangerous tomatoes.

No one does overkill like we do here in the United States. If there’s a threat to public health or safety, we spare no expense halting it. Unless that threat is alcohol, or cigarettes or eating too much sugar or fat. Assuming the public threat to health and safety is not one of our constant threats to health and safety, we jump all over it.

If there are potentially killer tomatoes, we engage in overkill making sure such tomatoes never see the light of day. Lord, help the poor farmers who grow tomatoes! They need it.

We are doing without tomatoes all over the nation. There are no tomatoes to be found in many areas. But that’s not the case in my wonderful little East Texas neighborhood.

THERE ARE about a hundred families in this little subdivision on the lake. It’s mainly people middle aged and older. Everyone keeps to himself or herself. Everyone takes care of their lawn. Everyone watches out for everyone else. It’s a little slice of pine tree and hardwood heaven on the lake.

As I pulled up to the station where we all get our mail in this subdivision, I saw a peck basket sitting on top the mailboxes. A handwritten sign said “FREE TOMATOES.” Inside the peck basket were a couple dozen small brown bags, each containing a couple of large tomatoes, and each containing half a dozen cherry tomatoes. All were vine ripened and ready to eat.

I love tomatoes, but I particularly love good, vine ripened, home-grown tomatoes. They are bursting with water and taste, and lack the mushy quality so many of our mass-produced tomatoes have.

MY SON and I made short work of that bag of tomatoes. We both made sandwiches with thick slices of red, succulent tomato covering every square inch of surface, and hanging out beyond the crust of the bread. Every bite had the kind of flavor only a vine- ripened tomato grown lovingly in a family garden can deliver.

I told a friend who still lives in the big city this story today, as one more example of why I live in East Texas, where neighbors don’t forget how to be neighborly. He has bought a lake lot up here, and is chomping at the bit to get out of the big city and back to God’s country.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Air Conditioning, Indoor Plumbing & Ice Cream


WHEN I THANK the good Lord for what I have in this life, air conditioning is usually right up at the top of the list, followed closely by indoor plumbing and ice cream. Plentiful food at reasonable prices is right behind those.

I’ve never gotten use to the heat in East Texas between May and October, but I have gotten use to air conditioning and hiding inside those months. We never had air conditioning when I was growing up. My parents got their first window unit a few months after I went into the military in 1968. I swore to always live where I could have an air conditioner after I got out of the military, and that’s a promise I’ve kept.

ALTHOUGH I cannot remember it, the home my family lived in when I was born in 1949 did not have indoor plumbing. We got into a house that did have plumbing shortly thereafter, and I’ve always lived in homes with indoor plumbing. But my grandparents didn’t have indoor plumbing in the 1950s, and I remember that well. There were other people we would visit back then who also had outhouses for septic and wells for their water systems. I was spoiled by indoor plumbing, and it’s a luxury I never want to be without.

As a kid, I can remember taking baths in those metal tubs when we were visiting friends or relatives who didn’t have indoor plumbing. They would heat up water on the stove, and pour it into the tub.

BACK IN the 1950s, air conditioning was unusual, indoor plumbing was becoming standard, and ice cream was mainly made at home, without an electric motor.

Ice cream has been a part of my life since my earliest memories. Going over to someone’s house after church and having homemade ice cream is one of my first memories.

Everyone had those wooden ice cream makers back then, with the metal container that connected to a housing at the top which interconnected to a crank on the side. The ice cream mixture was poured into the cannister, which was placed under the gear housing for the crank. Then ice was placed all around the container inside the larger structure of the ice cream maker. As the crank was turned, turning it became harder and harder, as the liquid inside the cannister solidified, as heat was transferred from the cannister to the ice surrounding it. Salt would be added to the ice, to help melt it and make the cranking easier.

REAL HOMEMADE ice cream is hard to beat, but Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla is just the thing to do it. I’m sitting here, finishing up my Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream as the cool air from my air conditioner makes me forget the heat outside. Now to go wash the bowl and my hands in my indoor plumbing. Thank you, Lord.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

You Catch More Flies with Honey than you do with Vinegar


FOR EVERY good old saying we use in East Texas, there’s at least one corollary saying that modifies or refutes it. We love to say “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” But we also love to say “you get more with a smile and a stick, than you get with just a smile.”

TRUTH IS seldom exact when it comes to useful sayings.

Don’t muddy the waters, but you have to make some waves to get things done.

A kind word goes a long way, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

You can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.

The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Except when it’s the black sheep of the family, of course.

Make hay while the sun shines, but don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

It’s my way or the highway, except for those times I need to implore others to walk a mile in my shoes before judging me.

Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. But remember when to recognize it’s time to kill a fat hog.

You have to go along to get along, but don’t be afraid to follow your own nose.

SPEAKING OF noses, we don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face, and that’s something we know like the back of our hand.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Put away a nest egg, though.

If you know beans about a subject, don’t spill the beans, but remember that confession is good for the soul.

That dog won’t hunt. Unless he’s hot on the trail.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire. But don’t judge a book by its cover.

Dance with who brung ya, but be sure to answer the door when opportunity knocks.

LIFE IS a constant conundrum, and the saying that fits a situation can be rebutted with another saying that argues the other way. We have sayings that encapsulate a thought, and each one has value. But not every saying is good for every occasion.

You gotta know when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Paw Paw Moore's Memorable Ways


MY GRANDFATHER on my dad’s side lived his retirement years on Social Security, government commodities that were free, and whatever fish he and my Granny might catch or vegetables they might grow. He’d fish in tanks near Hillsboro, and didn’t mind eating perch.

One time when he was fishing, he caught one of those great big snapping turtles that are a foot and half long. He was proud of that turtle. So proud of it, he had it wrapped up and frozen, and stuck away in his freezer.

Every time anyone would go to visit him, he would get that frozen turtle out and show it off. He showed me that turtle each time I went to visit them. He would act as if he might ask my Granny Moore to cook the turtle, but he didn’t really want to cook the turtle for anyone. That would have ended his show and tell. No sir, he wanted that turtle to be a prop for his telling of the story about catching the big turtle.

PAW PAW MOORE was a funny character. He would whistle with no tune in mind, just completely random notes, no melody at all. He would stand in front of their space heater, backed up to it, rummaging his hands compulsively in his large, front pants pockets. Once while doing so, he unknowingly dropped a .22 long rifle bullet into the space heater. The bullet rolled to the burner, where it quickly heated and exploded. Since the business part of the bullet was much heavier, the only thing ejected was the brass casing for the .22 shell. It whizzed past my Paw Paw and grazed my Granny Moore’s neck. It was only a mild flesh wound, but that didn’t stop me from always referring to it as “the time Paw Paw shot Granny!”

JUST WRITING those words makes me chuckle, remembering how steamed he would get when I’d say that. I said it because he got so steamed. I wasn’t being mean, just having fun with my grandpa.

Paw Paw was a WWI veteran, although he never once talked about it. I know he was in Europe, fighting in the trenches, but there was no sign of it anywhere in his life except one photo of him in his Army uniform.

Paw Paw had a couple of fingers missing, fingers he had lost in a cotton gin as a very young man. He used to scare my cousins and me by telling us we would lose our fingers like he had, when he caught any of us picking our nose. He’d tell us that is how he lost his fingers. Not true, but an effective nose-picking deterrent to little kids, I can attest.

Paw Paw also loved to use his tongue to take his upper false teeth out, stick them out of his mouth, then pull them back into place. He’d do it around the grandkids to get their reaction. It was both terrifying and amusing.

IN RETIREMENT, he’d collect wood scraps from various places, then use them to create a variety of collectibles, which he would give to everyone who might visit. He made some great wooden flowers, in so many colors, and he made old time oil lamp holders.

Paw Paw Moore has been gone nearly 30 years. Truman Parks Moore was born in Goliad, Texas in 1891 and he died in Hillsboro, Texas in 1979. He was a character, and I’m pretty sure he took that turtle with him to his grave.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

A Song is a Time Machine to Your Past


IF YOU want to take a 3-minute trip into your past, pick a song and ride it back to that moment in time the song signifies in your mind.

I’ll name the song, and you time travel to the moment each song is for you.

By the Beatles, Yesterday. By the Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. By the Doors, Light My Fire. By the Bee Gees, How Deep Is Your Love?

By the Eagles, Hotel California. By Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven. By Lynard Skynard, Freebird. By John Mellencamp, Hurts So Good!

By Journey, Don’t Stop Believing. By Bon Jovi, I’m a Cowboy. By Alanis Morrisette, You Oughta Know. By Pearl Jam, Jeremy. Did any of the songs bring a moment in time to your mind? Were there certain people they made you think of? Were there places they reminded you of? Were there clothes and hair styles they brought to your mind? Did you remember loves you had, and loves you’ve lost? Did you laugh at yourself when you remembered what you were like when that song was popular?

MORE THAN any other trigger, songs take us back in time. Listening to songs of previous decades is one of my favorite activities, because each song is a magic carpet ride back to some series of memories and emotions.

The Beatles’ Yesterday reminds me of my first serious girlfriend, Marsha, riding around in my 1962 Chevy. The Doors’ Light My Fire reminds me of my second serious girlfriend, Celia. We listened to it over and over and over, in her backyard at night. The Bee Gees’ How Deep Is Your Love reminds me of a law school romance that was doomed to failure ab initio (Latin for “from the beginning”). Freebird, by Lynard Skynard, reminds me of all the relationships I wanted to get out of.

I was downright sappy in some of my early relationships, and my song memories remind me of that fact. I’m glad I was a romantic fool in those early years. Pity the young man who isn’t hopelessly optimistic and romantic at heart. Life’s drip, drip, drip of cynicism wears down the hardest stone, and it certainly takes its toll on the tender heart. Soon enough the heart hardens and the belief in silly love songs subsides.

But it’s great to have had years of such emotional commitment. I am glad my days of chasing one’s own tail are in my past, but they sure were fun when I was a lad and being in love was the greatest high of all. Songs give me the joy of those earlier years, without the investment of time in new relationships.

MY PRESENT is full of work, writing, and being a good father, son, brother, uncle and friend in this world. I have chosen to avoid another relationship that competes with all those other family and friend relationships, because a major relationship necessarily competes for time, energy and resources with those other relationships. I made a decision to enhance the former at the expense the latter. For some, such a path is not tenable, for they must have a relationship to survive. I am not such a person, and frankly, enjoy having time alone, sharing no decision-making about when to eat, what to wear, and where to go or not go. When I want to remember one of my many former loves, there is a song that can take me back there in a hurry. As the Everly Brothers sang while I was still in grade school, All I Have to Do is Dream.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Flattened Frogs, Leapin’ Lizards, Annoying Ants & Croaked Cockroaches


I’VE BEEN doing my outside spring cleaning, and that means engaging the non-human animal life in and around my home. Wasps are on my “kill immediately list.” When I find them is the time I kill them. Spiders that try to occupy space around my house have to die, too. Same for slugs. Call me picky, but anything that secretes something sticky or slimey where I put my face or hands needs to die.

Tree frogs are fine by me, but they tend to get inside my storm door, a fact unknown to me until I open my other door and they’re right there staring me eye to eye. I’ll open the storm door, give them a flick, and send them on their way. I don’t mean them any harm, but they have to find a new spot to hunt for their next meal. I flattened one accidently in the door jam just yesterday. Poor guy, he must have hopped in there in a split second.

THERE ARE lizards everywhere here, and I don’t really mind if one gets in the house, but when they do, they’re bewildered. I was coming in the back door last week, and one jumped in the door as I came in. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was young, and was certain he knew better. A couple of days later, I saw him with his snout pressed against the glass of one window, looking longingly at the outdoors. I grabbed him while he gazed, and set him free outside, in spite of his latching onto my finger. Lizards have always been my friends. How can you not like a lizard?

ANTS ARE another thing, entirely. They build those obnoxious mounds, and take over wherever they light. I could live with that, but just when I’m doing my best to ignore them, one of them bites me. Or two of them. Or maybe three. I can’t help myself. When they do that, it’s killing time. Die, ants! Die!

June bugs manage to get inside somehow. If they’d simply sit over there doing nothing, there would be no problem. But they have to fly around, usually between you and some light source. Catching them is a little trip down memory lane, and since they don’t sting or slime, I catch and release. I’ll take them to the door and free them.

COCKROACHES ARE not so lucky. I don’t know if they’re as dirty as they seem, but I do know that squashing them has been a lifelong practice. I don’t see that many around here, and not really sure why. Amazingly, most of the cockroaches I see around here seem to have died of natural causes. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea, but about once every three months, I find one dead somewhere in the house, lying on his back, dead. I wonder why they died. Why were they trying to make it across my bathroom floor, but couldn’t get to their destination? Why did they roll over onto their back to die? Why not simply lie down on the belly and croak? Do they like to look at the ceiling as they fade to black? And how is it I never see them until they’re croaked?

I TRY to treat all the critters the same, but I’m prejudiced against anything that bites me, stings me, slimes me, or spreads sticky webs in my path. Even those are fine if they keep their distance, but if they don’t — it’s killing time.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

West Texas


THERE IS nothing in the world that makes an East Texan appreciate East Texas more than driving through West Texas.

A week in Lubbock is an eternity in Hell.

It’s flat. It’s dusty. There are no trees. It doesn’t rain, except when it makes tornados and hail. Tumbleweeds roll around everywhere. There’s goathead stickers in the lawn and scorpions hiding around the base boards. There’s fine, red sand lined up along the inside of the windows, in spite of the same being closed.

What compels these people to live there?!

My family lived near Lubbock until my fifth birthday, in 1954, at which time we moved to East Texas. I like to claim that when I got to be five years old, I told my parents “I’m moving somewhere there’s trees, and yall can go with me or stay here!”

We made that long drive in a day, and dusk was settling in as we came into the Piney Woods. I was in awe of the tall, straight pine trees casting long, looming shadows everywhere. These were real trees, not scrub brush like in West Texas.

THE NEXT DAY I got to play outside and see the splendor that is East Texas. It was fall of the year, and the days were cool. The sky was blue, the trees were green and there were hills! Honest to God hills!! I felt like I had escaped from hell and gone to heaven.

I have relatives that swear by Lubbock. I have relatives that still live near there. I have relatives that now live in a prettier part of Texas but want to go back. It must be something in the water, because it cannot be the scenery or the weather.

There is one thing good I can say about Lubbock: it’s easy to get around in. If you’ve never been there, they have a grid, with streets numbered in one direction and letters of the alphabet in the other direction. If you can count and know the alphabet, you can find your way around. It’s nice and flat, too, so you can gauge your position based upon landmarks easily.

WEATHER IS A major problem in West Texas. It seems to be more intense and more foreboding than in East Texas. Maybe it’s because of the flat surface and the way you can see the horizon in every direction that makes the sight of funnel clouds so spooky. They snake their way down toward the earth, often not reaching the whole way. That’s when they become a tornado — when they start tearing something up, when they start swallowing dirt and spitting out trees.

Tornados, sand storms and hail storms. Those three weather events can scare the West Texas out of you, and they often happen all in the same day at the same place. First the sand storm, then the tornado, then the hail storm. Ain’t no way to treat a car.

THINK ABOUT living in West Texas. You know there’s land prettier and more hospitable if you go northwest to Colorado, or west to New Mexico. You know it’s prettier if you go southeast to central Texas, or east to East Texas, or even northeast to Oklahoma. You know it looks worse in West Texas than anywhere you could drive in five hours. But you stay there, in West Texas. Hot, dusty, flat, barren. If I had to move back to West Texas, I’d say “just take me now, Lord, take me now!”

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Springtime: T-ball, Turtles & Tons of Pollen


IT’S SPRINGTIME! The green-yellow pollen on your car hood tells you first. Tiny newborn turtles make their way down the hill towards the lake, with the unlucky ones lost in my carport or by my front door.

Baseball fields suddenly get mowed and shaped up, and soon have little fellows taking their first official swings at a baseball.

We didn’t have T-ball when I was a kid growing up in East Texas, but I wish they had. Whoever dreamed up T-ball as the entry level for young boys and girls should be in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. Sheer genius.

The worst part of being a kid playing Little League ball when I was growing up was having to stand there and get hit by the ball, as it was thrown by young arms who couldn’t find the plate most of the time. Standing in the batter’s box was more dodge ball than baseball.

SOMEWHERE between my childhood and that of my son, someone invented T-ball, and that allowed both of us to enjoy his first season in Little League. T-ball is for baseball beginners, and it is a great way to teach the little ones the mechanics of hitting a baseball while avoiding the trauma and horror of being hit by a pitched ball.

Young players get to learn how to hit, how to run bases and how to field balls once they are hit. Parents get to see their children learn to do those things without the vicarious pain and fear of standing in a batter’s box dodging badly thrown balls. Solomon meets Admiral Doubleday.

Friedrich Nietzsche was wrong about many things, but probably most wrong about his most oft quoted phrase: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” There’s a guy who never got hit by a baseball. If Nietzsche had played Little League before T-Ball was invented, he would have learned that some things teach pain and fear, without teaching more.

Many a child has quit baseball after being hit with a pitch before they learned to love the other aspects of the game. T-ball eliminates that problem for baseball’s tadpoles.

T-BALL saves us from the errant pitch, but nothing can save us from spring’s most relentless predator, pollen. It’s a necessary evil and it is essential to the cycle of life, but it gives the human nose fits. For those of us who suffer from pollen allergies, that green-yellow pollen covering our cars is the Devil’s own dust.

The sneezing, the coughing, the resulting head aches and ear aches — these are the things allergy sufferers associate with spring’s most colorful presence — the pestilence of pollen. The occasional thunderstorm washes it all away, and gives the nose a day off.

I’ll make it through another onslaught of pollen, just as surely as most of those baby turtles make it to the water’s edge, just as surely as those first-time ball players will make it through their T-ball season. Isn’t springtime in East Texas grand?!

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.



IN 1968, a young man in America had a choice. He could either join the military, wait until he got the notice from the military that he had been drafted or actively seek a deferment from military service. The choices of adulthood came fast.

I was 18 in 1968, and like all 18-year-old boys in East Texas, I had those choices. I was attending college, but really did not care for it. Other than the college deferment from military service, college had no attraction to me back then.

Boys I had gone through public school with were already heading off to serve, and some, sadly, were coming home in body bags soon after they left. Today it is difficult to imagine 1,000 American soldiers dying in a month, but that was happening in 1968.

In March of 1968, I decided to drop out of college and join the military, since it would join me soon enough, otherwise. First I decided to join the Marines, because somewhere between the Tet Offensive and the end of the siege at Khe Sanh, a couple of my high school buddies who had joined the Marines had come home in one of those body bags.

WHEN I TOLD my parents I had signed up to join the Marines, my mother — who was never given to emotional outbursts — ran down the hall into my parents’ bedroom, and flung herself across the bed, wailing in a sorrowful manner whose memory still gives me chills.

I failed the physical when the Marines sent me to Houston to take it in April, learning I had a huge chunk of my hearing range that was missing. My father seized the moment to encourage me to join the Air Force, since I was dead-set on taking the physical again, and joining the military nonetheless. He told me of my uncles who had served in the Air Corps, my cousin who flew a B-52, and appealed to my sense of working in a field such as electronics. Old Dad was pretty smart about redirecting my youthful zeal, and he understood better than me what lay ahead in the paths I might take.

The Air Force recruiter gave me some pointers on how to “fake” my way past the hearing test. He said “if you don’t hear anything for a few seconds, hit the button anyway, hold it down two seconds, then let it up.” I followed his instructions, and passed the physical the second time I took it, this time for the Air Force.

IN MAY, I left for Houston, for my induction. The Air Force recruiter gave me a bus ticket to Houston, and I made that ride by myself. The bus would stop in every little town along the way, taking on or letting out passengers. I sat by myself beside a window, and watched as folks got on or off the bus. In Livingston, there was a young soldier in his Army greens, and he was surrounded by family members of all ages. Many were crying unabashedly, telling me this soldier was headed for one place only — Vietnam.

He made his way onto the bus, and found a solitary seat as he settled in, not really wanting to make eye contact with anyone. He looked scared, and I was scared for him. I often wonder if that soldier made it back alive, or if we lost him in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Some memories are meant to haunt us.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Fireflies & Tent Revivals


FIFTY YEARS AGO, when I was in grade school, spring and summer time meant tent revivals. Some church in a small community would have a tent revival. Every night for a week, there would be preaching outside, in a tent with no sides, only a top. Lighting would mainly be by yellow bulbs strung about the tent, and the chairs would be wooden folding chairs.

Those wooden folding chairs predated the metal ones that have become the norm for folding chairs. Unlike the newer metal chairs, those wooden chairs operated on a sliding mechanism, and if you weren’t careful, you could end up pinching your own finger in them as you shifted in them.

IT WAS HOT and often humid, and there was only one method of cooling oneself: the hand-held fan. Usually, the fans were a handle made of very light, thin wood, onto which was attached a very thin but strong piece of cardboard. Often the cardboard would contain a picture of Jesus praying, or perhaps contain the words to some religious song. As the temperature increased, so did the rapidity of the fanning taking place in the crowd.

Preachers at tent revivals seemed oblivious to the heat and humidity when it came to time limitations, but their sweating profusely told another story. Without missing a beat, they’d reach inside their suit pocket and grab a handkerchief, wipe their brow and face, and return the hanky to their suit pocket, all while quoting scripture nonstop and raising the Bible high with the other.

SOME OF the older brethren would offer the occasional “Amen” in agreement with the point being made by the preacher. Church ladies would nod in approval as the preacher scolded loose living, and kids would squirm in their chairs, eagerly awaiting the end of the sermon and the service.

The call would go out at the end of the service for anyone that might want to be baptized, but in those revivals, only the faithful showed up, so no one was getting baptized most of the time.

After a concluding song, some visiting preacher or a church elder would offer a long and winding prayer, and finally, at long last, the real play time for kids would begin.

Church members would stand around and visit afterwards, and all the kids would run off to play. Chasing fireflies was the favored activity, as they always seemed to be blinking their lights just in the dark beyond the yellowish outside lights in the immediate area of the tent.

THE KIDS would all go chasing fireflies, catching them in our hands, and then looking into the cupped hands to see the firefly blink. Occasionally, someone would bring a Mason jar from home, and we would see how many fireflies we could capture and put into the jar. We would put a few blades of grass into the jar, on the theory it was food for the fireflies. We would punch a few holes in the lid, to give the fireflies fresh air. On a good night, we’d catch a dozen or so of them, then take turns holding the jar as the dozen fireflies lit up our homemade light bulb. We would hold it up, for all to see in the darkness.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father, who is in heaven. Not sure the firefly jar was what that passage intended, but at age nine, it was close enough.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Being a Good Parent to Our Parents


MY MOM AND POPS are closing in on 80 years, and both have been remarkably healthy their entire lives. They are active, independent seniors, who cherish their ability to take care of their every need, with little involvement of their children. But they hit a speed bump recently.

My Pops had a serious and life-threatening episode in the summer of 2007, and were it not for the aggressive and necessary role my Sis, Linda Hendry, played in getting him the medical care he needed, we might have lost him. And that would have been a huge loss, because Pops is about the sweetest human being in East Texas, a Good Old Boy with a Good Old Heart.

A couple of months ago, my Mom got sick with that nasty cold/flu that was going around in East Texas, and it got her so far down she ended up in the hospital for a few days. She had an episode that left her feeling bewildered and lacking her previously razor sharp thinking skills. We kids were worried, but were not sure how hard to push in terms of trying to make things go a better direction.

After a couple of weeks feeling frustrated by the loss of her freedoms and sharp thinking, she told us “I’m sending out an S.O.S. to my kids!” We answered the call.

My sister Beverly, her husband Bill Elliott, and I came running to do whatever we could to help Mother make her way through this tough time. My Sis, Linda Hendry, continued her role being right there for Pops, who was going through eye surgeries at the same time, and being right there for Mother in her hour of need. Among us four middle aged family members, we coordinated trips to the doctor, trips to town for getting groceries, trips to town for beauty shop and other appointments.

We took my mother out to eat, something she thoroughly enjoys, and something that is increasingly difficult for my Pops, because the noise in most places or the smoke in other places bother him terribly.

We all pulled together and now I’m pleased to say Mom and Pops are doing great. They’re back to driving themselves to town, back to driving themselves to church, and independent once again.

In the middle of the storm, though, we had to step up and say “you have to let us do more!” I read an article recently which talked about how those of us who are middle aged have to be ready to parent our parents, as they parented us. This makes sense when you think about. A person who is facing the bewildering effects of some illness or event is in no condition to be their own advocate, to follow and remember every instruction they are told, or to know which question they might need to ask.

We decided that from now on, when either Mom or Pops has a doctor’s appointment that might involve the transfer of important information to or from them, one of their children should be there. We insisted, and our folks appreciated the commitment and determination of their children to see them stay healthy and with us. I told them we were going to be there for them as they had been for us.

My Sis, Linda Hendry, found our folks a doctor who was very open to the involvement of adult children in the health care of their senior parents. Dr. Evans and his staff were very impressive, and as his assistant, Brooke — a transplanted Canadian — told us “the more eyes and ears paying attention, the better we like it.”

Now that’s an East Texas attitude at heart, and one I am happy to have in the health care professionals attending to my parents. Be a parent to your parents, and it will be apparent to all that you truly love and respect those who parented you.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

China Mart


I TRY TO buy most of my goods from local merchants in the little town of barely a thousand people a few miles away, and if I don’t buy them there, I try to get them from merchants in the town of five thousand 20 miles away. But I also go to that place I’ll just call China Mart about once a month, when I need a variety of stuff and plan to buy a number of items.

I call it China Mart because most of the goods there are made in China. They’re cheap in price, but they tend to be cheap in terms of product quality, too.

My biggest complaint with China Mart is the inability of checkers to get all my bags to me when I pay for goods. They have this wheel of empty bags they stuff my purchases into, and are suppose to send the wheel around to me. Nine times out of ten, they manage to get all my bags wheeled around to me. It’s that tenth time that gets me riled up, though. AT LEAST once a year, sometimes twice, I get home from my trip to China Mart and find I am missing a bag. It’s usually a small bag, one with medicine, or office supplies, or something I need.

So there I am at home, going through my purchases, putting them away, when I discover my aspirin, my allergy medicine, my new socks, and my new writing pens are missing in action. A call to China Mart winds its way to the Service Department, where they are able to confirm they have my bag of stuff, and if I will simply drop by and pick it up right away, it will be there for me. Otherwise, they’ll put it back on the shelves, and I will have to buy replacement goods on my next trip to China Mart.

LET’S DO the math. Forty miles round trip at an average speed of 50 miles per hour, plus time to park, go into the store, stand in line at the Service Department, and get my items, comes out to more than one hour entirely wasted. Forty at 20 miles per gallon, at $3.40 a gallon is about $7.80 wasted on gasoline for the extra trip.

So let’s get this straight. They can’t get the wheel of my purchased and bagged items turned around to me, so the stuff I paid them for — stuff I walked all over the store to get — is lost to me, compliments of their inefficiency tax. The cost to me is over one hour of time and $7.80 in gasoline. A quick calculation reveals the total cost of the things I bought was around $17.00. Do I want to drive back to China Mart, park, spend over an hour, spend $7.80 for gasoline, all to get $17.00 worth of goods today? I don’t think so.

They will put my purchased items back onto the shelves, and I’ll hang onto the receipt. The next time I go to China Mart, I’ll have to go to the Service Department, stand in line, get a credit for the $17.00, then go buy the same items again. I will recoup the value of the money, but the time lost and the aggravation are like sand poured down a rat hole.

WHEN I check out at China Mart, I’m most focused on making sure China Mart is charging me the price they showed of the items on the shelves. They have a tendency to have “specials” that are on the shelves but the special price doesn’t make it into the checkout system. Next, I’m focused on getting them paid, and making sure I get the right amount of change. I suppose I should start checking every item upon every checkout from China Mart. That would be the smart thing to do.

This is not a problem I ever have at any other store I patronize. Not once. But at China Mart, it happens at least 10 percent of the time. Maybe God is punishing me for not buying American and not buying local. I probably have it coming.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Renewal in Death


“JIM,” MY FRIEND Bill Bartlett said on the phone, “Chester Treadway died today.” In a moment, a flood of 40-year old memories filled my head.

In the mid 1960s, when we were in high school and didn’t have a care in the world except showing up for school and our part- time jobs, my friend William Lynn Parker started dating Susan Treadway, whose father was Chester Treadway. As boys are wont to do, there was a group of us in our grade who hung out together, a loose knit group of guys who numbered from three to five at any given moment.

All five of us worked at part-time jobs. Lynn Parker, Steve Reid and Eldon Ricks all worked at the ice house. I was a butcher. Our friend Bill Bartlett was a disc jockey at the local AM radio station, playing Top 40 hits.

We all got to know Chester Treadway, because we all hung out from time to time with Lynn and Susan at the Treadway home.

CHESTER TREADWAY’S viewing was the first reunion of this group of five high school friends in over 30 years. We all grew up. Four of us went into the military, and we all made it home safe and sound. By the mid 1970s, we had gone our separate ways. But as we reconvened at Chester’s wake, the first thing we wanted to talk about was our memories of Chester and the way we used to hang out at his house.

Being growing teenage boys, we had ravenous appetites and descended on the Treadway refrigerator like locusts, devouring everything in our path. Chester knew the Moore boy was going to drink all this milk, every time. He never stopped me.

Someone once busted Chester’s brand new metal trash can, but he still didn’t run us off, when lesser men would have. THE THING we all remembered most, however, was the summer Chester told us we could swim in the pool in the backyard if we would clean it up. I don’t recall how it came to be a mess, but I suppose sitting there all winter had something to do with it. We jumped into the task the way motivated teenage boys can do that, with energy and zeal none of us has reached at any point the past 20 years. We listened to the mid-1960s music on the radio, and had more fun than the law allowed, alternately drinking from the water hose, sticking it down our shorts, and spraying each other with it.

NONE OF US had swimming pools, so getting the use of that pool was something we could appreciate. It was the project of cleaning it, though, we recalled so vividly. The joy is in the doing of the task, isn’t it?

I think at his viewing, Chester was probably looking down on us from heaven viewing us, where he surely went after suffering the trials and tribulations we put him through in those days. I suspect he was smiling and enjoying our stories and heartfelt joy in remembering him. Lynn married his daughter, often telling Chester in jest “I made an honest woman of her,” and they remain happily married to this day. They gave Chester his first grandchild, two additional grandchildren, and those grandchildren produced for Chester great-grandchildren.

THE CYCLE of life continues. Chester lived eight decades, and he left behind many who remembered fondly his part in their life. That’s true immortality. In death, we find renewal, and we must. All of us must some day die, and all who remain must pick up and carry on.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Consistency is a Hobgoblin


ROD GRAHAM'S elder daughter was recently recognized in England at Cambridge, where she presented her paper on American man of letters and philosophy, Ralph "Where's Waldo" Emerson, or, as I like to call him, "Henry David Thoreau's best friend." She's working on her doctorate at Rice University in English, and is a true fan of Emerson. I've always been a Thoreau guy, of course, but respect Emerson.

Many Americans know Emerson best from his authorship of a saying that many of us have used in one form or another: "Consistency is the hob-goblin of small minds." It's a phrase one should use when challenged for taking positions that are contradictory.

THE EXACT quote, which is seldom used or seen, is "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do."

What does that quote by Emerson really mean? To me, it means "don't ever stop doubting your devotion to absolutes." We are curious animals. We stick our noses into everything, and that curiosity is the engine of all that we learn.

In everything we do, there are countervailing forces we must address, conflicts within us as we consider problems we try to address. We want to help others, but we don't want to do it for them. We want our children to be independent, but we want them to need us, too. We want the comfort of known relationships, but we want the sizzle of new relationships.

IN OUR consideration of life's tough issues, we similarly struggle. We have strong feelings about decisions regarding impending death, about who should be able to make those decisions, about how those decisions should be made.

I believe in free will, and I also believe in destiny.

That's probably an inconsistency, and yet, it's the type of thing that Emerson's statement supports. There are things about which we cannot know absolute truth. It is not logical to be closed-minded about such topics. This dynamic of considering the unknown, the unknowable and the possible should drive us to always question whether we are right in our absolutes.

I want safe borders, but I want compassion to those who long for good jobs in America. I want a free market, but I want government regulation where it is necessary. I want the sick cared for, but I don't want that to include people who run to the doctor for every sneeze. I'm a libertarian, I'm a conservative and I'm a liberal. I find reason and madness in all of them.

I like consistency, which is the ultimate irony. I can't even be consistent with that.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Making the Best of a Bad Situation


RECENTLY I WAS in my hometown for the surprise celebration of Mike and Barbara Capps' 25th Wedding Anniversary, a party pulled off with complete secrecy by their three adult children, Courtney Capps Shumway, Crystal Capps and Cody Capps. Co-conspirators included Mike's dad, his sisters, Mike Shumway, assorted friends, relatives and coworkers of Mike and Barbara, including me.

When Mike's dad, W. I. Capps and his wife, Betty, arrived for the surprise party in their almost-new car on Saturday afternoon, like all of us they were focused on getting inside the house and being ready for the happy anniversary couple when they arrived shortly. As they grabbed the presents they brought, one took their keys out of the ignition and one took their keys to the trunk to open it. In the ensuing moment, both tossed their set of keys into the car and shut their car door simultaneously. I was standing right there and saw it happen, and everyone immediately realized both sets of keys were laying there in the front of the car.

I THINK I heard W.I. use the harshest language I've ever heard him use: "oh, fiddle faddle!" We went inside the house, and called the dealership where he bought the car. It was already 3:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon, so we knew our window of time to get a new key from the dealership was closing. We were worried about getting a locksmith, because we both worry about things like voiding warranties by not giving the dealer first shot at fixing a problem.

We spoke with someone at the dealership, but weren't really sure if they were sending someone out, and if so, whether they could follow our instructions on how to get there.

Being cautious men, about 4:40 p.m. — after the party celebration had peaked — we decided it was time to take the bull by the horns. We jumped in my car and drove a couple of miles to the dealership. When we got there, we found out that for one reason or another, getting a new key that afternoon was next to impossible. There was an alternative solution, but we would need to wait until until a particular salesman was finished with a customer buying a new car, someone who wanted to drive that brand, spanking new car off the lot that day.

We understood that the young man had to take care of those customers first, and we even shared the excitement of the couple who were buying that car and driving it out that day. It gave W.I. and me a chance to sit down and talk — just the two of us — for over an hour. We could have fumed about our quandary, but since W.I. spent WWII fighting in the jungles of Asia, once unable to take his boots off for six weeks straight, he knows the difference between minor inconvenience and real hardship. He didn't get to be 83 years young by worrying about things that aren't worth getting upset about.

WE MADE the best of the situation and turned that inconvenience into a happy time of reminiscing about days long past, about losing those we have loved as they passed on, about remembering all those happy times we have had. I haven't had a good opportunity to sit down with Mike's dad, W. I. Capps, and visit one on one, for decades. There's usually been wives, or kids, or assorted others around, and we always talked but we never got to simply sit and talk, the two of us.

By 6 p.m., that young salesman was following us to Courtney and Mike Shumway's house, to take out his kit and open the car so W.I. could get the keys. Being most grateful and a decent man, W.I. offered to pay the young man for taking his time after work to open the car, but Brandon Slatter would hear none of it. That's the kind of young man he is.

John Milton once wrote "The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." You have to know when to worry, and when to go with the flow and accept whatever it is life throws at you. That, and his wonderful wife Betty, are two reasons why W. I. Capps is a happy, healthy 83 years young man.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

My True, Enduring Love


DIET COKE, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Oh, you little tart! The way your bubbles tickle my nose when I first open you. The way your carbonated coolness gives me that jolt as I chug down the first big gulp of your sugar free essence.

Yes, Percy Sledge warned me about you back in the 1960s. “When a man loves a (soda), can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else. He’d trade the world for the good thing he’s found.” That’s exactly how I feel if I’m out of town and can’t find a Diet Coke machine in my hotel.

I’m even picky with my Diet Cokes. I don’t want a fountain drink. I don’t want a big bottle of Diet Coke to pour over ice in a glass. I don’t even want a handy plastic bottle, personal size. I want a CAN of Diet Coke - a cold, undiluted 12 ounces of water flavored with stuff I don’t even want to know about.

No variation of Diet Coke will do, either. Caffeine free Diet Coke? Pul-leeze! Lime flavored?! Don’t make me hurt you!

I AM familiar with all the health concerns that have been expressed about the love of my life - she who has no equal.

I read the most wretched things about Diet Coke by commentators in the blogosphere. Family members who have my best interest at heart send me articles warning of how the stuff turns to formaldehyde once I drink it. So that’s what makes it tastes so good!

I’ve got a $2 a day Diet Coke habit, and that’s when I’m buying them by the 12 pack.

I wish that the worst thing I ever put in my mouth was Diet Coke. I will eat the fat back straight off the hog carcass. I eat gravy like it was chicken noodle soup. I will eat ice cream on a brownie, and then do it again later.

When it comes to unhealthy ingestions, Diet Coke isn’t even on my top ten list of Things I Have to Stop Wolfing Down.

I sure hope aspartame is good for me, because I get a lot of it! I’m sorry to the naysayers, but Diet Coke is the most perfect liquid ever invented. Everything else is way back in second place or worse.

It’s the first thing I drink when I get up in the morning, and I’m not awake until I’m about half way through my first Diet Coke. Sipping it is the last thing I do before I go to sleep. My higher power is Diet Coke. Diet Coke, you complete me.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Gilmer Mirror:
The Best Little Newspaper in Texas


THE GILMER MIRROR is the best little newspaper in Texas. No brag, just a fact. I am proud to have my column run in The Gilmer Mirror every Saturday, alongside the work of writers I truly admire.

Archie McDonald, whose column runs in The Mirror on Saturdays, was my History professor in college at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches in the early 1970s. I was a few years older than most of my classmates, having been in the military from 1968-1972. I graduated with honors, and one reason was the A’s I racked up in Archie’s classes. He wasn’t merely a teacher, he was a guru of Texas history and culture. The man knows more Texas history than anyone I’ve known before college or since, and he tells it well. He’s a great one, no doubt about it.

Donald Kaul, a Pulitzer Prize -winning writer, has the column that runs below Archie’s column. I’ve never met the man, but I surely do enjoy his columns. He tells it like it is on political issues, and I find myself agreeing with his view of things more often than I do with most political writers. I don’t agree with everything he writes, but admire his style and respect his writing skills. He addresses the silliness, the hypocrisy and the reality of our national political scene. And he takes no prisoners in the process.

Sarah Greene writes her column, Sideglances in The Mirror, on page 4 of The Mirror in the Wednesday edition. I always look forward to her columns, which combine history, humor and insight. That’s the kind of column I like to write. I suspect that she has been influenced by writers like Leon Hale, as I have. I got a chuckle out of her comments about playing bridge, and it took me back to the 1970s, when I played the game on many occasions. It’s very addictive, and you can blast through six hours of playing without stopping for more than a restroom break.

Bob Bowman is a famous writer about Texas, and his column runs in The Mirror on page four, too. Bob writes the best stories about small towns in Texas, things that would otherwise go unpublished, and too often, unremembered. Bob lives in my hometown of Lufkin, and if it weren’t more than an hour’s drive one way from here to Lufkin, I would try to make it to some of the historical meetings at which he appears there. One of my old and dear buddies from high school in Lufkin, Bill Bartlett, always sends me email notices of meetings where Bob Bowman is appearing and providing his unique knowledge of the East Texas we all love so much.

THERE ARE other writers for The Gilmer Mirror which I want to acknowledge, but I’ll save that for another time. For my columns, I like to write short, sweet articles that can be read while you eat a bowl of cereal, or drink a cup of coffee, or snack on a sandwich. I’m not looking to change anyone’s life or change their mind. I just want to entertain, and maybe make a point that has some meaning to the average reader. If I can fill your mind with something mildly amusing for five minutes, I’ve done what I set out to do.

The Gilmer Mirror is the best little newspaper in Texas. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow


ME AND my hair. It’s a lifelong relationship. As my photo shows, I have no problem growing hair. I can have a full head of hair and full beard merely by no longer cutting my hair or shaving. And that’s what I do sometimes. But my photo is an illusion. That’s only one of my many looks.

Women have always loved my hair, because “it has great body,” they tell me. I think that means I can pretty much wear it any way I want, without using anything on it, or even caring much what it looks like. Short, long, in-between, buzz cut, flat tops - I do them all. It depends on my mood.

TWO YEARS AGO when Hurricane Rita hit, wrecking things all over East Texas, I got a wild hair and decided to give myself a Mohawk right before the storm hit. It was a goof, more for amusement than anything. The storm hit, my electricity went out, and with it my ability to use my electric clippers to get rid of my new Mohawk. I would have to wear it until I got electricity back.

After two days with no electricity, I decided to head to a city with electricity and fight the crowd for a room at the hotels that were packed. With my new Mohawk.

As the song says, I could leave my hat on, and I did when checking into the hotel. No reason to give them concern, or a reason to think “maybe we don’t want this one.” MY BEARD is a whole nuther story.

When I was a young man, I could muster enough stubble to make a barely-visible goatee, and that remained true until I was close to 30 years old. Oh, the joy of my first full beard!

I have worn my beard full, really full, goatee, chin strap, soul patch, Van Dyke, Fu Manchu and a few that I don’t even have a name for. Whatever I get the urge to see looking back at me in the morning mirror, that’s what I grow.

The photo that runs with this column is a look I call my “Grizzly Adam.” Those of you over 40 probably remember Grizzly Adams from 1970s television. My Grizzly Adams is slowly becoming my Kenny Rogers, however.

I suppose my favorite is the goatee or Van Dyke. Don’t know why.

ABOUT 15 years ago, when my hair began to first show some gray, I started using Just For Men hair dye. So there I am, a grown man, putting gloves on and smearing dye all over my head, dyeing my scalp as well as my hair, and making my head itch like crazy. The result was a strangely uniform dye job that fairly screamed “I’M COLORING MY GRAY HAIR, YALL!!” I endured the personal indignity until one day I realized how dumb the whole process was, and how futile it was, given the progression of hair graying.

Just For Men? Just for guys who are kidding themselves.

This hair is mine. Others have different hair, but this is mine. Today it has a part in it. Tomorrow I may buzz-cut it, or worse. Hair today, gone tomorrow.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Tomato soup, crackers & fighting THE CRUD


THE CRUD hit East Texas a week ago, and it has made family members sick, from my mother on the farm, to my son at the University, to me here on the lake. If you don’t have it, you know someone who does.

I hate being sick, hate feeling lousy, hate that swimmy head, hate the never ending cough. But what are you going to do?

You should have heard the telephone conversation I had with my mother. The CRUD has just about taken her voice. For me, my ears are gone. I can’t hear very well, they’re so stopped up. Between her croaky voice and my impaired hearing, we decided to finish our conversation by email. Thank the Lord for email.

MY SON has it, too. He teaches at a nearby university, and he has been a trooper this week. He was there to teach at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, in spite of the weekend of nonstop coughing which we came to call Slime-a-Palooza 2008!

We lost our appetites for a while, but it has returned. I found myself thinking about what my dear old and long departed Dad would have fixed us to eat: a hot bowl of Tomato soup and some crackers.

When we were kids and had to stay home from school sick, it was easier for Daddy to attend to our lunch needs, so he would come home and prepare our lunch meal. We called it “dinner” back then. What most people now call “dinner” we called “supper.” But I digress.

Daddy would cook some Tomato soup for us, and we would have for our lunch a warm, tasty treat that seemed to be just what we needed.

Today my son and I feasted on Tomato soup, as our appetites kicked into overtime. It’s cold outside, barely above freezing, and that’s soup weather. Add some crackers, and the tummy gets a treat that says “now go back to sleep and get yourself well.”

I SUSPECT it’s not just the Tomato soup and crackers that have such a positive effect on me, but the triggered memories that make it so special. A fellow wrote a letter to some people in Corinth one time, and in it he talked about what LOVE really is. LOVE is action. It’s not mere words — mere professions of love. It is deeds. LOVE is not infatuation. It is not overactive hormones. It is not animal scents. LOVE is devotion to others. We demonstrate love by the things we do for others, the commitments we make to them, and the times we carry them when they cannot carry themselves.

Maybe in your family, in your memories, it isn’t tomato soup that triggers those thoughts of love in the simple things. Whatever it is, treasure it and be a part of it. Love cannot be bought, but it can be nurtured and grown.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Remember Your Valentine!


FELLAS, it’s almost Valentine’s Day again. Yes, it’s a totally contrived holiday designed to help the greeting card and floral industries. But we’re stuck with it, so we might as well suck it up and do what the ladies expect us to do.

I’m fortunate not to have an ongoing relationship right now, so I don’t really have to worry about Valentine’s Day. You do, though, if you’re married or in a relationship. And don’t forget your Mom. Buying that little pathetic I LOVE YOU bear at the corner convenience store two minutes before you give it to her will not do. They can smell those things out.

Forget unmentionables that are more a gift for you than for her. Go with flowers. Always, men, go with flowers.

Every boy’s first Valentine is his mother. Before you have your first girlfriend, you think your mother is your girlfriend. Over time, you learn she’s not, but if you’re a good son, she’ll always be your best girl.

MY MOTHER will be 80 this year, and she’s still my Valentine. She’s retired now, and leaves the farm to come to town once a week to get her hair done. We have lunch at a local café twice a month on those occasions.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around, I like to deliver her Valentine Flowers to her myself, while she’s getting her hair done.

Guys, it isn’t just getting the flowers that women enjoy. They like to get them at their work or in some other location where all their lady friends can see they got them. If you’re going to buy her flowers, by all means, deliver them to her personally, and do it where your action is a public statement of love.

If you really want to impress your lady, sing to her when you bring flowers. No matter how badly you sing, that effort will garner you many brownie points with your lady. When I am in a relationship, I always treat Valentine’s Day as special for my lady. Valentine’s Day is all about exceeding expectations. You don’t want to barely meet the minimum criteria for a man. You might as well not even try, if you’re going to grab a card and a bear at the convenience store.

If you have ever bought a card and signed in the five minutes before you gave your Valentine her card, I’m talking to you. Come on guys. Show the ladies a little love. They’ll return the favor.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

It's Groundhog Day!


TODAY IS Groundhog Day. The morning TV shows all have their obligatory footage of Punxsutawney Phil, the toothy rodent in Pennsylvania, either seeing his shadow or not seeing it. When I was growing up in East Texas, we always heard about Groundhog Day, and learned the old saw - “if he comes out and sees his shadow, we’ll have six more weeks of bad weather.” That whole thing never made any sense, and it still doesn’t. If he sees his shadow, it must be sunny out, and if it’s sunny out, why would that mean six more weeks of bad weather?

Groundhog Day appears to trace its roots to Scottish immigrants to America in the early 1800s, bringing a custom which probably goes back to pagan practices in the British Isles predating Christian influences.

Winter begins December 22nd and ends March 20th. February 2nd, Groundhog Day, lies roughly halfway between the start and finish of winter. Concluding that one might have the second half of that time free of bad weather is an understandable wish. It’s easy to see how humans could look for any reason to believe better weather might be on its way.

So why would the indicator of six more weeks of bad weather be the presence of early sunlight, causing the groundhog to cast a shadow? Perhaps the answer lies in the logic of those who longed for an end to winter, to any sign or hope in mid winter, that winter’s worst had been seen. Is it more likely or less likely that the sun will be shining on the morning of February 2nd, literally the dead of winter? It seems likely it would be overcast weather more often than not. If it is overcast on February 2nd, the citizens would get a positive sign that they’d seen the worst of winter that year.

I suspect the fact that February 2nd is exactly in the dead of winter has something to do with the choice of the date for purposes of an event which might predict better weather. That is wishful thinking, but it’s also somewhat logical. Shouldn’t the weather get progressively better after the mid winter point is passed, and the march towards March begun?

Since I have a compulsive need to resolve such thorny questions, I researched the issue of how accurate the groundhog is about predicting with his behavior whether the winter will be better or worse. Let us use the experts in this area, the United States National Climatic Data Center, which is the world’s largest archive of weather data. According to them, the groundhog is accurate 39 percent of the time and wrong 61 percent of the time.

Whoever created Groundhog Day must have known that the groundhog would NOT see his shadow most of the time, and that his failure to see his shadow would encourage otherwise winter-weary citizens to look forward to and believe the worst of winter was behind them. In short, it was a propaganda tool to shape the expectations of citizens, and encourage them to believe the end of winter was within reach.

If the groundhog does see his shadow on a given February 2nd, at least it’s a sunny day that dreary mid winter day. Either way, the holiday creates an opportunity to mark the dead of winter and give some hope of the coming of spring. The next time someone tells you the groundhog predicted good weather or bad, tell them the groundhog’s record of predicting is lousy. He would do better to ignore his shadow and flip a coin.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Burn, Baby, Burn!


ONE OF THE great things about living in the country is the ability to burn trash, leaves, stumps, left over lumber, old files, or anything else that needs burning. Building, starting and tending a fire is one of those things that puts us in touch with our ancestors reaching far back into time. The warmth from the fire feels good from a few feet, but venture close to rake or move some of the things burning and you feel the raw heat that causes the skin temperature to surge uncomfortably.

WE HAVE A burning location in the back. It’s a circle about 8 feet across the diameter, formed by three foot tall wire mesh. Outside the wire mesh are rows of bricks staggered, three bricks high - just enough to give some mass to the border. It is visually pleasing, and looks like a large, contained fire pit.

I have two fire extinguishers we keep handy when we burn, and we tend the fire diligently, just like Smokey the Bear told us to do. We keep it burning fast, with plenty of oxygen and plenty of movement. I don’t like fires that smolder and produce all that low heat smoke. A good trash or log fire should burn well, produce only moderate smoke, and burn all the combustible materials cleanly.

Occasionally, we burn old files I have going back decades. A bank box full of documents will burn like a log for hours, unless broken up into small pieces as it burns. We had a burn recently that lasted four hours. We started in late afternoon and burned into the darkness. Live embers blew freely in the night wind, but quickly extinguished themselves.

THIS IS the life.

Some folks like to toast marshmallows over a roaring outside fire, but I’ve never been a marshmallow eater. But a hot dog? Now you’re talking! Stick one on the end of a deconstructed wire coat hanger, give it enough heat to swell and pop the skin, and your hot dog is ready for bread and mustard. Maybe add some mayo, chili and chopped onions.

Fire is our friend, yet we know it can consume us and everything we own if we do not handle it carefully. When we are cold, it toasts us. When we are in the dark, it lets us see. It protects us from predators. It makes our food safe for consumption. It makes our water safe for consumption. It makes our showers warm and our baths divine.

Fire, we need you! Thanks, old buddy. Now go out, will you? Time for me to go inside.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

UFO Over Texas


TWO HUNDRED miles west of here — as the crow flies — we have recent UFO sightings around Stephenville, Texas. This is the kind of sighting that occurs every few years, one of those where many reputable witnesses all describe an extremely large, silent, flying object in the skies near them.

The modern UFO era began in 1947 with an aerial sighting of a number of silver discs which appeared to be flying in some kind of formation. Soon after, the famous Roswell incident occurred, with debris first announced as coming from an extra terrestrial craft, then said to be a weather balloon.

As a kid of the 1950s, I grew in a culture which produced many movies and TV shows exploring the possibility of creatures from other places, arriving by various means of travel from far, far away. These extra terrestrials were presented as either far progressed beyond humans and desirous of pointing us in a better direction — as in The Day the Earth Stood Still — or as evil invaders seeking to kill or subjugate humans.

THE 1960S brought us the promise of human space travel, and with it a new blend of the two types of UFO adventures mentioned previously. Star Trek emerged as the emblem of this new space adventure, and in its voyages to boldly go where no human had gone before, the Enterprise became a UFO to less developed worlds. It gave us a view of how a more advanced culture from another part of the universe might simply want to observe without altering a less developed world.

There are several theories about UFO sightings, ranging from the view that most of them are delusions or misidentifications, to they’re secret military aircraft, to they’re really extra terrestrials coming to check us out.

There can be little doubt that many, many UFO sightings are merely mistakes — people who think they see something other than what is really there. There can also be little doubt that some really are secret military aircraft. It’s no coincidence that Area 51 in Nevada is a locale of “sightings,” since experimental aircraft have long been flown and tested in Nevada’s desert.

SOME UFO sightings cannot be written off as delusions, misidentifications, or as military aircraft. Some sightings involve so many good, reliable, professionally trained witnesses — like pilots and police officers — with so many common factors, that they cannot be dismissed.

UFOs have been around a long, long time, and have been recorded in both historical texts and religious texts, as well paintings from long bygone eras. Paintings from centuries ago clearly show UFOs in the air deep in the background of paintings which appear to have nothing to do with UFOs.

Why do UFOs appear in so many pieces of art that predates the aircraft era? Who do so many texts from ancient times seem to talk about UFO activity? Why are there consistently reliable sightings of gigantic and silent UFOs? I do not know the answers to those questions, but as our X-Files friend, Fox Mulder, told us, “the truth is out there.”

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The importance of being kind


WHEN I WAS a young lawyer at a downtown firm in a big city 30 years ago, I met a strange older client who really made an impression on me. He was a very successful, self made man. His business card, however, said simply “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”


I was accustomed to being around clients who knew they were important, and inside a downtown firm, there is a pecking order of importance that permeates the staff, from the mail room to the executive committee.

Being kind, being nice - those are not values that get promoted a great deal in the downtown firm environment in big cities.

THE CLIENT with the wonderful saying on his card was a breath of fresh air. He dressed like a pauper, and was uncharacteristically happy for a client with a problem. He had a way of making all who worked for him feel appreciated for their efforts.

I took his lessons to heart, and tried to remember that it really is more important to be nice than to be important.

After all, being important is really a fiction. You’re only as important as whatever you’re doing right now. If you’re a fireman, putting out a fire, you’re pretty important. If you’re a TV newscaster covering the story, you’re not important, but the story may be.

WE ARE what we do. If we are kind to others, that is who we are. If we are thoughtless or rude to others, that is who we are.

I prefer to be known as a good guy, someone who will smile when you wait on me, will be as friendly with you as you want be, and will treat you like a friend, not a servant. As I’ve written before, good tipping is a part of being a good citizen. I always get great service everywhere I go. Why is that? Because I treat each person who deals with me like they matter to me as a person, because they do, and I tip better than most.

I am not a particularly sociable person. I prefer being alone to being in public, and don’t like to go to places that are too busy or too crowded. But when I do go out to restaurants, or the grocery store, or the bank, I’m there to bring a moment of fresh air and pleasantness to those I encounter.

BEING POSITIVE about one’s interactions with others in public is a habit. You can decide to be the person you want to be. I did. I went from being a resentful tipper as a young man to a guy who really understands how hard waiters, waitresses, cooks, chefs, and others work to bring me my food or handle my business. I went from demanding good service to creating it by my own attitude and demeanor. I’m not a preacher, so I won’t lean on scripture, but I will quote these wise words by someone in the New Testament who understood this point well: “Be ye kind, one to another.” Kindness is a habit, and like brushing your teeth, should be done several times a day.

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Finding God in Nature


THE WIND whips across the open water of the lake, causing white caps. A thousand birds in the water take off in unison and immediately form a pattern programmed somewhere inside their individual brains and collective genes. To me, this is God. In nature, all is genius.

Life is a miracle. The complexity of even the simplest animal is more compelling than any robot built by humans. The caterpillar that becomes the butterfly. The dragonfly, the beaver, the penguin, the kangaroo, the alligator. These are beings of perfection, made so well for the job that nature gave them.

Deep inside DNA is a program for replication that drives living things to grow and come to life according to a designed pattern. The process reproduces beings that share the traits of almost every other such being of its species on the planet.

ARE WE TO believe this all came about as a result of chance interactions, devoid of any outside direction? Is there no room for God in science?

Science and God are inseparable. They are not in competition or opposing forces. God put in place the very laws of science that bind us together in this world, this universe. Science has obvious flaws in finding truth, however. Science is designed to determine that which can be proved, and salute that result as truth. However, by its nature, science is never absolute truth. It is limited because of all the knowledge that is yet unknown, unproven to humans.

God is everything we do not yet understand, and more. Skeptics who worship only the scientific method miss the point. One who requires proof of all things will never see things that are yet unproven. We have an imagination for a reason, and that imagination has discovered - not created - all the science we have. The science that supports the knowledge was there before some human could discover it, could hypothesize it, and prove it to the satisfaction of other humans.

SCIENCE IS proof that humans have finally agreed that some tidbit of knowledge and truth which has always been there is now known to us. Science is therefore a recordation of what we have proven to ourselves, and Faith is therefore a recordation of things we cannot prove, but still believe. God is a universal God. One size fits all. He is not anathema to science. He is science undiscovered. Of course, this is merely my opinion, and who among us really knows what is and what is not?

© 2008, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Three Dog Night & Easy to be Hard


ONE OF MY greatest joys is music, and sharing good music from my youth with my son is yet another. When he finds my old favorites enthralling, it’s as if I’ve passed the torch one more time in one more small way.

If you were alive in America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, you heard the awesome voices of three American vocalists who called themselves and their band Three Dog Night. The name derived from an old Australian aboriginal reference to the practice of having dogs sleep with one when the weather was cold. If it was cold, one dog. If it was really cold, two dogs. If it was really, really cold, it was called a three dog night.

I was somewhere is Southeast Asia in the military when I first heard Three Dog Night. We could buy pirated albums of recently released music for twenty five cents each. That’s right, a hundred albums for $25.

Three Dog Night had many good songs, and it is difficult to pick a favorite. All feature the strong, smooth voices of the group’s three singers. You’ve heard their music. Eli’s Coming. One. Old Fashioned Love Song. Mama Told Me Not to Come. Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a Bull Frog).

My favorite remains the song with the great message to go with the great singing: Easy to be Hard, from the pop sensation musical of the era, HAIR. This song explores a phenomenon often seen among people who think of themselves as caring about others. It notes the way people can show great concern for the larger causes in life, but be oblivious to the every day pain and frailties of those closest to them.

Consider these lyrics.

How can people have no feelings?
How can they ignore their friends?
Easy - to be proud,
Easy to say no.
Especially people
Who care about strangers,
Who care about evil
And social injustice.
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?

AS WE CLOSE the year, and as we evaluate our lives, let us remember to hear and see those closest to us, to invest the time in them we invest in the causes that draw our attention. Care about that friend who needs you. The world will get by while you do.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus


IN THE EARLY 1950s, there was a popular tune called “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I was four years old by a few months when Christmas rolled around in 1953, and my older sister was a first grader. She had asked Santa for a bicycle.

As a four year old, my job was to tag along with my parents wherever they went, and on one particular 1953 December day, that meant going with them to a used bicycle shop in the nearest town of any size. Our little town had more cattle than people, and not that many of either.

I saw my parents focusing on one particular 24-inch girl’s bike, a tattered one that clearly needed a paint job. My dad had some serious discussions with the salesman, and some money was paid. Now what was that all about?

ON CHRISTMAS morning, I jumped up before daybreak and ran into the living room to see it illuminated by Christmas tree lights. The first rays of the day had yet to show, and no other lights were on, so the eerie blue green glow was other worldly. There in the midst of the presents sat Judy’s bicycle. When I noticed how much it looked like the one my parents had picked out that day at the used bike story, I formed my first serious suspicious that maybe, just maybe, Santa Claus was Daddy.

As soon as I had a chance that day, I began questioning my parents in the way only a little kid can. “Mama, how did Santa Claus get the bicycle for Judy that we saw at the bike store?!”

I do not recall her answer, except that she didn’t ‘fess up, and I didn’t buy the story I was hearing. At age four years, my cynicism was born.

After that, I started listening to that song with renewed interest in the words.

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
Underneath the mistletoe last night ….
Oh, what a laugh it would have been
If Daddy had only seen
Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.

NOW, I KNEW that my mother would never kiss any man not my dad, not even Santa Claus. My investigation began. I started interrogating my 6-year-old sister, my 9-year-old cousin, and my 19-year-old uncle. Like one of those investigative TV reporters, I exposed the ugly truth. Mommy did, in fact, kiss Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas, East Texas. You’re my Santa Claus every day.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Nutcracker - Sweet!


MY DAD has been dead 36 years, but he is with me always. His penchant for living frugally and unselfishly are my guideposts. But there are many other parts of life where he remains with me.

He and my mother always had to count their pennies, and make them all count. That usually meant not buying any food that wasn't on their official list of stuff on which to spend money. But at Christmas time, Daddy would always buy nuts, and lots of them! It was the only time of the year had any nuts other than peanuts. There were always church members who grew peanuts, and they'd give us some, which my folks would cook in the oven.

In mid-December, Daddy would buy all kinds of nuts — peacans, walnuts, chestnuts, Brazil nuts and nuts I still can't identify. We never had those fancy official nutcrackers, like so many others had. Daddy preferred the old fashioned method of cracking them one against a similar kind of nut. Of course, that's a lot easier for a grown man than for kids.

WE KIDS simply lacked the hand size and the muscle to bring off cracking nuts with our hands. For Brazil nuts, Daddy had to use the pliers, which was one of our favorites. Another was to use a hammer, and crack them on the concrete slab of the carport. Like early man, we had to learn how to use these crude tools to extract a meal. With a hammer, it's easy to hit too hard, crushing the meat of the nut as well as the shell. There's an art to tapping that shell and rotating it, so as to create cracks in the shell that traverse the exterior. If you can crack it properly, you can then pick off the pieces.

Is there anything finer than extracting whole and undamaged the meat of a pecan or walnut? Then pop it apart, remove the inner edible piece, and scarf it down. I feel a real affinity with early humans when I do so. I can imagine them doing exactly as I have done. What a treasure a bunch of ripe pecans must have been for early man! It's such a delicious, healthy treat. Tasty, but not heavy.

I CAN IMAGINE my ancient ancestors eating until they realized "maybe that's enough pecans to eat for one day," just as I do. I like to think they'd load up as many as they could, then get some shuteye and dream on a full, happy stomach. As animals, our daily job is to eat, and avoid being eaten.

I do not like to eat nuts that have already been shelled. Shelling them forces me to eat them as nature intended: one at time, after I've earned the tasty nut in the center. Shelling them creates a pace, and it's an enjoyable adventure back into the magic time when Christmas was the biggest day of the year, and Daddy was the king of the universe.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Pearl Harbor Day and the Elmer Duren Legacy


FIFTY YEARS AGO we regularly remembered Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th. As a kid, I never knew anything about it until I realized that man in the newspaper on the front page was the father of my friend, Dale Duren.

Elmer Duren was a soft spoken, easy going man with bright blue eyes and dark, somewhat wavy hair. Three-hundred sixty-four days a year, one would never have guessed he lived through the Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor.

ELMER HAD joined the Navy during the Depression. Elmer Duren was a seaman on the U.S.S. Dale, a destroyer. My friend Dale was named in honor of those who served with Elmer on the U.S.S. Dale.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, newspapers regularly ran large stories and accompanying photos about Pearl Harbor Day. As a veteran of that attack, Elmer Duren was regularly sought out to talk about it. He always took the time to be kindly responsive, but it’s a story I never heard him mention any other time.

I’LL LET his son, Dale, tell his dad’s Pearl Harbor story. “He had already eaten breakfast and had gone on deck with an orange for a snack, when he noticed planes flying through the harbor airspace. It wasn t anything unusual to see planes there, except the carriers were not in the harbor that morning. The first explosion near the battleship Utah brought him to the realization that the Pacific fleet base was under attack and he could make out the rising sun emblems on their wings.

“His normal station was below decks tending boilers, but since the Dale was moored, most boilers were not in operation. Smokestacks of idle boilers were covered so he climbed the stack and removed the covers so the boilers could be fired up. From the smokestack he had a perfect view of the attack in progress.

“The Dale normally took several hours to produce the steam power necessary to get under way, but while under attack, they broke all the rules to get the ship moving toward open sea. The captain was not actually on board so a Chief issued the commands necessary to take to sea. The captain caught up to them days later.

“The Dale was one of the first ships to exit the harbor while it was under attack. Daddy always said he really didn t feel any fear during the attack because he hadn t known what destruction the planes could do. He said later on in the war he was more afraid of one plane than all those that day.

“The Dale was a destroyer, which was kind of like a sentry or picket ship. They provided additional anti-aircraft firepower and submarine defense to groups of ships such as carriers and battleships.

“When The Dale had gotten clear of the harbor, they patrolled looking for submarines in the vicinity of the harbor. There were five miniature submarines which had attempted to slip into the harbor to join the attack, but they were unsuccessful.

“Daddy never spoke much about the war until 20 or more years after its end. As he grew older he reminisced more and more.”

WE ARE losing the Greatest Generation, and this year we lost Elmer Duren. He was a devoted husband and father, and a devout Christian man. He gave much and asked for little. When I think of my childhood years coming up in East Texas, I can always remember which of my friends’ parents made me feel liked and comfortable, and which didn’t make me feel that way. Elmer never once said or did anything around me that caused me to fear him or feel uncomfortable in his presence. He was always pleasant, always friendly.

Elmer is gone, and with his passing another solid timber in the most important war ever fought is no longer with us. We were enriched by his presence, and we should take one moment on this Pearl Harbor Day to remember him and all who served there with him.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Grandma Linscott’s Snap Dragons & Grandpa Linscott’s Games


WHEN WE MADE our long, long trips to Idaho from East Texas in the 1950s and 1960s, it was always great to finally arrive in Lewiston, Idaho after four long days on the road. Right on the Snake River, Lewiston was a pleasant small town with cooler, less humid air that made it seem like East Texas in late fall.

We would stay with Grandma and Grandpa Linscott, and it was always a joy to see my mother’s parents and her hometown. Grandpa’s health was declining, but he would play two games with us that kept us entertained.

THE FIRST GAME Grandpa played with us was croquet, which we played daily in the yard, where we had a perfectly set up croquet field — wickets, sticks, and all. Grandpa was a master of the croquet play, and always knew exactly how hard to hit the ball to get the action he wanted. He could hit yours and knock it behind the wicket, while sending his own ball through the opening. Each of us had a favorite colored ball.

The second game Grandpa played with us was Carom. I haven’t seen such a game in decades. It’s a hard wooden surface that fits on a folding table or can be held on the knees of the players, with mesh pockets on the corners. One flicks his own shooter carom in such a way as to send various other carom pieces flying into the mesh pockets. It’s like pool in the dynamic, but the pieces are more like checkers, and the action comes from thumping the carom with your finger.

GRANDPA WAS also the king of the carom. He was always so deliberate and accurate.

Grandpa had the onset of Parkinson’s disease, but he made a real effort to play those games with us kids. He died in the mid 1960s. All the time he spent every two years playing those two games with us gave us our most lasting memories of him. That’s something for grandparents today to think about.

I loved my Grandma Linscott’s flower garden, which ran along the front of their little white frame retirement home. It was immaculate, and simply full of luscious flowers. My favorites were the violet Snap Dragons. Oh, they were beautiful! So purple, with white and yellow accents, and they looked like little dragon heads. I liked to make them look like sock puppets by moving the upper and lower pieces of the flower.

SNAP DRAGONS were soothing to the touch, a smooth, velvety texture that felt good against my hand or face. They were my little violet friends when I visited my Grandma Linscott in Lewiston, Idaho.

Grandma had other flowers, but it was the Snap Dragons that caught my eye and held my attention. I don’t know whether they grow better in Idaho than in East Texas, but I never recalled seeing them in East Texas. Since then, they have always reminded me of cool summer days in warm sunshine, visiting my mother’s mom and dad.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Starry, Starry Night


POP SENSATION Don McLean rocked American music in 1971 with his epic song American Pie. A lesser known hit was a tribute to famed, crazed artist Vincent Van Gogh, and his classic vision Starry Night.

For many years after I left East Texas, I lived in the urban centers in Texas. The night sky disappears in the city. The stars are gone. There are no starry, starry nights.

I’ve returned to East Texas, and now I live four miles outside a town of a thousand souls, I can see the stars at night. I can see the starry, starry night almost every night.

I cannot put a price tag on that experience. It is awe inspiring to look up at that night sky and see the same stars, the same constellations that men and women have seen since the beginning of time. They looked at it, and were awed and inspired by it, as we are.

VINCENT VAN GOGH may have been crazy, or he may have been suffering from some ailment such as lead poisoning, brought on by the use of lead-based paints. Crazy or not, his visions and their artistic representations are some of the best we have.

Don McLean saw Vincent Van Gogh’s tortured human side, a man too tender, too goofy, too out-of-place in his world. He struggled with sanity. He struggled with love and rejection. Emotionally, he might never have evolved beyond the level of a young, love-struck teenage boy.

MCLEAN PENNED some of the best lyrics ever written in American pop, words whose power endures 36 years later, as this excerpt demonstrates, with which I conclude this tribute to Don McLean, Vincent Van Gogh and East Texas night skies.

Starry, starry night.
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze,
Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue.
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain,
Weathered faces lined in pain,
Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand.
Now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity,
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.
For they could not love you,
But still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Butterflies Are Free


TODAY I SAW a sight I had never before seen. I saw a field with thousands of Monarch butterflies all crowded into an area smaller than a home lot. They all appeared to be feeding upon a small white-purple flower with a yellow center, which was growing in abundance in the grass, less than a foot off the ground.

Among the Monarchs were other butterflies, as well as honey bees and what appeared to be some kind of flying ant. Some of the smaller, yellowish butterflies appeared to break off into pairs and fly high together, in what must have been some kind of mating ritual.

It was mid afternoon, the sun was high in the sky, with some clouds here and there. The field was on the lakeshore, and the cluster of butterflies less than 100 feet from the shore’s edge. A seasonal wind swept across the lake in my direction, enough to make some white caps and enough to cool the day further, but not enough to annoy or threaten.

I WALKED AMONG them, and they barely paid me notice. It was a living rainbow.

My son was with me, and I told him that in nearly six decades of living and interacting with nature, I had never been in the midst of such a butterfly festival.

After enjoying their company, we finished our walk and returned to the house, where I sat down to research our butterflies and their flower, and he returned to the scene to get photographs. These monarchs were on their way south, and this was merely a layover. They are prolific flyers and travel thousands of miles in migration, these marvels of engineering and nature.

As we walked back after our encounter, we spoke of the awe and wonder of nature. It made his old dad proud when the son discovered the joy of Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond. Having common values with an adult child is a joy unto itself.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH observed cryptically that “the child is father of the man,” long before Dr. Freud would conclude likewise and make a social science of it. In his poem “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold,” Wordworth was observing his own nature, and how he was driven as an adult as he had learned to be as a child. He was observing that his own love of nature originated in childhood, thus, his childhood was the father of who he had to be as an adult.

Those words were never more true than in my life. I lived outside as a child in East Texas, exploring its forests and all the critters and plants that lived there. Whether with friends or alone, I loved being out there in it, digging up doodle bugs, watching tadpoles grow in the pond, seining no telling what out of a boggy slough, or using a stick to investigate a dead armadillo.

WHEN MY SON was a young boy, 20-plus years ago, I’d take him down to the creek, where we had a little pond, and show him the daily progress of the tadpoles. He’d see and study the deer or raccoon prints at the water’s edge. He’d see the owl that appeared in one certain tree at dusk, looking for dinner.

My son loves nature the way I do, and appreciates its wonder and beauty. I’ll close with Wordsworth’s compelling poem - a testament to insight and brevity - which tells this tale.

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

---- William Wordsworth, My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold, 1802

Courtesy Photos / J.K. Moore
MIGRATING MONARCH BUTTERFLIES descended in droves upon this field of wildflowers near Mirror columnist Pappy Moore’s place last month.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Holy Smoke! Lightning's Striking


LIVING ON the lake allows me to see the East Texas weather play out in the skies in a dramatic manner. The lightning, thunder and wind are all bigger and better when reflected off the lake. What a grand display it is!

I had never seen lightning actually hit close by until recently. The rain was coming down hard, lightning was dancing about the skies, and thunder was rolling on all sides. I was standing at the back door, watching the water run off the street when lightning hit a street sign not 40 feet from me.

The car obscured the point of impact, but I could see it hit somewhere on or near the ground, out of my view. Sparks flew high into the air, like one might see in a welding shop. The sound was absolutely deafening, and instantaneous. No “one Mississippi” count needed to see how far away this lightning hit!

STRANGELY, NOT a thing in my house was affected. The computer and television didn’t even blink. The lights didn’t flutter.

I waited a few hours until the storm had passed, and walked across the street to find the point of impact. At first, I found nothing amiss, but upon closer examination, found a swath of grass and soil missing. It was a strip about 4 inches wide and two feet long, and looked as if someone had taken a sharp, flat tool and dug into the soil about 3 inches. The entire strip of grass and soil was gone, and a few fried earth worms revealed it happened in an instant.

The missing strip of dirt and grass led back to its point of origin - the base of the street sign. A burned spot the size of a dime was evident at the point the metal and ground touched. While I’m not Mr. Wizard, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I think I’ve figured it out. The lightning hit the bottom of the street sign and shot a flame out across the grass and soil that vaporized them in a 50,000-volt blast.

I HAD TO take my son over there to eyeball the thing, and get a concurring opinion. And while he’s not Bill Nye the Science Guy, it turns out he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, too. The Moore boys concur on cause and effect. I would be remiss in telling this story if I didn’t mention that just prior to the lightning hitting, I was actually contemplating going outside by the street, not 20 feet from the point of impact, to check a drainage area by the street.

It hasn’t been draining the way I like, so I had some work done. Like a fool, I wanted to go check it out, rain and lightning notwithstanding. Fortunately, I had my shoes off, and was just thinking “well, I guess I ought to get my shoes on and go out there,” when BAM!

Lord, if that was you talking to me, I’m listening!

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Department of Ridiculous Redundancies


REMEMBER WHEN humans used to answer the telephone when you called your utility company, or your governmental office? Remember when such humans actually lived in America, spoke English and cared whether you were happy with their service?

Hold the phone. Now we live in voicemail Hades, the complainers purgatory. Listen carefully, you’ll have choices to make and if you don’t make them properly, you’ll end up talking to some guy in Bangladesh about how many lights are showing on your modem.

ARE THESE supposed to be those jobs Americans won’t do I keep hearing about? My family is full of plumbers, and if there’s anything a plumber won’t do, what is it?

Our utilities, governmental entities and big businesses do not want to hear from us if we have a complaint. They want us to tire of listening to options, punching buttons, and hearing “your call is important to us” so many times we cannot hold on for one more minute. If they really cared, they’d have us leave our number and they’d call us back.

Have you noticed that most of the voicemail choices are filled with completely unnecessary redundancies? One choice will overlap with other choices.

My favorite ones are the ones that have no appropriate choice, such as this one: “If you are not getting a signal for any of your cable channels, press one. If you are not getting a signal for your internet service, press two.” What if I’m not getting a signal for either? Duh.

WHILE I’M ON this rant, I might as well tee off on the State Bar of Texas. Yes, I’m a lawyer, and that means tolerating the buffoonery that is the State Bar of Texas. If anyone ran a business like the State Bar is run, it would be out of business quickly. It has without a doubt the worst online site in America. It is difficult to navigate, and if you do not have to be there, you’d never go there.

The State Bar is a maze of phone numbers, all of which end with someone sitting in a cubicle in Austin, painfully trying to avoid attending to whatever complaint you might have. They don’t care, they don’t have to.

There is no effective recourse for this indignity we all face in today’s world of websites and telephone hurdles. We sit, waiting, listening to some inane message, so someone halfway around the world can read us their checklist of things we need to do to figure out their product’s problem. I suppose the only thing one really can do is badmouth the offenders, so that’s what I’m doing.

Hrmph. Grumble. Grrrrrrr.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

East Texas — My Home Sweet Home


NEVER ASK a man where’s he’s from. If he’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. And if he’s not, you don’t want to embarrass him. I don’t know who originated that saying, but I’ve always liked it, as a native Texan. It applies to women from Texas, too, of course.

Except for my time in the military and a few months as a toddler, I have spent my entire life in Texas. Like singer John Mellencamp, I was born in a small town, and like him “that’s probably where they’ll bury me.”

I have traveled many other places than Texas, in the military, on vacation, or on business. I have fondness in my heart for Taiwan, Colorado and Toronto, Canada, for those reasons. But there’s no place like home, as The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy told us.

IT’S MID OCTOBER, so this is the time of year I always fall in love with East Texas again.

The heat and humidity have begun to abate. The days are shorter. The air is not heavy, but feels good. The rain picks up, and that washes everything clean.

The billowing dark clouds roll in, harbingers of colder air coming out of the northwest. In the distance, flashes from unseen bolts of lightning behind the clouds tell us this storm could knock out power when it arrives.

The wind pushes everything in front of it, as herds of leaves get caught up in the road and dance in swirls before dissipating. The animals know the weather is coming. They start to disappear, hiding only they know where.

The change in the air as the barometer drops feels good. I feel a little lighter.

There’s something comforting to me about this time of year, this season, this change to the cooler and damper in East Texas. It’s the start of nature’s death and rebirth cycle. Snakes and turtles will be burying themselves in the mud.

Birds will move south. Other birds will come in from the North. Everything gets done by nature, the way it always has, the way it always will.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS from now, I’ll be long gone, and no one will remember me or my words. But the pine trees I love will still be here. The post oaks I love will still be here. And the squirrels, the birds, and the lizards. They’ll all still be here, and maybe my heart will be, too.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Gabby Hayes: 'Dag Nabbit! You Young Whippersnappers!'


THERE ARE two kinds of people in the world: those who know who Gabby Hayes was, and those who don’t. George Hayes was his real name, but as perennial sidekick to radio and TV star and singing 1950s cowboy Roy Rogers, he was known to his fans as the gravel-voiced old geezer named Gabby Hayes. If there were a Hall of Fame for movie and TV sidekicks, Gabby Hayes would be the Babe Ruth of it. If there were Founding Fathers for movie and TV sidekicks, Gabby Hayes would be George Washington.

Roy Rogers was the good- looking, smooth-talking, smiling, charming, always-honest singing cowboy, backed by his famous group, The Sons of the Pioneers. Modern homages to the Roy Rogers film legacy are the immensely hilarious Three Amigos, starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short, and the quirky, insightful Rustler’s Rhapsody, starring Tom Berenger and Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne.

ROY ROGERS got the love interest, the horse — Trigger, and the leadership role. Gabby got to be the cook, relegated to chuckwagon activities and always complaining about it.

We suspected strongly that he didn’t wear his false teeth while shooting film. The sling of his jaw, the lack of pearly whites, and the way he slobbered words all seemed to indicate a mouth devoid of ivory.

Gabby Hayes was best when he was exasperated, frustrated, and showing it in an animated fashion. He provided light moments in the never ending battle of good guys wearing white cowboy hats doing battle with bad guys wearing darker colors.

The good guy - bad guy dichotomy was the grist of the 1950s film cowboy mill. Good guys don’t shoot first, and when they do shoot, they try to shoot the gun out of the hand of the bad guy. Yes sir! If I had a dollar’s worth of 1950s baseball cards for every time I saw a good guy shoot the pistol out of the hand of a bad guy in cowboy films and TV shows, I’d be on Forbes Four Hundred richest list.

GABBY HAYES helped provide the comic relief in between all the 1950s battles of good versus evil, usually the good cowboy helping the poor, unarmed farmers fight the evil, greedy land barons. Good guys won, justice prevailed, no one got killed up close and personal, and when they did get killed, they just grabbed their shirt and keeled over.

Even though Gabby Hayes seldom played any significant role in plot development, he was the charming sidekick audiences loved to see. The chin whiskers, the cowboy hat turned sideways, the raspy, ever-complaining voice, and the totally animated eyes and face made George “Gabby” Hayes the prototype for TV and film’s beloved sidekicks.

Known on screen as Gabby Whitaker, he had earlier been known as Windy Halliday. He is known best for his role as Roy Rogers’ sidekick, but Gabby honed that skill with such cowboy film pioneers as Hop-Along Cassidy, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott.

NO COLUMN about Gabby Hayes would be complete without a quote from one of his typical film characters, because the essence of his character, complete with double negatives and battered words, was contained in those heart felt lines. Gabby, what do you say about those bad men who want to run you and your family off your land?

“I was born here, an’ I was raished here, an’ dad gum it, I’m gonna die here, an’ no sidewindin’, bushwackin’, hornswaglin’, cracker croaker is gonna ruin me biscuit cutter!”

You tell ‘em, Gabby! You tell ‘em!

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Sizemore's Sinclair Service Station


IN THE MID-1960S, Jerry Sizemore had a Sinclair Gas Station on Chestnut Drive about a quarter mile south of Timberland Drive in Lufkin.It was a Service Station – the kind that does not exist any more.

Before Self Service stations we had Service Stations. You’d pull up and stop. A man or a teenage boy would come running over to your car window and ask “fill ‘er up?” You’d reply “sure,” or perhaps “two dollars worth.” The attendant would start the gasoline running, and leave it running while he hurried back to clean your windshields.

After doing that, he’d come back and ask if he should “check your hood?” He’d check the oil stick, the water level in the radiator, and the water level in battery. If water was needed, he would add it. If oil was needed, he would bring the oil stick to your window, show you, and then add a quart of oil for the cost of the can of oil.

JERRY HAD worked in car sales before he got the gas station, but simply did not have the personality for sales. He did have the personality for service, however, and ran a really clean Service Station. Sinclair’s signature color was green, so the station had a green theme to it.

Like most station owners, Jerry sold gas and provided basic garage work. There were no quick lube places. If you didn’t change your oil yourself, you took it to your gas station for the oil change. Whether you needed your points changed, your tire fixed, or your wheels lubed, your local service station owner provided it.

WHEN YOU WERE a boy growing up in East Texas in the 1960s you had a car, and that car was your first love. You cleaned it, and washed it, and waxed it, and buffed it, and attended to its every need. You spent more time on the car getting ready for a date than you spent on the date.

I would take my car over to Jerry’s station to get it cleaned up for a date. He let some of us — Mike Capps, Rodney Swor and me — use his place to wash our cars and get them cleaned up. We’d buy gasoline there, maybe the occasional quart of oil, and use whatever tools we could get away with using.

After washing a car, we would have to dry it properly, which meant using a shammy. A towel would not do. The shammy is thin leather, and it absorbs water. It must be moist to work properly, and slapped across the hood, or top of the car, or trunk. Old but clean towels would be used to clean the hub caps, bumpers, and wheels.

We would clean and detail our cars in a manner than would rival any professional detailer one might hire for a hundred dollars today. When we drove off from Jerry’s station, our cars were showroom ready.

I DO NOT know why Jerry Sizemore let us use his station. Probably because we went to the same church, we knew his family, his sister and her family, his father-in-law and his family. But I think most of it had to do with the fact that he was simply a really nice guy.

Jerry Sizemore put the “service” in service station, 40 years ago.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I Want My MTV!


IN 1981, I was living in Kingwood, about 30 miles north of downtown Houston. It was one of the first places in the country to have the all-new all-music television, MTV. I was an immediate fan, and saw its future when it was still a toddler.

Trend-spotting is a way to tell the future of this country, and the MTV phenomenon in the early 1980s was a harbinger for the world of interactive cell phones and news in small, bite-sized chunks, with plenty of flavor added to keep interest high.

People used to ask me “why do you watch this channel?” I would reply “because in the year 2000 this is where young Americans will be getting their news.”

I LOVED MTV for the constant music in those early days. Some of the videos were horrifically bad. Every night at midnight, Eastern time zone, they would play the same video, by the Buggles: “Video Killed the Radio Star.” I was almost always up and watching MTV at 11 p.m. Central Time, so every night I got to watch that bizarre and prophetic video, the first ever played on MTV.

Because many places and many cable companies were localized and did not have MTV available, MTV would exhort viewers to demand that their cable companies deliver MTV. Thus began their “I want my MTV” marketing slogan. That saying would find its way into a classic mid 1980s song by Dire Straits in their song “Money For Nothing,” with Sting making an appearance to sing the captivating lead-in which intoned “I want my MTV.”

MTV caught fire in the early 1980s, and quickly became a household feature and cultural milestone. By 1984, the political possibilities were being realized. Rock stars came together for the first significant charitable event staged through MTV, and beamed to millions worldwide.

I STILL WATCH MTV, although it’s morphed into something less than it was. I watch it to find the pulse of the young, and to find what they are seeing and what values are reflected in their world. It’s troubling. There is a fascination with simply having things, of being rich, of having huge parties, of being buff, of being tan, of being popular. There isn’t much mention of values in the process. Putting down those with whom one disagrees is practically mandatory.

MTV’s Real World, which once sought to bring together diverse young people and have them learn and grow from it, is now little more than a place for drunken frat boys and wannabe strippers to lounge in luxurious surroundings.

MTV 2007 disappoints me, but I watch a few hours a week to see what the kids are seeing. Fortunately, I recorded many tapes of MTV when it played music most of the time, and I can watch those tapes when I’m in the mood. Ah, yes, here it is. “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by YES. I’ve got my MTV!!

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

James Bond.


WHEN I WAS attending junior high school in East Texas over 40 years ago, the coolest man on the planet was Sean Connery as James Bond. Sure, we fawned over the Beatles, but every young man secretly wanted to be Bond - James Bond.

My old buddy Dale Duren said it best in 1964: “All the women want to have him; all the men want to be him.”

The list of those who have played James Bond in film is long and not so illustrious, but Sean Connery is the gold standard, and not simply because he was in Goldfinger. Roger Moore was probably the second best Bond, followed by Pierce Brosnan.

I cannot even mention the most recent James Bond, the last film of the franchise being so hideous. Timothy Dalton was passable, but good taste dictates I mention only in passing George Lanzenby. What were they thinking?! Yikes.

LOST FAR BACK in the 1960s was one other James Bond often omitted from the lists of James Bonds - Peter Sellers, in Casino Royale. It was a strange movie, a star-laden parody of spy films and of the whole James Bond mystique and genre. Never have so many great film talents converged to create such a weak film. Even for the bad James Bond films, Casino Royale is wisely forgotten.

In the early to late 1960s, Sean Connery owned the James Bond franchise, and he cranked out one hit after another, each with the formula of bedazzling women, lewd double entendres, absurdly unbelievable chase and fight scenes, and beyond cutting edge technologies. Add the extremely handsome Sean Connery and his Scottish accent, and you’ve got a film hero.

THE JAMES BOND formula included (1) the opening chase sequence, (2) the seductive, suggestive, captivating, easily watched opening visuals, (3) the hit song playing behind the opening visuals, (4) the banter between James Bond and faithful agency secretary Money Penny, (5) the introduction of the new devices developed by Q at the agency, to provide James with his high tech gizmos for the film, and (6) the ridiculously fiendish villain, complete with havens that must have taken billions of dollars and decades to complete.

Film fun often requires suspension of disbelief by the viewer. With James Bond, you knew you were going to suspend disbelief in the first scene, and you’d keep suspending belief all the way through the film. Mindless adventure, with almost no moral to the story. Yes, we win, the bad guys lose, and goodness prevails, but it’s not your Leave It To Beaver goodness. James Bond was naughty, and his ending scenes always involved that naughty boy being naughty with the “Bond Girl” for that film.

THE LIST OF Bond Girls is more impressive than the list of Bonds: Kim Basinger, Halle Berry, Jane Seymour, Diana Rigg, Honor Blackmon, Famke Janssen, Ursula Andress and Maud Adams. They seduced us, as James Bond seduced them.

As Dale Duren said, women wanted James Bond, and men wanted to be James Bond. But I think what we really wanted was to be Sean Connery, with those looks, that voice, those gadgets, and that life. Talk about suspension of disbelief!

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Burma Shave


OH, THE JOY of riding cross country in the 1950s and 1960s. As our family made its summer trips to visit relatives far away from our East Texas, we would find ourselves occupying long hours of driving. Burma Shave road signs were always fun to see looming ahead.

Burma Shave had a novel idea for advertising its product on America’s burgeoning interstate highway system. Along the roadside, often along fence posts that ran parallel to the road, Burma Shave placed small signs, of uniform size and color. There would be six of them, spaced so that one could comfortably read in succession the six messages that would follow. The first five signs would be the message, and the last sign would always say BURMA SHAVE.


HA! THEY STILL make me laugh.

As I recall, the signs were about one foot tall and three feet wide. They had a darker color with a lighter color for the lettering. They were distinctive, and when the first one was spotted in the distance, the whole family would strain to read the coming commentary. A whimsical message and well-needed chuckle lay just around the bend.

Some of the messages were safety reminders.


IF YOU’RE old enough to remember Burma Shave signs, tell a young whippersnapper, and if you’re a young whippersnapper, ask an old timer about the little roadside signs that entertained us on long stretches of empty highway 50 years ago.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Creature From the Black Lagoon


IT WAS 1954 and it was my fifth birthday. While my mother and other family members took care of birthday stuff, my dad took me to the movie theatre in Lubbock, Texas. We saw a black and white feature called The Creature From the Black Lagoon and a color picture starring Western film great Randolph Scott.

Life doesn’t get any better than being five years old and having your dad take you to the movie to see two movies! Back then, The Creature From the Black Lagoon was pretty scary. Now, it’s impossibly hokey. It’s a parody of itself, with a creature only a small child could believe. I saw it again recently on TV, and couldn’t help but chuckle at the idea I found it so scary in 1954.

THE WESTERN with Randolph Scott was forgettable. He made about one film a year, and made many, many Western films. I’m pretty sure it was about a stagecoach, and since the online resource shows his 1954 film as Riding Shotgun, I think we have a winner. Although I cannot remember the name of the film, my only real memory of it is Randolph Scott riding a stagecoach.

After we saw the movie, we met up with my mother and she took me to a store where she wanted to show me some things. She was asking me what I thought about a set of rubber stamps used with an ink pad. I liked the ones that were merely pictures of things, like animals, but did not care for the ones that were simply numbers and letters.

GUESS WHICH ones my mother got me for my birthday? Always pushing education, my mom got me the letters and numbers. I was miffed, but grudgingly started using them. My mother wanted me ready for the first grade in 1955, so this was her version of kindergarten before kids went to kindergarten. I used those stamps for years, and then later, so did my sisters.

We left Lubbock after my birthday and headed to our little home in a small town twenty miles west of Lubbock. It was a good birthday, at least until bedtime. I can remember worrying about The Creature From the Black Lagoon once I realized I had to go to bed.

ISN’T THAT just like most of our worries? We make monsters out of things that are not monsters at all. Fear and imagination should scare a 5-year-old. They should not scare grown-ups, however, and it’s a shame when they do.

Much of what I see posing as television news these days reminds me of the awkward and totally unbelievable monster in The Creature From the Black Lagoon, and seems every bit as contrived.

There ain’t no Creature From the Black Lagoon.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Oh, My Papa!


WHEN I WAS a little guy in the early 1950s, I can still remember the day Daddy brought home our very first television. Until then a large radio had held the place of honor in the living room. Even though my Daddy was a card-carrying teetotaler who opposed all manner of alcohol, he would nevertheless listen to “Friday Night at the Fights,” sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.

Daddy was a preacher, and he cringed every time I would start to sing the Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer jingle. I learned quickly that we didn’t sing about drinking beer.

THE TELEVISION brought all manner of new things into our home. I was especially enthralled by singers. One of my favorites was Eddie Fisher, former husband to both Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds, and father to Star Wars’ Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher.

Eddie Fisher was quite the silver-throated crooner, with the smooth, mellow tenor voice that made the likes of Perry Como and Andy Williams popular.

Eddie Fisher sang a song that I loved to stand in front of the TV and sing along with: “Oh, My Papa!” It was a song about a son who had lost his father, who was a clown. I always thought it was of Italian heritage, but turns out it was German.

I loved singing that song, and would always jump up to stand directly in front of the TV and sing every word with Eddie Fisher. I can see why my parents and uncles loved seeing me sing like that. The unabashed candor of a 3- or 4-year old is something adults lose along the way. When was the last time you saw a 50-year-old person jump up and sing with the TV (not counting people who are heavily imbibed)?

Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful
Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so good
No one could be, so gentle and so lovable
Oh, my pa-pa, he always understood.
Gone are the days when he could take me on his knee
And with a smile he’d change my tears to laughter
Oh, my pa-pa, so funny, so adorable
Always the clown so funny in his way
Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful
Deep in my heart I miss him so today.

THE IRONY is that my dad was anything but gentle. Like most stern disciplinarians of good Texas lineage, he was not averse to giving me a whipping. No, he did not have a tender countenance, but he did have a tender heart. He’s been gone 36 years, and as the song says “deep in my heart I miss him so today.”

If a man’s son doesn’t cherish his memory, who will?

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Make hay while the sun shines


Anyone who has ever baled hay the old fashion way knows that distinctive sticky, hot, dusty, pungent, painful process. It’s bending over, picking up a bale of freshly mowed and baled hay, and throwing it up on the truck or trailer. There, the next guy stacks it.

It’s not at all like the statement we like to say in these parts: “Make hay while the sun shines.” It’s work, hard work.

The saying itself gives a good message to those of us who are in business for ourselves. When you have too much work, that’s when you work 12-14 hours a day to get it all done, because that’s your “harvest” time. Like that hay in the field that has to be cut and baled when it needs to be cut and baled, your work has to be harvested when it is ready to harvest.

I have a friend in Austin named Bob Dorsett who has been in business for himself for the past 35 years, and he always says “it’s chicken, or feathers!” He means he is either making a good living or tightening his belt, depending on the level of business. He means he’s either got a goodly amount of revenues, or not so much.

When you are in business for yourself, you get paid last, and there’s no one to turn to if you falter. That means you can’t falter. You can’t fail to make a note payment. You can’t fail to pay your employees. You can’t fail to pay the utilities. You cannot eat until everyone else has gotten their check. So when you have too much business, what you really have is too few hours of daylight to get all the work done. “Make hay while the sun shines” means work from daybreak to darkness, which is 12-14 hours.

I like that kind of work. Give me two weeks of nonstop work followed by two weeks of coasting. When work demands attention, there’s nothing like diving into a brand new problem and figuring out where the best solution lies. When that crisis is over, give me a week to clear my head, so I’ll be fresh for the next problem.

The joy of my work is being able to walk into a crisis in someone’s life and bring them through it. The unhappiness in my work is that these people are often in pain, beaten down, and hurting from the grief and costs associated with their predicament.

The animals understand “make hay while the sun shines.” They don’t mind working hard and each one knows it has a job every day. I understand the term, and I’m sure all my fellow and sister East Texans who have ever met a payroll know it, too.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Prof. Archie McDonald: the John Wayne of Texas History


Thirty five years ago, when I was freshly back from Southeast Asia and freshly out of the military, I went to SFA to get my degree in History. My favorite professor was a guy named Archie McDonald, the same Archie McDonald who writes a column published in the Gilmer Mirror and other publications.

He reminded me of Clint Eastwood, the unlit cigar in his mouth as a prop, the sandy hair straight back from the forehead, the generally lean appearance, and the affable, confident demeanor. But his hero was John Wayne.

Professor McDonald made History interesting. No, scratch that. He made History fun.

He would occasionally bring his guitar to class, which he would strum while singing some appropriate song for the course. I took every course from him I could get. I can't even remember how many, but it was the Texas History course that really stood out as exceptional. All I know about Texas history I learned from Archie McDonald, and I know a lot about Texas history.

You may not know this, but Professor McDonald is a biographer of the Alamo commander, William Barrett Travis. The Professor chronicled the somewhat strange and borderline weird life of Colonel Travis, particularly as reflected in the journal Colonel Travis kept.

In his course, we learned about the black Texicans who fought to take the Alamo from Santa Anna's brother in 1835. We learned about Stephen F. Austin being held a hostage in Mexico. We learned about the Indian history of General Sam Houston. We learned about the Stone Fort in Nacogdoches, the Come and Take It cannon, the Battle of San Jacinto, and so much more.

Professor McDonald worshipped John Wayne. I've never known anyone before or since who loved The Duke the way Archie did. I had seen all of John Wayne's films, and all his war and western films several times each. So I could go into my own John Wayne when I needed to, complete with appropriate references to movies like The Comancheros or The Undefeated.

Did I mention I made an "A" in every course I took from Professor McDonald?

He loved teaching, and I loved going to class to hear him teach. Take a bow, Archie. You've taught thousands like me over the years, and Texas is enriched by it. I'm sure somewhere up in Cowboy Heaven, The Duke is saying "good job, pilgrim!"

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Don't feed the bears


IN THE SUMMER of 1956, we took our new 1956 Oldsmobile 88 - bought from Lufkin’s Olds Dealer Ralph New - cross country to Idaho. My mother’s parents lived in Idaho, in the little town where she grew up, Lewiston, named for the famous explorer of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On one bank of the Snake River is Lewiston, and on the opposite bank, in Washington State, is its companion city, Clarkston.

Our biennial trips to see Grandma and Grandpa Linscott in Idaho were considerably more difficult than they would be today. Interstate highways connect us now. In those days, there were long, long stretches of bad highways, or highways that went through the middle of every city or town along the way, stoplights and all.

WE HAD AN AM radio that would work if we were within a few miles of a town, but was useless for large segments of the trip. No air conditioner, but Daddy had some metal screens that fit over the windows and helped reflect heat away from the car windows and provided soothing shade, while allowing those inside the car to see out. I only recall having those on the windows when we were driving across long, hot, flat stretches.

There were three of us kids at the time. We rode in the backseat, while my dad, my mom, and my father’s mother sat in the front seat. The seats were both bench seats and fairly roomy, so we were not crowded. Three kids in a backseat for hours is often one kid too many, hence the need for distractions.

MOTHER WOULD get us little inexpensive toys she would buy at Perry Brother’s 5 & 10 cent store in downtown Lufkin. They were brain teasers and things that required thinking and concentration. There were little puzzles, like the traditional 15 squares inside the space for 16 squares, and your objective was to get them in a certain order. There were metal pieces intertwined that had to be studied and manipulated to solve. There were crossword puzzles, and card games that taught, like the “go fish” game with famous American authors for the matching sets.

Mother always insisted we see some sights along the way, particularly the great places America has to offer. In 1956, we went to Yellowstone National Park. Bears came right up the cars, and we took photos of bears standing over the car, looking in at my Granny Moore. People weren’t supposed to feed the bears, and there were signs everywhere to that effect. But there were people feeding bears bread and such through their car windows, barely opened.

THIS WAS a year or two before the world of cartoons would produce Yogi Bear, BooBoo, and the Park Ranger. But we did see bears - real, live bears - and they didn’t seem like any of the bears I’d ever seen in cartoons or even in movies. They stood on their hind legs, were slender if not downright thin, and looked like big dogs that lacked the good-natured happiness of most dogs. They wanted one thing, and one thing only - FOOD.

I would have been in favor of opening the window a little and feeding the bears, but my mother and Granny Moore vetoed that idea. Granny was startled by the bears, and she did not care for them being at the window. It’s funny how a moment like that can stick in the mind of a seven year old boy on vacation. This was the summer I would learn what “don’t feed the bears” means.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

The Miraculous Beauty of Plants and Animals


The longer I live, the more I am impressed with the beauty and perfection of plants and animals. Each one does exactly what it is designed to do. Each one makes human inventions pale by comparison.

The multidirectional wings of the dragon fly make all modern helicopters and airplanes look primitive by comparison. The hummingbird’s ability to hover, then blast off in a blur is something we cannot replicate with machines. The bee defies physics to buzz about carrying life giving pollen among the plants it visits. Birds know how to construct their nests without knowing how they know. They fly thousands of miles, programmed by something they do not understand or even ponder.

The mother crocodile may eat just about anything it finds, but will gracefully carry its own newly born babies in its mouth to the safety of the water. The meerkat is born to dig, and does it each morning as if nothing else matters. They burrow their holes for underground safety, and stand watch above ground for signs of flying, slithering, or walking predators.

The lizard perches himself on the window, feasting on insects that are drawn to the light coming through the window from inside the house at night.His color changes as his background changes, and he’s oblivious to its change. Where there is a patch of ground, a bit of soil, and water, something is going to grow. Whatever grows there is what is designed to grow there. If a pond, lilies will grow. If a field, wild grass, wild flowers and weeds will cover the ground. Each plant will find its spot in the environment, and grow where nature allows it to grow. Each plant has a way to replicate itself, usually by seeding, and often by having seeds that are edible to animals.

Animals eat plants, and consume seeds in the process. They spread those seeds and deposit them elsewhere, with a ready- made fertilizer to boost future growth.

The plants and animals have symbiotic relationships.One is food for the other. One is a vehicle for reproducing by the other. They need each other, just as we need most of them. There’s a tree that hangs over the water about a half mile from here, in an area of the lake that is kind of like a swamp. Hundreds of white cranes sit in that tree every day at dusk. Not the tree to the left of it, or the tree to the right of it. That tree, always the same tree. I wonder: why are they drawn to that one tree? And why at dusk? Maybe one day I’ll find out. I’m sure there is a very good, perfectly logical reason.Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. Until then, it’s a mystery I’ll ponder until I come with a good notion, at which point, I’m sure I’ll write about it.

Whether one wishes to see this as God or nature, it’s clear that something much stronger and more enduring than humanly endeavors is at work with plants and animals. They are miracles.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Long Overdue Apologies


It’s been 40 years since I graduated from high school. While most of my memories of that era are fond ones, a few remind me of how badly I behaved on occasion. I can recall doing several things in high school that were arrogant or offensive, things that should have compelled me to apologize back then, but I never did.

There was the summer romance with a girl from a town south of here, a girl who talked of moving to my high school. I didn’t tell her the truth - that it was a summer romance and that I didn’t want to be her boyfriend at my school. Once she moved, I felt guilty, so I tended to avoid her. If I had simply told her the truth, we would both have been better off. I liked her fine, I just didn’t want to be dating any particular girl at that time. I was enjoying being single and uncommitted.

One night after a football game, I thought I saw a guy slap his girlfriend in the parking lot. I went running up and punched him. I learned later he had not hit her, and that I was mistaken about what really happened. I should have apologized, but I never did.

After a girlfriend had broken up with me, I confronted and punched out the next guy she dated. He did nothing wrong. I was simply being a jerk. I saw her a decade later, and we made our peace, but I never apologized to him.

Once at a small house party, I said something very crude to a really sweet girl who had never done anything to justify my comments. The gist was “unless you want to get a lot more friendly with me, you might as well leave now.” Yikes. Did I say that? Yes, I was young, and drunk, but I’m sure I hurt her feelings, and I’ve never seen her since.

Lastly, there was my sin of omission. There is a guy who suffered through years of unkind remarks by guys who went to school with me. He had a physical condition that some boys ridiculed unmercifully. I could not begin to count the times he was taunted. While I did not join in, I did not speak up and object.

These memories are 40 years old, and they’re shared because we all have things we have done that were unkind. Reflecting on them is one way to reckon with our unkindnesses.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Hot Enough For You?!


Well into my sixth decade as an East Texan, I know more than my share of local colloquialisms and quaint sayings. As the summer heat beats down the air conditioners in July and August, we always hear "Is it hot enough for you?!"

I'll admit such sayings annoyed me as a youngster. Some older guy would usually make the comment almost as a throw-away comment, something to fill the airwaves for a moment.

My favorite East Texas sayings are ones that require both persons to know their lines and say them appropriately, to wit:

How you doin'?

I can't complain.

Wouldn't do any good if you did.

Sometimes the rejoinder is open ended, as when the first speaker says "Lord, the rain we've been having." This can be answered with almost anything. "If it ain't one thing, it's another," is hands down the favorite, though.

Speaking in sayings is a form of localized communication that avoids such topics as religion, politics, or personal finances. No one wants to hear "well, my wife left me, I hate my job, and my credit card debt is out of control," when they say "so how are you doin'?!

"Well, I'm just fine - and how are you?"

Like Robert Frost's poem about how good fences make good neighbors, formulaic sayings spare locals talk that is simply too personal to have with someone you're not very close to. It allows us to be friendly, to speak in accepted code, and to convey the most important thing - a friendly, courteous attitude towards those with whom we momentarily interact.

We talk about the weather most frequently when we attempt to pass the time. It's often raining too much or too little. We've got the harsh heat in the summer, and the sunny days of December. We've got chilly but not terribly cold weather most of winter.

We say "don't like the weather, wait - it'll change soon enough." In fact, our weather is very predictable if we watch the weather satellites. The weather systems that mix and interact to cause weather in East Texas are so fascinating to watch develop on Doppler radar, which I check many times daily. The hot Gulf air consistently works its way inland as cooler air flows down from the mountains and across the plains to East Texas. Like two gangs of vastly different air, the Cools and the Hots mix it up in our skies. We get to see the lightning, the funnel clouds, and the rain storms they produce here.

When the weather is hot, or cold, or rainy, or dry, we talk about it, and usually in sayings that keep our thoughts on climate. As the summer wears on, just remember, it's not the heat, it's the humidity.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Y'all Come!


When you live in the country
Everybody is your neighbor
On this one thing you can rely
They'll all come to see you
And never, ever leave you
Sayin' y'all come to see us by and by

Y'all come!

Bill Monroe was born in Kentucky in 1911. By the early 1950s, Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys would be Country and Bluegrass legends, sowing the seeds that would blossom into Rockabilly, and ultimately, rock and roll.

In the 1950s, my dirt-poor grandparents on my daddy's side of the family lived in a little one- bedroom rent house a few miles outside of Lubbock, one of those stark little houses with hard dirt and sand for a yard, with chickens running loose in the back. There was no running water. There was a water well and an outhouse, but no indoor plumbing. My grandparents would sit out there on the narrow front porch, rocking, always rocking. The house was set up on cinder blocks, and the dogs would dig out a spot under the shade of the porch, getting up only to harass or greet anyone who drove up.

We would visit my grandparents, driving the 500 miles from East Texas in a long day, when our wonderful interstate highway system was more a plan than a reality. We would stay with my dad's sibling, either his brother in Ropesville, or his sister in Lubbock. Doc and Dude, we called those two, as nicknames were big.

Sometimes my grandparents would wring a chicken's neck to cook for dinner. The term "running around like a chicken with his head chopped off" has a clear meaning once you've seen it done. Sometimes they would even slaughter a pig, and put away most of the meat butchered.

Our family was always big on singing. We all went to church, and church involved singing a good 5-8 songs every service. We also sang songs popular in the culture.

One song that was our favorite, the song we'd always sing when it was time to get in the car and leave for that trip, was “Y'all Come,” by Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys.

It's such a fun song to sing, and it carries a funny and true message. The gist is that we country folks are all neighbors, and your neighbors will sometimes drop in, stay for dinner, and practically never leave! Then they would leave, with grandma stuck washing all the dishes, back when that was a much harder task than it is now.

I love being in East Texas, with little towns where most people still know it's rude to honk your horn at another car, except to say "howdy!" I love the attitude that if you're here, you're welcome to join us for dinner. I love the spirit best sung in Bill Monroes' bluegrass classic. Y'all come to see us, now!

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Grade School Salesman

It was 1958 and we were living in a cute little home on Briarwood, a block off Atkinson Drive. No air conditioning, just a big air cooler that covered everything with a thin film of water and didn't really make anything cooler.

Mama had dug a flower garden in the front yard, in the shape of Texas. It had purple and white flowers in it. The 20-foot pine tree a few feet from the street was a boy's delight, and it could be climbed to the top in seconds. Four kids, two parents, 1,000 square feet, if that.

Mrs. Lee lived next door and Patty Lindsay lived across the street. Down at the corner, Mary Summers lived. In the other direction, the enigmatic Pop Ward, high school math teacher, lived. Around the corner was the brand new fire station, which had a cola machine — the kind where you had to practically wrestle the bottle free from the steel jaws which protected it against theft.

I was a student at Herty Elementary, all of eight years old, and a Cub Scout in the Herty Scout Troop. The Boy Scouts of Lufkin were having their annual carnival, and tickets for events there were sold for $.05 each. All Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in the area competed by selling tickets to raise money. The winner would get a brand new bicycle, which was contributed by the Western Auto store then on Timberland Drive at Lufkin Avenue.

I wanted that bicycle. I didn't have a bicycle, and with three sisters, including a new baby sister, I knew a bicycle for me was not in the plans. If I wanted one, I had to go get it myself.

I decided I would cover the most territory, put in the most time, and I could win that bicycle. After I covered all the neighborhoods I could reach by walking, I started getting Daddy to drop me off in other areas, where I could walk fresh streets and find new buyers.

At the end of the contest, I had sold $22.15 worth of tickets.

The carnival was held at Chambers Park, the old practice field and the football stadium. As the time neared for the contest results to be announced in the stadium, I overheard a couple of Scout Mothers, and one said she heard the winner sold $22.15 of tickets. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. From then on, it was like a dream. The next thing I knew, I was in the stadium, and they were calling my name out. I was walking out to get my prize, my very own bicycle! I was absolutely flabbergasted, dumbfounded, speechless.

It was a 36-inch bike, and I was so little, I could not get on it except at the curb, and I could barely get over the bar. I had to straddle the bar to peddle, as I was too short to even sit on the bar. Eventually, I would grow into it, but the first year, I never sat on the seat.

Once I had the bike, I was highly mobile, and continued selling, since it was my best way to get money. I would sometimes hang out with Lyle and (the late, great) Jim Witherell, who lived up the street on Dunlap, and they had a treasure trove of comic books. In those days, comic books had ads in the back that offered to send Christmas cards and garden seeds to kids who wanted to sell them. The card company would send me a carton with 12 boxes of Christmas cards, which I would sell at $1.25 per box. I would gross $15, and had to send them $6. I made a good living selling those.

I also sold Grit, the newspaper that people with outhouses liked. Why, I'm not sure, but I have a notion.

My best sales project had to be handmade, woven pot pads. I bought the raw materials and my sisters wove colorful pot pads with brightly colored nylon loops which were stuffed with cotton. They could make so many different kinds and designs, and they loved doing it. I sold four for a dollar.

In return, I would accompany them in their efforts to sell their quota of Girl Scout cookies. By "accompany" I mean I would carry their boxes of cookies, go up to the door, and make the sales while they stood there smiling and agreeing. I sold a lot of Girl Scout cookies. Of course, I was always pushing the pot pads for sale, too.

Someone once said the best salesman doesn't talk the fastest, he walks the fastest. Or peddles the fastest. I enjoyed those days as a grade school salesman in Lufkin, Texas. Almost 50 years ago, when I didn't have a care in the world.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Our First Second Car

As the 1960s began, families across America were adding a second car. In the 1950s, most families had but one car, and it took family members everywhere they needed to go. Mothers working, teenagers driving, and cheap gasoline meant every family needed more than one car. Ours was no exception.

Mother and Daddy both worked, so we were long overdue for having two cars. With four kids - all needing to go places - we really did need a second car. We had a nice 1961 Oldsmobile sedan Daddy bought from Ralph New Motors, which mother drove to work during the week, and which the family used for its main transportation. The second car would be for Daddy to drive during the week.

Our first second car was a green, faded out 1951 Plymouth two door hardtop coupe. Daddy got it in 1962, the year I turned 13. It was a very plain car, and had a flat head 4 engine. When you opened the hood, you saw the engine and very little else. This car had only the bare necessities under the hood: the block, the fan, the radiator, the brake reservoir, the battery, the horn, and the linkage from the gear shifter to the transmission.

On either side of the motor, you would see the ground, and lots of it. The steering mechanism was fully exposed, and the linkage for the gears were simple metal pieces which could be adjusted with a long stick of wood. They'd get stuck and you had to get out of the car, put the hood up, and then use the stick to unstick the gear links.

I remember Daddy driving down to the half circle at Herty Elementary School. He let me get behind the wheel to drive. The clutch had a strong spring, and it did not go down easy, or come back up smoothly. In what would prove to be one of his wisest parental decisions, my father determined that I should learn from a driving instructor. I learned at school, taught by Coach Louie Phillips.

I never drove the Plymouth much, and when I did, it was just around the neighborhoods of Herty. I’d drive a 4-5 mile circle of the area, getting in my driving practice. Gears hang up? Stop and get the stick. It was a standard with a three speed on the column. Being a new kid to driving, sometimes going to second gear I’d find reverse and grind the gears. It was not the greatest of cars.

I only remember that car making Daddy smile twice: the day he bought it, and the day he sold it. A man who did not curse, he would come close on occasion while trying to cajole it to perform. We had it only a year, but it's given me many fond chuckles since, and made me appreciate the cars I have driven since.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

1961: the Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris home run race

Forty-five years ago, on October 1, 1961, Roger Maris hit his 61st home run, breaking the record of Babe Ruth, which record had stood for over 30 years and was considered by some to be unapproachable. Even among Yankee fans, Maris was somewhat resented, because they wanted to see Mickey Mantle win the much touted "home run race."

It was the summer of 1961 when the home run race was all the news. I would turn 12 years old that summer after grade school, and live the last days before I'd enter the world of Junior High School, the seventh grade. We lived on Briarwood.

My best buddy in the neighborhood was Dale Duren. Dale lived about two blocks away, which took about two minutes to reach on my bike.

Dale was eight months older than me. I remember vividly his 12th birthday, Jan. 6, 1961. To celebrate, he took several of his friends, including me, to the Pines Theatre to see Elvis Presley in “Flaming Star of Death.” In those days, you had to pay more money for the 12 and over ticket, so Dale had to pay the adult price, while we got in cheaper.

Dale's older sister, Linda, was the same age as my older sister, Judy, and they knew each other from Junior High, as both were two years older than us. Linda Duren was one of those friend's sisters you didn't mind having around, because she was cool, and because she was easy on the eyes. Dale Duren was named after the U.S.S Dale, the ship Mr. Duren had served on during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Dale's dad was a guy with dark hair, just like Linda. Dale had sandy blond hair.

Dale was a big New York Yankees fan, mainly because his dad was a big New York Yankees fan. Dale's dad had become a big Yankee fan in the Navy, and that fandom carried over to Dale. Me, I didn't like the Yankees because they were the Yankees, because they had the name "Yankees," and because they were from New York City! Oh, the arguments Dale and I would have over the Yankees.

This was a time when baseball cards came in gum packs, and every boy had a cigar box full of them. You'd trade them, although most of them weren't good players. Dale would give anything for New York Yankees players he did not have.

The pursuit of the home run record by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in the summer of 1961 led us to have many discussions about his beloved Yankees. Our biggest argument, however, was about his contention that Mickey Mantle could strike me out, even if he was throwing from second base. Isn't that kind of argument the essence of childhood? Oh, how we argued over that. I may have had to leave and go home mad a couple of times.

Whenever I hear about the home run race of 1961, I always drift back to that time, that era, and my good grade school buddy and Yankee fan, Dale Duren. Maris won the race a month after we'd started the 7th grade, but it was the time I'd spent talking with Dale about that home run race that I'd remember most.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Batman and Robin of 1967 Lufkin

Within a year after graduation, Lufkin lost two of its 1967 graduates to a tragic accident. Mark Conner and Chuck McBride died from asphyxiation due to a space heater in a small room they were staying in. I cannot recall the exact dates, but it seemed to be the cooler part of the year, and I believe they were in Louisiana, looking for jobs.

Many of us had just started experiencing the heartbreak of losing friends in Vietnam, and we had a degree of fearful expectation when someone went over there, but this caught everyone in Lufkin flat-footed, totally unprepared. We were shocked.

If you consult the Lufkin High School Annual for 1967, you will find a photo of our heroes, Mark and Chuck, as Batman & Robin. Chuck is dressed as Batman, and Mark as Robin. They were quite a pair, LHS' own Batman & Robin. As many will recall, that was an era when Adam West's TV Batman entertained us with silliness that was beyond comic books.


I don't know when Chuck and Mark became such fast friends. I knew and liked both guys, but never really hung out much with either of them. I met Mark when I was still in grade school. A Coston elementary friend introduced us. We all met for a Saturday movie at the Pines Theatre, and hung out all day, the way kids did back then. We sat through the same movie 3-4 times. I had classes with Mark throughout Junior High and High School, and we never had a cross word between us.

I met Chuck several years later, about 1964. Chuck and I had classes together, and that is where I knew him.

Mark was the more dry of the two young men, more wry, more somber. Chuck was always smiling. I don't ever remember him not smiling. He was the happy-go-lucky of the two. Chuck had red hair, and his face was reddish in its tint. When he was embarrassed or laughing hard, it would turn bright red. What a great, joyous laugh he had!

Mark had jet black hair, and a more olive complexion. Girls loved Mark's hair. He was the King of the 1967 Valentine Dance. He smiled, but less often and more reserved than Chuck. Even in his photo for being Valentine King, Mark has his typical "yeah, whatever" look.

I can only imagine how their families have missed them, and must still miss them. Maybe seeing their boys are remembered will help them today. I still think about those two occasionally, and they remain forever young and full of life in my memory.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Annabel Carter, Music Teacher Extraordinaire

Annabel Carter was a gem who taught generations of Lufkin Junior High Students to sing. When I entered the 7th grade in 1961, I wanted to take choir because I loved to sing. I grew up in a church that did not allow any instruments for singing, so we had to learn pitch, key and reading music, without accompaniment. That made me a good subject for a teacher who took music seriously.

Mrs. Carter could control a room of kids like no one I've ever seen. She barked out drills and got people singing them as soon as they came in the room. No fiddling around with this teacher. She was in the business of teaching choir, and mister, she was going to do it. Her ever-present glasses either adorned her eyes, or hung like a necklace about her neck. She always dressed very nicely, very colorfully. She was intense, but in a good way.

Mrs. Carter put on a fall pageant around Veterans' Day, and we sang patriotic songs, and songs of social inspiration, songs of American pride and humility.

"You're a grand old flag, you're a high-flying flag, and forever in peace may you wave!

You're the emblem of, the land I love, the home of the free and the brave!

Every heart beats true under red, white and blue, and there's never a boast or brag!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, keep your eye on that grand old flag!"

Forty-four years later, and I can sing every word she taught us so many years ago. (My memory of last week should be so good.)

She also put on musicals. I recall clearly singing KATRINA FROM HANOVER CITY to Melba Thompson, and can still picture her in her costume. I cannot remember the play, or anything else about it.

Mrs. Carter also put on the Christmas pageant, and would have us singing all those wonderful Christmas time songs. In addition to putting on all those pageants, teaching all those kids to sing, and making TV and community appearances with her choirs, Mrs. Carter helped countless students prepare for contests. She worked tirelessly with those who wanted to enter individual or group contests. She brought a dedication to her music and teaching that she passed on to her students.

Mrs. Carter usually smiled, even when she was losing her patience, which she did if anyone was goofing off or not focused. She'd still smile, but the sharp edges of her mouth, and sharp eyebrows said "don't mess with me!" If needed, she would throw in a 30-second lecture on being dedicated to getting something done right.

I spent three years as her student. The 7th grade, I was a second soprano. The 8th grade, I was a second tenor. The 9th grade, I was finally a baritone. But my growth under her teaching was more than having a deeper voice or learning music. She taught me much about dedication for a purpose. Mrs. Carter was a great teacher.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

I'll get it!!

In 1950s Lufkin, those words often rang out when the family telephone rang. There was only phone per home, and everyone in the family - Mom, Dad, and all the kids - used that same line. When it rang, it could be for anyone in the family. Anyone expecting a call might proclaim I'll get it!! to preempt others from answering the phone. If spoken by anyone under the age of 18, those words were usually accompanied by a mad gallop as the speaker drove towards the phone to seize it first. Possession was nine-tenths of the law of answering that one phone in a 1950s one phone family.

In Lufkin in the 1950s, you only had to dial five numbers to get someone in town. Our phone number was 4-5024. Dial five numbers, and the phone rings. The prefix was just as it is now, so the number used for long distance included what was then called the "prefix," that being the two digits. Even though our number was 634-5024, the number was called "Neptune 4-5024." The word "Neptune" came from the first two letters, "n" and "e," which stood for the digits "6" and "3."

If you lived in Lufkin or close to Lufkin in those days, you had a private line. Your family did not have to share its one telephone with anyone else. Those who lived a mile or more outside the city might find themselves on what was known as a "party line." It meant a line with multiple parties, and it was no party for the families that had to share their phone line with other families.

My dear friends, the Capps, lived out on Watkins Drive, and they shared a line with the Mayos. Donald was my age, and we both had Mrs. Henry in the first grade at Herty elementary in 1955-56, but I never really knew his family. He had a sister named Brenda, and Brenda liked to talk on the phone, as girls sometimes do. This led to times when the Capps would need the phone and Brenda would be talking, or the Capps would be talking and Brenda would be checking the line.

It's bad enough when you share a family phone, and someone picks up the extension, but imagine that happening with your neighbors. You're having a conversation with someone and suddenly, you hear a phone pick up. Then hang up five seconds later. Then pick up again 30 seconds later. And so on.

Imagine wanting to call someone who lived on a party line, and getting a b-u-s-y signal for an hour while someone talked to her 9-year-old boyfriend! It was frustrating for the Capps and for everyone who needed to call them. There was no call-waiting, no second phone lines in the home, no caller ID, no push buttons. It was a phone that weighed about 10 pounds, and had a rotary dial that actually had to be "dialed." If you messed up while dialing, you had to start over. If you got a busy, you had to start over. You might have an extension, which was another phone on the same line, just elsewhere in the house. If the extension was left off the hook or accidentally knocked off the hook, the other phone could not dial, and no one could call in; they'd get a busy signal.

Long distance calling was prohibitively expensive in those days. The gasoline to drive to Houston cost less than the phone charge for calling five minutes. No kidding. Imagine a long distance call that lasts five minutes and costs 10 percent as much as your monthly rent. When our rent in Herty was $50 per month, a five minute call to my grandmother in Idaho cost $5. I know because I made it, and my parents nearly had a heart attack. They made me work it off at 25 cents per lawn mowing. I was 6 years old, and lacked bargaining power.

There was no such thing as direct dial in 1950s Lufkin. You didn't call long distance except through your operator. You dialed "0" and she took your information, then connected you somehow to someone at the other end. You either dialed "person to person" or "station to station." In the former, you asked for a specific person, and if they were not there, you were not charged. In the latter, you agreed to speak to anyone at the number who answered, and the charge was less than "person to person."

Compared to today's phones, it was two cans with a string pulled taut between them. We've come a long way from the days of one phone per home in Lufkin, Texas, but as I dodge people on Loop 287 who are glued to theirs, I'm not sure that's a good thing.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

1960s East Texas and a preacher named Clyde O. Moore

I hated that walk because it was hot and uncomfortable. I hated being in my Sunday suit. I hated wearing my uncomfortable, rapidly becoming too small Sunday shoes. I hated the heat and the bugs. And I hated that hot, white sand from Lubbock Street that would occasionally slip into my shoes as we walked. But I loved the destination, so I would trudge along, trying to keep up without getting sand in my shoes.

My dad didn't want to hear any malingering or complaining, of course. We had a good mile of walking from our home to the Lubbock Street Church of Christ, and it wasn't going to walk itself.

He always walked like a man on a mission, appropriate, I suppose, for a preacher. Don't call him "Reverend" and don't call him "father" and don't call him "pastor." He was a preacher, and that's what he wanted you to call him.

He took long strides at a fast gait, and he would run off and leave you, if you didn't keep up. Although only 5'8, he still towered over my not quite yet 5 feet of sixth grader. I knew that white people and black people didn't go to church together, or school together, or socialize together, or live together, but I didn't really understand segregation and racial hatred. Mama grew up in Idaho, and she would have none of that in her home. Daddy was a preacher who lived his beliefs, one of which was that all humans have equality under God.

Going to an all black church in the South in 1960 was something not many white boys ever did, but I did it. A hundred times or more. Daddy would take me with him, once a week, when he would go preach. I immediately loved the fact that the singing was so much more lively, and I simply loved people saying "Amen!" and "Yes sir!" and "Preach it!" That was some heady stuff for a 10-year-old boy.

After church, we would always go over to someone's house and have Sunday dinner, which is what we folks back then called Sunday lunch. The hostess would cook a grand meal, and we would eat our fill. Kids usually at the cardboard table on the screened in porch. Then after dinner, kids all outside to play. After about an hour of play, Daddy would yell "let's go," and we would be off.

Occasionally, when we would be walking well into the exclusively black streets, someone would yell something ugly at us, or maybe throw a rock at us. Once, someone shot me on the back of my thigh with a bb gun, and it hurt like the dickens. Daddy would say "just keep walkin', son, just keep walkin.'" And so we did. Never returned an ugly comment, never looked back, just kept walkin'.

We did that for about two years, if memory serves, which it doesn't always. All I knew was that a black elder or preacher had heard daddy on his 5-minute weekly radio spot on KRBA, and called daddy to ask him to preach at that church. They couldn't pay a preacher, and daddy took on preaching there once a week, in addition to his regular duties at our church.

Daddy died in 1971, and I never got to ask him so many questions I have, questions I never really thought about until after he was gone. Were you shunned by other preachers for preaching in the black community? Did you get any threats made against you? Why did we walk each time? Was that some kind of statement?

I have to believe he did it the way he did it for a reason. We could have driven, but we walked from the all white side of Paul Avenue to the all black side, and then we walked a half mile into the middle of the black community. We carried only Bibles, his and mine.

It was the kind of courage one doesn't see much any more.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.


In 1964, when we were all 15 years old, Steve Reid, Lynn Parker and I became fast friends. We were all in the 9th grade, and we each had a driver's license already. Steve drove a 1961 white Corvair. Lynn drove a 1958 blue Ford sedan, and I drove a maroon 1960 VW beetle. We all had jobs the summer of 1964, and therefore had both money and a degree of adult feeling to our lives.

I worked at Massingill's Meat Market. Steve and Lynn worked at the Ice House over on Raguet near the original Top Burger Leland Gay built. We made about a dollar an hour, when a dollar could buy six gallons of gasoline or a cola and a big steak finger basket at Ray's Drive-In.

In those days, almost everything shut down on Sunday, so getting off your job Saturday afternoon meant free time until Monday morning, if one could avoid going to church. We hung together at school, and often on Saturday night. Before we started dating girls regularly, we would convene at Steve's family home in Herty, and head out from there. We would sometimes go to the drive-in theatre, check out who was there and what they were doing, and eat mass qualities of snack bar food while watching movies.

Before the first screen activity began, and for 30 minutes or so thereafter, kids would play down in the front at the small playground there for that purpose. There would be cartoons, previews, news clips, snack bar sales clips, and more previews. Then the first movie would get underway. After the first movie, there would be more of the cartoons and previews, with plenty of snack bar enticements, too. Droves would go to the snack bar to line up for the food. Sometime in the second film, the snack bar was going to announce over the speaker in your car that it was closing in ten minutes.

If you were ever there, you know the sound of the last call for the snack bar. Suddenly, with no warning, the speaker in your car for the movie would blare: SNACK BAR'LL CLOSE IN TEN MINUTES!

Didn't matter what movie was on, or where it was in the plot, they'd interrupt suddenly to make that announcement. You're watching “Psycho.” It's terrifying! The shadowy figure pulls the shower curtain back quickly and — SNACK BAR'LL CLOSE IN TEN MINUTES!

Those words would always lead to a mad rush anew to stock up on food, especially for growing 15-year-old boys with spending money and bottomless stomachs. We would stuff ourselves on those nights, watching some second movie like “Guns of Navarone.” The Redland Drive-In and the Panther Drive-in were mainstays of hanging out in mid-1960s Lufkin, and with the playground and the snack bar, it was a little world unto itself.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Joan Holloway Whitworth and Harry Whitworth:
Mentors Extraordinaire

In 1975 I was a second-year law student at University of Texas law school, and had the good fortune of snagging a job at the Texas Aeronautics Commission. My boss was Joan Holloway, a woman who taught me more about writing and organization of writing than any of my law professors. Joan was a former English professor at TCU, and knew every writing rule by heart. She also understood state government backwards and forwards.

At the Texas Aeronautics Commission, I worked with John Soule, the General Counsel, Karon Wiedemann, in accounting, and a host of others whose names but not faces or personalities have faded from my memory. It was a fun, educational time, and I simply loved my work with those folks. Joan was a hard but good task master, and she got things done.

Joan Holloway later became Mrs. Harry Whitworth, and they made a great couple. Both had grown children by prior marriage, and I knew her son, Mike, and Harry's son-in-law, Bill Messer, who were both classmates of mine at the law school. Joan and Harry treated me very kindly, and Harry took me under wing for a while there, teaching me about some things a young man should know.

Harry frequently insisted on taking a group of us to dinner, and he would not allow any of the law students to pay their own way. "No, Jim," he would tell me, "you can pay me back by doing this some day for someone else."

Harry advised me about how things were over at the legislature, and he and Joan got me a job working in the Senate during the 1977 legislative session. That's where I got to learn how to research and write bills that become laws. Harry did lobbying at the legislature, and he was a big dog.

Harry Whitworth always talked to me and the young men of my age group about the necessity of giving something back. He told me that giving money was not enough, you have to give of yourself, too. "Coach Little League, Jim," he would tell me. "Have kids and give something back. Be the guy who takes the time to coach the kids."

I took Harry Whitworth's advice. I did exactly as he had coached me. I followed his path of picking up that check for others, when my life allowed. I followed his path and coached my son and his friends for years in a variety of sports. My life was greatly enriched because I listened to the sage advice of a wise man.

Harry died in 1994, and I didn't find out about it for a long time, having moved from the Austin area and having lost track of Harry and Joan. If I could have, I would have told him how important his lessons were, how they helped make me a better man and a better father. I intend to find Joan and tell her just that.

There are lessons in this for all of us. Don't put off telling someone they were important in your life. Do it now. And remember that the example you leave for others does matter.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Turtles and alligator gar - it's springtime at the lake

The cycle of life. Springtime at the lake sees the cycle of life in abundance. The alligator gar are spawning by my bulkhead, the large female depositing her eggs as a flurry of males swarm around her to deposit their seed. On the surface by some reeds, they are oblivious to me standing a few feet over them. Reproduction is all they have on their minds.

A few months ago, I saw mother turtles headed past my house, up the hill, to lay their eggs. I knew their offspring would be showing up soon, making their way to the water by instinct. One of the little fellows showed up on my doorstep. He was lost, had gotten in the garage, and was stymied by the door to the house. My son carried him down to the edge of the water, where the baby turtle quickly plunged in and swam instinctively to the protection of reeds.

Life is amazing, and its simple replication is a miracle. No matter how much I see this simple act, it awes me.

The birds of prey are feasting on the new life of a new spring. My nephew saw an eagle hunting near his home. Hawks are everywhere snatching snakes, lizards, and mice. Even the airborne scavengers are doing record business, as newborn animals make their first and last road crossing.

Of course, the wasps make their annual return, and I make my annual exception to my gracious attitude about animals. Ever since one sent my son into shock some years ago, I have a zero tolerance policy regarding wasps. The only good wasp is a dead wasp. I probably enjoy killing them a little too much.

Years ago, this was the time of year we would be chasing overdue cows or horses and pulling their calves or foals, when they couldn't accomplish the feat by themselves. Some first time cow and horse mothers have difficulty delivering, and helping them birth is a necessity. It's a messy process, but it is new life, and there's something really primitive about being there for it.

The plants are not to be outdone by the animals. They are growing like … well, like weeds! Is there anything more beautiful than a tree in spring bloom? When the hardwoods rejoin the pines in their greenery, it's a great day for the region.

While I love our spring blossoms and blooms, I could do without the hay fever. I know it's the duty of these plants to pollinate, but I sure wish that pollen would find someplace besides my nose to camp out. Allergies aside, these are the days I call a little slice of heaven. It's spring in East Texas.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Uncle Fred's Laundry Delivery Van

When I was barely five years old in 1954 and living near Lubbock, I once had occasion to stay with my Uncle Fred and Aunt Shirley for a few days. Fred is my favorite uncle, and he's the last one I have who is living. He's only 15 years older than me, and he lived with us when I was young, so he was like an older brother. Shirley was his brand new bride, and they lived in a one room apartment in Lubbock that was part of an elderly lady's home.

My parents and sisters had traveled to Lufkin, so my dad could try out for a preaching job. On his previous try out at a church in West Texas, I had committed two breaches of protocol. I had shimmied up a post in the church building, and I got into a fight with an elder's son after church.

Discretion being the better part of employment interviews, they left me in Lubbock instead of risking me in Lufkin.

I loved staying with Uncle Fred and Aunt Shirley, who spoiled me by buying me Hostess Snow Balls and other pastries that I never got with Mama and Daddy. She was cute as a button, too, so I felt all special while the girls and my parents were gone.

Uncle Fred worked with my Uncle Jerry at a laundry, and he delivered clothes to customers in a van. The van would be full of hanging laundry, so the back of the van was somewhat obscured from the driver. This allowed me to sneak into the van one morning as a stowaway, and hide in the hanging laundry.

I waited quietly for a good while, knowing that if I spoke up too soon, he'd just turn around and go back home. I finally revealed myself, and I don't remember getting a beating, so I must not have gotten one. I got to go on a few deliveries with him, and my need to deliver laundry was sated.

Aunt Shirley bought me a toy at the store, which I can remember clearly to this day. It was a little rocket that had a nose made of metal. You put a cap, like the ones for cap pistols, into the rocket. When you threw the rocket on the sidewalk, it would explode the cap, making a nice BANG! It was tedious, but when you're five years old, you have time.

My Uncle Fred and Aunt Shirley live near Phoenix, Ariz. now, retired. When I think of my Uncle Fred, I always think of those days when he made me laugh, and made me feel loved.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.

Midnight requisitions at NORAD

In 1969, I was a year out of East Texas and a year into the Air Force. I worked at NORAD headquarters inside Cheyenne Mountain, just south of Colorado Springs.

We called it "the Bat Cave," and that's what it looked like. There was a long tunnel into the mountain facility protecting America's skies, about 20-25 feet high cut out of the granite. The area inside where the buildings are located is several times as high as the tunnel. I worked shift work, while the vast majority of the workers there worked week days.

The evenings, nights and weekends belonged to the shift workers. The buildings inside the mountain were deep inside the mountain, and the tunnel extends to the other side of the mountain. Workers ride a bus inside, and then are let off outside the first of two large bomb blast doors that are essentially like bank vault doors.

At that time, one of the two doors had to be locked at all times. The procedure was for the outside door to be opened while the inside door was locked. Workers would walk inside the first door, and stand in the holding area between the doors. This procedure meant there was always some time spent in the holding area between the two huge doors. One night, on the way home, I got stuck in there 4 hours, when neither door would open. I always thought it was a drill.

Once one got past the second vault door, it was a short walk to the buildings, ending with a walk up the stairs. The buildings sat on huge springs, all about four feet tall, like giant mattress springs. The buildings had no exterior at all, so the innards of the building that one normally never sees were exposed.

I worked inside a vault that was an adjunct to the Command Post, and only the dozen or so of us cleared to be in that vault were allowed inside there. We all had top secret clearances, and we all had crypto access clearances. We had access to all the electronic communications going into or out of the mountain. Days were hectic, but the nights were usually fairly calm.

Because we were there at night, when only a hundred or so of us held down the fort, we had the run of the place. Most offices and the Command Post were available to us. This was in a day before office supplies were kept in locked rooms or cabinets.

Getting an office properly stocked with supplies is always an effort in the military. One is always trying to get the best staplers, the best pens, the best pads, the best and most of everything needed. I don't know if it is still done, but in those days, the Midnight Requisition was the Order of the Day. Put bluntly, the needed supplies are located in the supplies of other units, and requisitioned. There's a rationale that we all work for Uncle Sam, and it's just a matter of which unit gets which supplies.

There were 33 generals assigned to the mountain when I worked there, and very few of them were ever around at night or on weekends. Once a week, they'd have a big meeting in the mountain, and there would be almost three dozen Air Force issue blue staff cars, each bearing the number of stars of the general it contained, each parked inside the mountain, each with an NCO driver standing by it. But most of the time they were gone, and I probably don't need to tell you that generals always had the best supplies.

It's a good thing those days were before video security cameras captured everything that happens inside the mountain. There was plenty of security for getting into the mountain in those days, but not much security inside the mountain, once past the two vault-like bomb blast doors. If we had been found out, I would surely still be doing time in the brig today for pilfering supplies on our weekly trips foraging the office supply cabinets of others. President Nixon gave us a presidential unit citation, and in early 1970 I shipped out to Southeast Asia. It was a strange but fulfilling time for a young man a year out of East Texas.

© 2007, Pappy Moore, All Rights Reserved. Pappy Moore is a humorist, a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home.


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