Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sarah Greene Archives

2 hrs 22 mins ago | 1 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CONFINED within four walls of a rehab center room for the last few weeks, I have found myself overdosing on television.

Daily reruns of The Golden Girls, perhaps an homage to Bea Arthur after her recent death, are laugh-out-loud funny even the second time around.

But what has impressed me most is the pre-World War II movies on the Turner Classic Movies channel.

The racial stereotyping of 1930s films is downright shocking to view in our (somewhat) more enlightened times.

TAKE BUTTERFLY McQueen, for example. Anyone who has ever seen Gone with the Wind remembers her character Prissy, the young slave who told Scarlett O’Hara she could take charge of the saintly Melanie’s childbirth.

When the time comes, General Sherman is attacking Atlanta, townspeople are fleeing, the family doctor is too busy amputating limbs to leave the Confederate hospital and Prissy utters her famous line, “Lawdy, Miss Scarlett, I’se don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies.”

I was reminded of Butterfly the other day when I watched The Women, a 1939 film based on the play of that name by Clare Booth Luce.

Now recognized as a classic, this movie had more than 130 speaking roles, all of them female. The script revolved around a high society Manhattan matron, played by Norma Shearer, whose husband was stolen by a department store perfume sales lady played by Joan Crawford at her meanest.

Butterfly McQueen had a bit part as a perfume counter maid.

I HAD RECENTLY read that Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, resented having to play darkie roles, but that was the only kind of work she could get.

Wondering if McQueen felt the same way, I researched her career using Google.

She agreed, and then some.

I learned that she was actually a successful Broadway dancer who was critically praised for her movie portrayals in the ’30s and ’40s She went on to rebel at Hollywood’s system of racial stereotyping, and announced in 1947 that she would no longer accept “handkerchief head” parts. And that almost destroyed her career.

ALTHOUGH there were more TV, movie and Broadway roles in her future (she lived until 1995, when she was 84) she had no movie offers for the next 20 years.

She worked as a sales clerk, a waitress, a dishwasher, and an old ladies’ companion in order to make ends meet.

Not quite time yet to say we’ve come a long way, baby. But at least racial stereotyping has been drastically reduced since the days when Amos and Andy were popular on radio and the white end men in the Gilmer Firemen’s Minstrels performed in blackface.

ALSO ON THE current TCM schedule has been the 1936 film, the Green Pastures, based on a novel by Roark Bradford and the subsequent play by Marc Connelly. An all-black cast depicts stories from the Bible. “De Lawd” is an old bearded man played by Rex Ingram, and Noah is played by Eddie “Rochester” Anderson.

Anderson played many other racially-stereotyped roles in movies, but was best known as Jack Benny’s valet on Benny’s long-running radio and TV programs.

According to Wikipedia, the relationship between Anderson and Benny became more complex and intimate as the years went by, with Rochester’s role becoming both less stereotypical and less subservient (though he remained a valet), reflecting changing social attitudes toward blacks.

According to Jack Benny’s posthumous autobiography, Sunday Nights at Seven, the tone of racial humor surrounding Rochester declined as a conscious decision between Benny and the writing staff during World War II, once the enormity of the Holocaust was revealed. Benny didn’t find racial humor funny any more, and he made an effort to erase it from the character of Rochester.

BACK IN MY everyday soap opera world, I have been keeping up with Days of Our Life, which I have been watching since it began in 1965. And I often wonder why, so much has changed since the days when Dr. Tom and Alice Horton were the “tent pole” characters around whom revolved a cast that more or less simulated the real world.

Today, the recorded voice of the late Dr. Tom (played by McDonald Carey) and an occasional cameo appearance by Alice Horton is about all that remains of the original story.

Today the soaps compete for the age 18 to 34 demographic, and the teen-age/early 20s cohort dominates. One by one favorite characters depart, the latest being Dr. Marlena Evans and her husband-of-several-identities, John Black.

MERE HABIT is all that keeps me watching the NBC soap. Meanwhile, over at CBS, word comes that The Guiding Light, longest-running drama on television, will bite the dust.

Begun as a 15-minute radio serial in 1937, it moved to TV in 1952. Among the future stars who got their start on The Guiding Light are James Earl Jones, Kevin Bacon and Calista Flockhart. During the height of the radio soap opera years, 1930-1960, there were as many as 200 serialized programs.

I recall my personal favorites — Stella Dallas, Young Dr. Malone and others — which were a special treat on days when I stayed home from school, sick.

According to USA Today, Guiding Light is the least-watched of eight remaining network soaps, averaging 2.2 million viewers this season. It’s a favorite only with viewers over 50, a sure kiss of death in today’s advertising world.

7 days ago | 87 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NOOKS AND CRANNIES of Texas history are illuminated in the folklore that is preserved by the Texas Folklore Society. At its 100th annual meeting in Nacogdoches last month, there were several of these little-known stories.

Black Diamond, whose sad demise was the subject for Henry Wolff Jr. of Victoria, was a rogue elephant that was “executed” on Oct. 16, 1929, a few days after he had killed a woman.

Born in India in 1898, Black Diamond had come to Texas with the Barnes Circus, which had been bought by John Ringling.

BLACK DIAMOND and other elephants were parading through the Corsicana circus grounds when he attacked a Kerens woman, apparently thinking she had taken his beloved handler away from him.

A Dallas Morning News story said that the elephant had trampled on the woman, but a close bystander denied that. The 6-ton monster animal had previously killed two circus workers.

It was at Kenedy in Karnes County that Black Diamond was marched to the edge of town and shot by several gunmen, who took 105 shots to bring him down. The head was removed for mounting and was kept at a funeral home in Kenedy for years. It has since been preserved by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which has loaned it to the Watkins Construction Co. museum in Corsicana. One of the elephant’s feet was made into a footstool.

NEWS TO ME, though perhaps well known to this area’s many fishermen and women, was the fact that in the 1950s the State of Texas prohibited the sale of fish caught from rivers. Before that, especially in the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was a thriving trade in catfish, buffalo and other bottom feeders found in rivers such as the Red and the Sabine.

Wildwood Dean Rice of Bonham, wearing overalls, told of his role in this enterprise. He has traveled the Red River, recording its folklore. Many of the river denizens today are descended from river people, the Missouri and Red having been highways into the interior.

Fishing the Red was dependable in the face of Depression starvation, Wildwood Dean said, but it was no way to get rich, and lasted only a few years. These market fishermen were different from commercial fishermen, he explained. They made their own rules and created their own markets, which sometimes included bartering to doctors and others.

By the 1880s, salmon runs in the Northwest and Scandinavia were declining, and the nets and boats used to catch salmon were becoming surplus. It was a displaced salmon fisherman who taught Dean’s dad how to net river fish. Hunting, fishing and gathering wild foods were a good way to supplement the family income, Dean recalled, but the Depression made it more urgent.

Catch and seine nets used in salmon fishing were of little use east of the Rockies, so fishermen on the Red developed a net that was a forerunner of the barrel, or hoop, net. Wildwood Dean displayed a tool he made of bois d’arc wood to make hoop nets.

These river fishermen used a Joe boat, made of pine boards, and a marvelous design, according to Dean. By the 1950s, when the new rules took effect, channel and flathead catfish had nearly disappeared from the Red River, he said.

Not coincidentally, this was the decade when catfish farming began in East Texas. A fish farm in northeast Upshur County was started but never really got off the ground. Evidently there were not enough Texas fish farms to create the kind of industry that thrives today in Mississippi.

THE POSSUM, a creature that roamed with dinosaurs, preceded humans by millions of years and will no doubt still be around when we have faded out. They’re so prolific that huge numbers can wander fatally onto highways at night without making an impact on the species overall.

It’s not surprising that they crop up often in folklore. Melvin Mason and Woody C. Swinburne told the Texas Folklore Society audience how Possum Walk Road near Huntsville came to acquire that name in 1887.

It seems that W. L. Holloway, a land owner, donated three acres for religious purposes; a combination church and school house was built and named Union Hill.

One Sunday morning as church services were under way, a possum entered from the front, walked down the center aisle and left by the back door. No doubt the stunned congregation felt such an event should be commemorated, and that was how the Walker County road from Union Hill to Huntsville got a new name. Union Hill Church still stands but is now used only for funerals.

Trinity County also has a Possum Walk Road and cemetery, which memorializes the time a family doctor ran into a possum while making a house call.

Possums are really popular in geography, especially in the South, the speakers said.

21 days ago | 98 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Unfortunate fall on The Gilmer Mirror parking lot on April 11 has kept me bedridden at home, hospitalized at ETMC Gilmer, and, at this writing, in the Clairmont at Longview.

My rehabilitation, from a fractured sacrum, is expected to be slow, but between overdosing on TV, reading newspapers and magazines, and calling “near and far” on my cell phone, I don’t feel out of touch.

Browsing the May-June issue of the AAA members magazine, Texas Journey, I turned to page 52 and was greeted by a familiar face — Jo Ann Andera, director of the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio (as Mirror readers know, a Yamboree delegation has taken part in each festival since the first one in 1972).

She’s pictured in living color at a table laden with ethnic foods sold by festival participants. No yam pie? Not in the picture, but not left out either.

In the interview story, Jo Ann is asked about her favorite festival food. Her reply: “If you like to eat, this is the place to be. Some popular dishes are the Wendish noodles, yam pie and Lebanese shish kebab, I couldn’t choose a favorite.”

Jo Ann started working for the Folklife Festival sponsor, the Institute of Texan Cultures, in 1970. Lebanese herself, she started out performing in a dance group. As director, she has a different perspective on how much work it takes to put on the annual show.

She explains: “You hear the phrase Folklife Festival, and you assume we’re talking about a small-town community event. But our festival is done on a huge scale. We have 10 stages spaced around 20 acres. Performers in authentic regalia represent more than 40 cultures.”

Because the Upshur County group is one of the few that has taken part in every Folklife Festival, it ranks high with the director. Jo Ann came to the Yamboree in the 1990s and marched in the Queen’s Parade with Possumologist “Dr.” Richard Potter and International Possum Queen “Miss Daisy” Potter.

The other founding father of Possumology “Professor” Jack F. (Spot) Baird had sadly passed from the scene by then. Potter, too, has since gone on.

But this June 12-14 the Yamboree delegation will hold forth once more at its familiar spot on the Back 40 of the Institute grounds.

I’ll be there in spirit.

9 days ago | 114 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote

The Droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote, . . .

So priketh hem nature in hir corage:

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages -

IN THE PROLOGUE to Chaucer’s Tales of Canterbury, the 14th century poet struck a chord that has echoed down the ages: the earth’s springtime renewal gives humans the urge to travel.

Chaucer was speaking of the English, of course. But it was that same urge that brought 225 of the folk to Nacogdoches last weekend to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Texas Folklore Society.

Like Chaucer’s group of 30 who told tales while wending their way to Canterbury, the pilgrims who came to Nacogdoches represented all layers of society. Their ages ranged from 2 to around 90, and their homes were widely dispersed. Some may have told tales on the way — Lee Haille indicated that his family did — but most came to listen to those who were on the program.

A HIGHLIGHT was the 100th anniversary reminiscence of Dr. Francis E. (Ab) Abernethy, who has stepped down as secretary-editor of the Society after a run of more than 30 years.

When Ab joined the society 50 years ago, folklore was just coming in as an academic discipline, he recalled. As a new Ph.D. whose field was Renaissance drama, he was taken aback when the head of the English department at Stephen F. Austin State asked him to teach a folklore class.

BY 1965, he was serving as president of the Texas Folklore Society and his course was set. The meeting that year was held at the Driskill Hotel in Austin and Janis Joplin was on the program. Ab said he was “scared to death” of how radical her ’60s singing might seem to the gathered folk, but she came across as more folk-tunish than shocking. Janis signed up for Ab’s folklore class, but never showed up, he said.

Because of a few interruptions, the 100th anniversary was celebrated at the 93rd of the annual meetings. The Thursday and Friday night hootenannies have been an important feature for decades. Ab recalled the 1960 gathering at San Antonio’s Menger Hotel, when the “hoot” was held at Casa Rio on the San Antonio River.

IT WAS THERE he first met the late Hermes Nye of Dallas, whom he described as a fashionably dressed, would-be hippie lawyer who had his own radio show and was a great interlocutor. That night, Hermes would sing two songs and then pass his guitar to Ab for his two songs. Long since equipped with his own guitar, Ab said he felt a sense of belonging that night that he’s never gotten over. And since then, the only annual meeting he has missed was the 2008 meeting at Lubbock.

The personalities he met through the Folklore Society, including the iconic early leader J. Frank Dobie as well as Mody Boatright, Martha Emmons, Wilson Hudson, Martin Shockley, John Lomax Jr. and others were the greatest part of his education, Ab said.

THE SOCIETY has “made you and me rich with a side of life we would not have known otherwise,” he commented, adding that he has complete faith that the members will carry on into the next century. He said he believes the society is a success because members have loved and preserved folklore wihout involvng it in academic pressures. Indeed, he observed, folklore is declining in the academy. But never mind.

“We are a solid bunch of folks,” Ab summed up. “We come together as loving kinfolks, loving the old songs and stories and learning new ones — always growing.”

The Old English quote that led off here is an homage to my Gilmer High School teacher of English and Latin, the late Eunice Hart.

AT A TIME during World War II when nearly all the men teachers went into the armed forces and qualified replacements were hard to find, she was special.

For those who were interested in learning about Chaucer, she taught an informal non-credit course before school started each day.

At one time I had almost 50 lines of the Canterbury Tales prologue memorized. Each spring I think of them when I, too, long to go on a pilgrimage.

And they made my own visit to Canterbury Cathedral a few years ago more memorable.

15 days ago | 136 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AFGHANISTAN is a problem the world has never solved.

President Barack Obama, without doubt a student of history, acknowledged as much when he made getting aid for dealing with that nation a top goal of his trip to Europe last week.

The president told a town meeting in Strasbourg, France: “We have no interest in occupying Afghanistan. This is a joint problem requiring a joint effort.”

He left saying he was pleased with pledges to send troops there from Britain and the NATO countries.

Geography has sealed Afghanistan’s fate for two millennia. Bordered today by Iran, Pakistan, Turkministan and several other countries of the former Soviet Union, it has been fought over by many groups, but did not become a single country until 1747, when Ahmed Shah Durrani founded a monarchy that ruled Afghanistan until 1973.

IN THE 19TH and 20th centuries Afghanistan was situated between the expanding Russian and British empires.

Great Britain was pulled into fighting with Afghan tribes three times during its imperial days when nearby India was its colony. In wars carried on in 1838-41, 1878-79 and 1919, thousands of British soldiers were sacrificed to the fighting skills of the fierce tribal Afghans.

Rudyard Kipling, the British writer who was not born until 1865 but in his work reflected famously on the empire’s triumphs and defeats, was best known as a poet for his Gunga Din. (“You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din,” said a British soldier in India about a native water-bearer who saved his life.)

For his use of dialect and other reasons, Kipling is not politically correct or highly regarded these days. But still relevant is his poem, The Young British Soldier. Its 13th and final verse has this macabre conclusion:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,

And the women come out to cut up what remains,

Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

MUCH MORE recently, in the 1980s, Lufkin’s congressman Charlie Wilson conspired with a rogue CIA operative, Gust Avrakotos, to launch a covert operation that is credited with helping to hasten the downfall of the Soviet Union.

With Charlie Wilson’s influence on the House Appropriations Committee, the mujahideen “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan received millions of dollars worth of munitions and armaments that led the Red Army to reluctantly withdraw in 1989.

George Crile, veteran producer of TV’s 60 Minutes, told the story in a best-selling book, Charlie Wilson’s War. (It was made into a movie by that title starring Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson.)

HAVING SPENT ALL of the 1980s trying to conquer Afghanistan. the Soviet forces withdrew in 1989 with 28,000 of their soldiers dead. The CIA viewed its part in the war as a noble cause, Crile wrote, and considered it the agency’s greatest victory. But the unintended consequence was that in a secret war, the funders got no credit.

In Crile’s analysis, the mujahideen and their Muslim admirers around the world never viewed U.S. support as a decisive factor in their victory.

“As they saw it, that honor went to Allah, the only superpower they acknowledge,” Crile wrote.

SO THE JIHAD continues today, when we face native Afghans harboring the Al Qaeda terrorists who have been considered such a serious threat since Sept. 11, 2001.

Crile’s book was published in 2003, and it was then that Charlie Wilson, who had become a Washington D. C. lobbyist, came to Nacogdoches to give a lecture for the East Texas Historical Association. I bought a copy of the book from Mr. Wilson and had him autograph it. A gripping read it is.

But by then the victory was far from the clear triumph it had appeared to be just a few years earlier.

ON TV NEWS Monday was a live transmission of the return of Staff Sgt. Phillip A. Myers’ body to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. According to CNN, it was a solemn moment that had been repeated more than 5,000 times at the base since the war in Afghanistan started in late 2001.

But it was the first time the media was allowed to cover the return. Sgt. Myers was killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on Saturday. Through a recent change in policy, coverage was allowed with the family’s permission.

When I attended journalism school at the University of Texas in Austin not long after World War II ended, we had a textbook that warned future editors not to be guilty of “Afghanistanism.” This was a code word for filling up a newspaper with wire service dispatches from faraway lands instead of doing the more difficult work of covering local news.

It was beyond my imagination to think that six decades later, Afghanistan would have become a local story.

23 days ago | 169 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JEFFERSON GOT a double dose of attention in the March 28 edition of The Mirror, with Fred Tarpley writing about the town’s colorful past in the All Things Historical column on Page 4 and Bob Bowman recounting the story of the Jefferson Carnegie Library on Page 5.

I was familiar with the fact that the Carnegie building near downtown Jefferson is still used as both a library and community center, for when the Texas Folklore Society met there in 1986 the 2-story building provided the necessary meeting spaces.

But there’s much more to the Texas Carnegie Library story, and it tells a lot about what a different place the state has become in the last century.

In 1896, a $5,000 grant gave Pittsburg the first Texas library financed by the steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie’s foundation.

LIKE THE OTHER 31 towns and cities favored by Carnegie, Pittsburg had a new source of civic pride in its library (all the buildings were good-looking and well-built; most had two stories and a basement.)

Between 1898 and 1917, Carnegie gave $645,000 to the five biggest cities and to towns as small as Pecos and Stamford. In our area the favored communities were Clarksville, Winnsboro, Marshall, Tyler and Sulphur Springs.

Women’s clubs often applied for the grants in the smaller places. As has been well documented in The Mirror, it was the 20th Century Club that got what is now the Upshur County Library started in the county superintendent’s office in the courthouse; in the 1930s it was moved to the tiny building that still stands on the north end of Roosevelt Park.

SO WHY DIDN’T Gilmer get a Carnegie Library? According to my mother, the late Georgia Laschinger, who was one of the club women just mentioned, it was because the contract required the town to agree to support the library budget, and Gilmer was way too poor to commit.

It took the great East Texas oil boom of the 1930s to rescue Gilmer from a downhill slide. According to the Texas Almanac, Gilmer’s population dropped from 2,268 in 1920 to 1,963 in 1930, while Pittsburg grew slightly in that decade to 2,640 in 1930.

Upshur County family farmers, many of them sharecroppers, were mostly self-sufficient in raising their food, but cash income depended almost entirely on the cotton crop. And that was in the lap of the weather gods.

Pittsburg was a much more important trading and shipping point throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

THE WPA TEXAS Guide, published as a part of the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project of the 1930s, divided the state into convenient tours. Gilmer and Pittsburg were on a tour that started at the Oklahoma line near Paris on U.S. 271 and ended 137 miles later at Tyler.

Pittsburg is described as a town that “spreads out in neighborly fashion, the newer homes and buildings blending with those of more ancient vintage. Few people hurry in Pittsburg. Its most outstanding feature is an odd elbow effect of the main street. According to local tradition, when the town’s one street was being laid out, a huge, beautiful tree blocked the way, and rather than cut it down the citizens chose to walk and drive around it.”

GILMER, THE Guide says, at the end of the 1930s was “a rapidly growing oil and farming center, built around a smart cream-coloured courthouse that is surrounded by drab weathered brick buildings.”

They might have been drab, but they attracted all-day Saturday crowds that stayed into the night, a dramatic contrast to downtown Gilmer today on most Saturdays.

A picture made by Russell Lee in an unidentified town that could have been Gilmer identifies a “farm couple in town on Saturday afternoon.” The husband is wearing a fedora and a handlebar mustache, and the wife’s obviously homemade long cotton dress is complemented by a white sun bonnet.

Lee was one of several Farm Security Administration photographers, later to become famous, who toured middle America documenting the plight of farmers through the Great Depression and droughts of the 1930s.

THE WRITER noted that “Gilmer’s annual celebration is the Yamboree, a gay festival during the early part of October, in celebration of the harvesting and curing of yams.”

A footnote described Kelsey, on a graveled road eight miles west, as “a colony established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1902. Kelsey Academy, a school conducted by the church, with 150 students, places emphasis on poultry and stock raising and dairying.”

The Guide made Gilmer sound more modern than Mount Pleasant, where in such areas far from cities, “rural sports and recreations reflect the daily tenor of the lives of the people.”

Among several examples are fox hunting and community ‘possum hunts. At the conclusion of such hunts, it was said, “it is the custom for those in attendance to concoct huge ‘pot stews’ — a type of ‘mulligan’ made with chicken and vegetables, cooked in wash boilers over open fires.”

MY EDITION OF the WPA Guide is a 1986 reprint by Texas Monthly Press with a new introduction by Don Graham, UT Austin professor of English. He meditates eloquently on what a different state Texas was in 1940.

“Sixty percent of the population lived in rural areas . . . many babies were still born at home; and country doctors still made house calls. It all sounds a bit like a Merle Haggard song about the good old days. Texas in 1940 was a bigger place than it is now. It took a lot longer to get somewhere.”

INDEED, the speed limit was 45 mph, and the narrow 2-lane roads were scarce by today’s standards. The 1940 Texas Almanac map of Upshur County shows only three paved highways: U.S.271 north to south, Hwy. 154 from Gilmer to the eastern county line, and U.S.80 from west of Big Sandy to Gladewater.

The Almanac echoed the WPA Guide in noting that discovery of oil had greatly increased the population and wealth of the county.

What neither book said was that the wealth flowed from wells in the south end of the county to landowners there, and into Gilmer from the oil boom in general. But many of the farmers were still as hard up as the couple pictured in Russell Lee’s striking photograph.

2 days 5 hrs ago | 69 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LIKE MANY OTHER UT-Austin ex-students, I recently received an e-mail from the Texas Exes organization asking:

“Would you please write or call your state representative and senator TODAY and express your support for amending the Top 10 percent law? SB 175 by Senator Florence Shapiro and HB 52 by Representative Dan Branch are specific bills we urge you to support, which call for a cap of the top 10 percent admits of the freshman class.”

I haven’t contacted my legislators; put me in the “undecided” camp in what seems to be a rural-urban conflict.

As you may have heard, UT-Austin for the last three legislative sessions has tried to amend the law that requires it to admit any freshman who graduated in the top 10 percent of his public school class. Shapiro’s bill would limit these automatic admissions to 50 percent of a university’s freshman class.

THIS YEAR THE UT-Austin Admissions Office has already sent acceptances to 10,500 students in the top 10 percent when the “normal” total for a freshman class is 7,000, according to the e-mail.

“We simply can’t provide a first class educational experience if even 70 percent of them accept the admission offer,” it continued. “It is conceivable that the entire class for fall 2009 could be top 10 percent.

“We will be unable to admit many students with extraordinary skills in music and art, or out-of-state students, or students from smaller rural or private schools, or international students. We are also running out of room to recruit minority students with exceptional leadership qualities who may not be in the top ten percent of their class. . . The diversity of the student body and the recruitment of future leaders depend on all these factors.”

THE MENTION of “smaller rural” schools surprised me, because the record indicates that rural legislators have opposed the change because they think kids from small town and country schools would have a harder time getting into either of the two Tier One public universities (UT-Austin and Texas A&M) without the rule. (Rice is the only other Tier One university in this state.)

I am almost persuaded by the Texas Exes position. And a Dallas Morning News editorial Sunday encouraged a new kind of thinking on the dilemma. California has nine Tier One public universities, defined as being major research institutions; having three is hardly a point of Texas pride.

THE EDITORIAL argues that if Texas had more leading research universities there would be less pressure on UT-Austin or A&M to fill up their classes with only the top public school scholars. Backers of UT-Dallas, Texas Tech, UT-Arlington, University of North Texas, the University of Houston and perhaps other UT branches go for this idea.

The News’ editorial concludes that it’s the long-term answer, which both sides should pursue. In the short term, though, states from the Atlantic to the Pacific are strapped for cash, and more likely to cut back university funding than to inject new money.


NEWS LAST WEEK that the actress Natasha Richardson had died at 45 of the head injury she suffered in a skiing accident brought back memories of her New York performance in the musical Cabaret. I was fortunate to see the production in 1998 at the Roundabout Theater off Broadway.

The original, produced on Broadway in 1966, had been made into a movie starring Liza Minelli and Joel Gray in 1972. Though I had seen the movie, I had read that the new stage production was, in effect, a new show, darker than the original. It proved to be memorable indeed.

All three versions were set in the pre-Hitler Germany of 1930, with many emanations, musical and in the libretto, that bad, bad changes were on the horizon.

A REVIEW in the All Music Guide said that the 1998 Cabaret dug deeper and cut harder than the earlier versions, and was even seedier than the original and movie versions in depicting the German nightlife of the time.

Ms. Richardson played the role of Sally Bowles, an English girl whose mother thought she was at a convent in the south of France. Instead, she was a chanteuse in the Kit Kat Klub, where the emcee, played by the astonishing actor Alan Cumming, welcomed guests in three languages and sounded menacing in all of them.

Ms. Richardson won a Tony award for her role in Cabaret, and, according to the Associated Press report of her death, remained true to her classical training in the theater even though she had an active film career. Part of an acting dynasty, she was the daughter of the actress Vanessa Redgrave and the granddaughter of the distinguished British actor, Sir Michael Redgrave.

ANOTHER STORY, this one in the Los Angeles Times, brought back a much earlier musical memory. It described rehearsals for the play, Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara, which opened last week in Los Angeles and will run through April 26.

The co-writers and actors, Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith, portray Louis Prima and Keely Smith as they became one of the hottest nightclub acts in the country in the mid-1950s.

It was in 1953 that Ray Greene and I were vacationing in New Orleans and, as tourists are wont to do, were wandering down Bourbon Street in search of entertainment. We decided to try a club where Prima, his band and vocalist/wife Keely were the attraction.

PRIMA, multi-talented New Orleans native who I recall singing Just a Gigolo along with playing the trumpet and leading his band, was a zany clown in contrast to the cool vocalist Keely. I thought the show well worth the rather low price, and learned only later that Prima had met Keely five years earlier when she was only 16. In fairly short order she became his fourth, but not last, wife.

The LA Times story said Louis and Keely were a Sonny & Cher act years before Sonny met Cher.

Louis Prima died in 1978 at age 68. Keely Smith just turned 77 and still does an annual Valentine Day’s show in Palm Desert, Calif.

Ms. Smith, the co-author/actor, grew up in Louisiana and knew all about Louis Prima from an early age. On her resume is a stint in Romeo and Juliet at the Texas Shakespeare Theater in Kilgore. That fine institution, incidentally, has just released its 2009 schedule, which includes Romeo and Juliet again.

9 days ago | 108 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN THE distinguished singer Barbara Smith Conrad performed with a Community Chorus at the Gilmer Civic Center on June 10, 2005, documentary film makers were on hand to record an important phase of the diva’s career.

Having retired from opera roles with companies including the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, the Vienna State Opera, the Houston Grand Opera and others, the Camp County native has a new cause: the preservation of American spirituals.

She sang spirituals with the Community Chorus, and on her 2007 visit held two master classes on the subject, examining the history and impact of the spiritual on American culture.

THE CENTER for American History at The University of Texas in Austin has established the Endowment for the Study of American Spirituals. Ms. Conrad serves as artistic adviser and ambassador for the initiative.

The Center is producing a documentary, When I Rise, the Story of Barbara Smith Conrad, which will reflect her many accomplishments (as noted in this space, last month she was honored by the Texas Legislature for being a UT Distinguished Alumna and civil rights pioneer as well as an internationally-renowned mezzo-soprano.)

I ENJOY listening to Ms. Conrad’s CD of spirituals, which includes such classics as Certainly, Lord, Steal Away to Jesus, Deep River, and My Lord, What a Morning. She is accompanied by the Convent Avenue Concert Choir of New York City.

Ms. Conrad is far from alone in her crusade to conserve the American art form known as Negro spirituals.

On XM Radio’s PRI channel last week I heard Bob Edwards interview Everett McCorvey, professor of music at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, who in 1995 founded the American Spiritual Ensemble to keep the spiritual alive.

Its performers, all soloists in their own right, have sung in theaters and opera houses around the world. They also include jazz and Broadway numbers that highlight the black experience.

McCORVEY explained how spirituals grew out of slavery, and some, such as Follow the Drinking Gourd, contained hidden signals to help slaves escape from Alabama north on the underground railroad.

The “drinking gourd” is a code name for the Big Dipper constellation, which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and north.

The song lends its name to the title of the 1928 publication of the Texas Folklore Society, Foller de Drinkin’ Gou’d, which was edited by J. Frank Dobie. The book gives H.B. Parks credit for “collecting” the folk song in three different parts of the South, including Texas. At that time folklorists were arguing about whether the song had any basis in reality, but McCorvey thinks there is proof that it was an actual road map.

I HAVE LONG been a fan of another group that is keeping spirituals alive in a powerful way, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was founded in 1995 by Alvin Ailey (1931-1989), Texas native born in Rogers and raised in Navasota. He became a dancer after moving to California as a high school student.

Revelations is the title of Ailey’s dance suite that the company performs to such spirituals as I Been ‘’Buked, Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel? Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham, Wade in the Water and several others.

The company is based in New York City and today is directed by Judith Jamison, who is interviewed on one of the CDs in my set of Alvin Ailey music. She eloquently summarizes its appeal.

She says that Revelations “speaks directly to the human experience” and is embedded in the black church, which has a rich tradition of color pageantry. The dancers portray “the shuddering of the Holy Ghost going through the body.”

Ms. Jamison calls the black church “the single most important community enterprise.” Regardless of what happens on Saturday night — Sinner Man is one of the Revelations pieces — Sunday morning is a time of redemption and praise, she asserts.

THESE IMAGES of faith, humor, passion and love are familiar to older generations, but must be preserved for those coming on, she said.

I have traveled many miles to see the Alvin Ailey dancers perform when touring in Texas, and once happened to be in Washington D. C. when I got to see them at a downtown theater.

Whatever else they program from today’s dance repertoire, Revelations is a must, and draws the biggest audience reaction.

As Ms. Jamison commented: “Mr. Ailey knew that this would be a testament to everyone — based in the church, but universal.”

That audiences are moved and touched is a tribute to Ailey’s faith, and to “his belief that dance should be something that touched your spirit,” she said.

She didn’t say, but certainly could have: it’s not just a black thing.

16 days ago | 141 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ACROSS THE nation, library usage is up.

From Seattle to Boston and many points in between, newspapers and blogs available on the Internet suggest that in hard economic times, many folks are swapping their credit cards for library cards.

According to, owned by Clarity Media Group, library systems nationwide report an increase in patrons getting library cards, in program attendance, and in circulation.

“It also doesn’t hurt that Americans are actually reading more fiction these days,” the Seattle book examiner wrote, adding, “According to a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts, in the last six years the number of people who reported reading something online or in print had increased by 16.6 million people (roughly three percent of the population) . . .

A LIBRARIAN in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was quoted as saying that increasing usage of public libraries, due to the down economy, was only half good news.

He said the bad half is that funding is dwindling with state budget cuts, and libraries are being forced to serve more people with fewer resources.

This is a way of backing in to a testimonial for the Upshur County Library, not the first from this corner, by any means.

Like most libraries in the 21st century, the library on Tyler St. offers much more than books, though books are still vital. The library is much used as a computer center for patrons wanting to use the Internet, and there are videotapes, CDs and DVDs to check out. The magazine and newspaper selection is excellent.

THE CHILDREN’S area is large and attractive, a suitable home for regular programs designed specially for the little ones.

In this Lenten season the display cases are filled with Jan Williams’ amazing collection of dolls and figurines that reflect this special spring time in a most appealing away.

A group of dedicated Friends of the Library, ably led by Carole Rodenbaugh, is always seeking new ways to raise extra funds for this worthy cause.

A plant sale is scheduled on the library grounds for March 18-21.

Check it out. A book, if that’s your choice, or any of the library’s other offerings.

ON THE SUBJECT of volunteer efforts that mean so much to our community, I’d like to mention the Upshur County Arts Council presentation of the German Band of North Texas on April 4.

I had the pleasure of meeting the band’s director, Edward Lobb, last week when Joe Woodson brought him by the Mirror office to talk about the performance.

As described in a story elsewhere in this issue, The German Band may not be unique in Texas, but it’s certainly unusual.

Far more than an “oompah” band, this 45-strong aggregation plays authentic German and Austrian music ranging from The Beer Barrel Polka to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (a Little Night Music) to Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin.

THIS CONCERT band uses original German instruments and emphasizes the mid-range and low-range brass.

It will provide a great opportunity for high school band members to experience a variety of unusual arrangements played by professional musicians.

Now in its 18th season, the Upshur County Arts Council has lived up to its goal of “bringing the arts home” with a wide variety of performances, both classical and popular.

There have been bands before — Denton’s One O’Clock Lab Band, Quantum Brass from Wisconsin, the Lone Star Band from the Dallas Wind Symphony, among other — and many programs ranging from the Light Crust Doughboys and Johnny Gimble in the Western Swing mode to the Fort Worth Chamber Orchestra and the Lone star Ballet.

The recent performance by the Hughes Brothers from Branson drew one of the larger audiences. The German Band of North Texas is equally worthy of a big turnout. The price of $15 for adults and $5 for students is more than competitive; it’s a true bargain compared to what you would pay for comparable entertainment in Longview, Tyler or other larger cities.


A PIECE OF hardwood flooring labeled “made in Gilmer, Texas USA” on the back was brought to the Mirror office recently by Joe Ballowe, who found it as part of a floor that needed replacing in a house he was working on. Joe had not heard of the Gilmer Flooring Mill, which produced it, and no wonder.

The mill operated for a few years after World War II on a site fronting Smith St. on the west side of the railroad tracks in North Gilmer.

The late B. D. Futrell managed the plant, which was owned by several local investors. It turned out high quality oak flooring that was economical enough to use in new houses down to the lower price ranges.

IN THE EARLY 1950s my family and I were the first occupants of a new rent house that had Gilmer flooring mill floors except the kitchen and bathroom. They were fine looking, and I used only area rugs to leave much of it showing. When we moved out and a new owner covered the entire living and dining areas with wall-to-wall carpeting I considered it a mistake. And I still do.

The flooring mill burned to the ground sometime in the 1950s and was never rebuilt. The site is a pasture today, and shows no traces of the factory that once operated there. Until I have time to research the Mirror microfilm files I won’t be able to say exactly when this happened.

3 days ago | 28 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Makes me proud to be from Texas, where Bob Wills is still the king.”

—From song written by Waylon Jennings

I SHARED that sentiment with the hundreds who filled the Eisemann Center in Richardson Saturday night to enjoy the musical play, A Ride with Bob, written and starred in by Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson.

I’ve attended many a performance over many a year, but this audience topped any I’ve ever experienced in sheer enthusiasm. The story of Western Swing icon Bob Wills and his music simply rings a lot of bells.

Hill Hall at the Eisemann Center must seat well over 1,000, but A Ride with Bob was sold out before I noticed the Dallas area date. My sister Mary Kirby and I got in with a couple of widely-separated unsold single seats.

AT THE END of a nearly 3-hour show, Benson explained that he and Anne Rapp wrote the play four years ago as a tribute to Bob Wills on the 100th anniversary of his birth, thinking it would be a one-time thing. But the response was so great that it just won’t let him go. In the words of one Benson song, The Wheel Keeps On Rollin’.

The plot was inspired by an actual incident in the rich musical life of Benson, who was Texas State Musician in 2004 and is a close associate of Willie Nelson and others on the Austin music scene.

In 1973 Benson had a date with Bob Wills to discuss his role in creating Western Swing, a musical genre that combines country, rock and roll, jazz, big band and other sounds that give it a lasting appeal. On that very day Wills had a severe stroke and never recovered consciousness before his death in 1975.

IN THE PLAY, Benson, playing himself, imagines how the conversation might have gone.

In a bus mock-up at the side of the stage Wills’ ghost, played by actor Marco Perella, has returned from heaven to tell his story as the bus travels to Tulsa. One of the first among many great musical numbers is, quite logically, Take Me Back to Tulsa.

A cast of 25, some playing multiple roles, acts out Wills’ progression on a set backed by a collage of old gasoline signs representing the highways of yesteryear.

Wills goes from West Texas cotton fields and ranch dances to a medicine show and barber shop on the way to his final departure from Turkey, Texas. As the scenes changed so did the dancing couples, from square dance to jitterbugging.

WILLS LED THE original Light Crust Doughboys, but fell out with W. Lee (Pappy) O’Daniels in Pappy’s flour-salesman, pre-governor days. The band moved on as the Texas Playboys, broadcasting over radio stations in Waco and Tulsa as well as making it big on records and in dance halls.

Though tunes like Cherokee Maiden, Roly Poly, Miss Molly and Milk Cow Blues were well received, it was Faded Love and New San Antonio Rose which, as they say, just about brought the house down.

Jason Roberts, a member of Benson’s Asleep at the Wheel band, did a superb job of both fiddling and acting in his role as the young Bob Wills.

The second act featured a hilarious scene of the Texas Playboys working on a movie in Hollywood, Wills’ own “faded loves” and his encounter with the Grand Ole Opry. When the bus reached Tulsa the play ended with what seemed a full evening’s entertainment.

BUT IT WASN’T over yet.

“Are you ready for some music?” Benson asked.

No question about it. A more-than-ready audience was treated to nearly an hour of Asleep at the Wheel playing numbers like Miles and Miles of Texas, Route 66 and a medley sung by special guest Leon Rausch, onetime vocalist for the Texas Playboys.

Having been impressed with two young teenage girls who won awards in the 2008 Yamboree fiddlers’ contest, I was interested to hear from Ruby Jane Smith, 14, billed as “one of the world’s premiere junior fiddlers and a fast-rising star in country and bluegrass-American music.” She played both Bob Wills as a kid fiddler and Mary Louise Parker Wills.

EQUALLY A HIT was the Quebe Sisters Band, featuring triple fiddles and 3-part harmony singing by Grace, Sophia and Hulda.

The cast came together to wish Happy Trails to a reluctant-to-leave crowd.

In the fall of 2005 the play began touring regionally, selling out, getting great reviews and standing ovations. By the summer of 2006 the show broke out of Texas and was entertaining audiences as large as 3,000 plus.

THE TOUR wrapped up at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. with President and Mrs. Bush in attendance. The Washington Post reviewer said it seemed to be someone other than Laura Bush who was heard to cry out “Yeehaw.”

Yankee-born Ray Benson, 6 feet 4 inches tall with a pony tail that has turned grey in his 36 years as a Texan, is an unlikely prospect to channel Bob Wills. Not bad for “a Jew from Philadelphia” (as Benson described himself in closing).

For as we often have heard from composer Waylon and other singers, “It don’t matter who’s in Austin, Bob Wills is still the king.”

A Ride with Bob will play five times this week in Galveston, Thursday through Sunday at the Strand Theater, and it is scheduled for March 13 at the Michael & Susan Dell Hall in Austin.

I hope it goes on and on. I expect I’m not the only fan who would like to see it again.

10 days ago | 58 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN THIS SPACE on Jan. 7 I wrote about the membership drive being held by the East Texas Historical Association, and offered to send an application blank to anyone interested in joiniing. I responded to five requests.

But imagine my surprise, when registering for the spring meeting at the Holiday Inn in Paris last Thursday, to learn that 10 new members had given my name as the person they heard about it from. I was told that I’m leading the new member competition that will be decided at the September meeting in Nacogdoches.

I think this says something about the power of the press, and I am appreciative. I repeat my offer to send anyone interested an application blank.

Three of these new members, Judy Penick Chance and her husband Paul of Tyler and Bill Starnes of Gilmer, made it to the Paris meeting. They and others attending had a rich feast of historical information to choose from.

ARCHIE McDONALD, retired executive director fo the association, sometime columnist on these pages and newly working as a liaison person at Stephen F. Austin State University, gave a delightful program of World War II songs. He accompanied himself on the guitar, and linked the songs with a narrative of why each song was appropriate for its particular year — from Remember Pearl Harbor to the hopeful ballad, The White Cliffs of Dover.

I enjoyed hearing Dr. Jerry Lincecum of Austin College read a paper on Ruby Allmond, a champion woman fiddler who went on to distinction as a song writer recorded by well-known Nashville artists, including Chet Atkins.

RUBY GREW UP on a cotton farm during the Depression and started performing at age four. In the late 1940s she had a fiddle band and one of her fans was the late speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn of Bonham. The band often entertained for “Mister Sam” when he was campaigning.

Ruby’s best friend, Audra M. Brock, was in the audience, and had available the book and CDs that record Ruby’s prolific output. The 41 songs in the book, titled Today I’ll Think About the Rain, are divided into three parts: Sounds of Texas, A Little About Life and A Lot About Love.

My favorite is Texas Red, a paean to chili in our state. A note appended to the lyrics says that when the state Legislature in 1977 made chili the Texas state dish, Ruby’s song was played.

THE MOST UNUSUAL feature of the recent meeting was that it was held, for the first time, in two different towns. Early Friday afternoon the attendees made the 30-mile trip to Clarksville, where they were met at the town square by horse-drawn carriages and wagons that took us on a tour of Clarksville’s many historic sites.

I hadn’t been to Clarksville in years, and the main thing I knew about its recent history was that Wal-Mart had closed its store there, the first to open in Texas. (Mt. Pleasant’s was second and Gilmer’s, third.)

So I was pleasantly surprised to see what the Main Street program has done for the downtown square, which is centered by a tall Confederate monument and is three blocks southeast of the handsomely-restored 1885-vintage courthouse with its tall tower.

AN INFUSION of $400,000 from the local Lennox Foundation helped dig up the solid concrete of the square and replace it with grass and plantings. And many of the old stores have been restored in a picturesque style.

We learned about the Lennox family and its foundation in a talk by Jack Herrington, Clarksville lawyer who has been involved with the foundation. The family owned a large amount of rural Red River County land that produced oil and gas, and had other farming, ranching and banking interests. The last surviving member of the family was Martha Lennox, who was murdered in 1993 at age 85.

TWO MEN were convicted ot the murder, carried out as part of a robbery that netted only $13. One of them, Willie Earl Poindexter Jr., is scheduled to be executed on March 3 and the second one, James Henderson, is on the Texas death row.

A late afternoon program and banquet were held at the Clarksville First Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1905 and boasts a history dating back to 1833, which makes it the oldest Protestant congregation in Texas.

After the banquet we adjourned to the Lennox House, the 2-story, 112-year-old Victorian frame family home located just west of downtown. It has been restored and refurnished as a $500,000 project of the Lennox Foundation.

CLARKSVILLE on the east has in common with Archer City in West Texas the distinction of being the native town of an author recognized around the world for literary merit.

Archer City, of course, is the home town of Larry McMurtry, who has always looked west in his (usually futile) attempts to destroy myths of the Old West.

And William Humphrey (1924-1927) spent his first 13 years in Clarksville. He has been compared with William Faulkner as a chronicler of the Old South, Texas version.Though he never returned except for brief visits, the town and surrounding countryside became the fictionalized scene of much of his work.

The town square where we gathered for our tour was the setting for chapter one of Humphrey’s novel, Home from the Hill. It began with men standing around, commenting on the hearse that was bringing Hannah Hunnicutt home for burial from the mental hospital where she had spent 15 years. The novel, her family’s story, was told backwards from there.

A MOVIE WAS made from the novel in 1960, with Robert Mitchum in the role of Wade Hunnicutt, mighty hunter of both wildlife and women; Eleanor Parker as his wife Hannah and George Hamilton as their son Theron.

In conversation with one of our local hosts I learned that he had been one of the child extras who was hired for the movie, which was mostly filmed in and around Clarksville. He said they were paid more than $3 an hour at a time when the minimum wage was 75 cents. One of his jobs was to climb a tree and hold the rain-making machine over George Hamilton in a Sulphur River bottoms hunting scene.

The tall spire of the handsome Red River County courthouse, the building recently restored at a cost of more than $3 milllion turns up in one of my favorite Humphrey short stories, The Human Fly, which appears in his book, A Time and a Place.

Today, we were told on a tour of the courthouse, it holds only one office, the county judge’s. But the second floor houses an exceptionally handsome district courtroom.

1 day 6 hrs ago | 6 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN A PERFECT world, or, indeed, in the world today’s oldest generation grew up in, we assumed that the purpose of our state’s criminal justice system was just what the name implies: a means to obtain justice for those accused of crimes.

We thought this meant that criminals would be punished and the innocent would go free.

Maybe we were naive in those days. But whenever the system started to fail, it’s broken now.

Consider the statistics: Between 1994 and the present, DNA evidence proved the innocence of 35 convicted Texas felons, the most of any state. Thirteen of these were from Dallas County, the most of any county in the nation.

The statistics come from the Innocence Project of Texas, part of a national network of nonprofit groups made up of lawyers, students and other volunteers dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and securing freedom for men and women wrongfully imprisoned for serious crimes in Texas.

HOW HAS THE need for the Innocence Project come about? Mainly because of a political culture in which the public appears to be so afraid of crime that district attorneys must go after convictions at all cost — never mind if the evidence against the accused is flimsy.

The Feb. 14 edition of The Mirror carried a story about how District Judge Charlie Baird of Austin rectified one such miscarriage of justice. After a hearing he ruled on Feb. 6 that Timothy Cole, who died in prison in 1999, was not guilty of a 1985 rape a Lubbock jury had convicted him of. Serving a 25-year sentence, Cole died at age 39 from complications of asthma.

It was the first time in Texas that a deceased inmate was cleared of a charge in court and only the second in the nation. The verdict made national news and drew many criticisms of Texas justice.

COLE WAS CONVICTED on the basis of testimony from the victim, who picked him out of both photographic and live lineups. When another convict confessed and DNA established Cole’s innocence, the victim was dismayed, and joined Cole’s family in seeking exoneration from the court that convicted him.

The Lubbock court denied their request, whereupon the family and the Innocence Project turned to Judge Baird’s 299th District Court.

The Lubbock authorities have been accused of manipulating the lineups and withholding evidence that another man (the eventual confessor) had done the rape.

As an eyewitness to one violent crime and the victim of a robbery, I never want to see anyone convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony alone. I know how flawed mine was, and I don’t think I am much different from any other eyewitness and/or victim.

THE INNOCENCE Project contends that one of the reforms needed is in the way police lineups are conducted for eyewitnesses.

In a news report posted on its website, the Innocence Project noted that the “fallout” of the Timothy Cole case is continuing. It said:

“Texas lawmakers this session are seeking to prevent misidentifications in the future. State Senator Rodney Ellis, the Innocence Project Board Chairman, has introduced an identification reform bill in the state senate.” It added that Cole’s family (along with a dozen exonerees) visited with lawmakers to support the legislation. Ellis has also introduced bills to improve compensation for exonerees and to create an innocence commission.

In a story on the case in its February edition, Texas Monthly magazine quoted Judge Baird ‘s closing remarks to Cole’s family, as follows:

“ ‘This went from aggravated sexual assault to robbery, and the judicial system robbed the Cole family of Tim’s love, and I’m sorry for that.’ He concluded that Cole had suffered the ‘greatest miscarriage of the justice system imaginable.’

“ ‘This system was designed by wise men and women to serve justice, and you’ve shown that this system is broken. We are fools if we don’t fix it. It is the duty of prosecutors not to convict but to seek justice, and somewhere out in Lubbock, that duty was lost in the tunnel vision of trying to convict Timothy Cole.’ ”

I DON’T BELIEVE that seeking justice, as Charlie Baird is doing today and did when he previously served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is being soft on crime.

Our Feb. 14 story also told about a parenting class Judge Baird has set up for probationers who, lacking father figures themselves, were demonstrating failures that possibly can be corrected. If so, it can keep them out of prison. If they mess up their probation will be revoked.

Innovations like this are praiseworthy, and should inspire others in the judicial system to put effort into rehabilitation as well as prosecution — not that all perpetrators can be rehabilitated, but everyone who is lifts a burden off of the rest of us.


EXPANDING ON bird-watching notes from this space last week:

The Audobon Society reported last week that many species of migratory birds are no longer traveling as far south to winter as they once did. This provides new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems, according to Audubon scientists.

The report said that analyses of citizen-gathered data from the past 40 years of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count reveal that 58 percent of the 305 widespread species that winter on the continent shifted significantly north since 1966, some by hundreds of miles.

Purple finch, pine siskin, and boreal chickadee have retreated dramatically north into the Canadian forests, their ranges moving an estimated 433, 288, and 279 miles respectively over 40 years, the report said. This answers my question as to why my bird feeders no longer attract purple finches, striking little birds that look like sparrows dipped in raspberry juice.

Population shifts among individual species are common, fluctuate, and can have many causes, Audubon scientists point out, but they say the ongoing trend of movement by some 177 species — closely correlated to long-term winter temperature increases — reveals an undeniable link to the changing climate.

Movements across all species—including those not reflecting the 40-year trend—averaged approximately 35 miles during the period.

8 days ago | 21 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’VE HEARD IT argued that most people like only one kind of music. So those who plan performances, such as the dedicated volunteers who program and present the Upshur County Arts Council events, have to consider what kind of audience they might attract.

The same folks who may turn out for the Tyler Big Band may not be interested in hearing Anton Kuerti, concert pianist, for example. Or the Light Crust Doughboys may not please the same people who make up the audience for the Fort Worth Chamber Orchestra.

Many other such contrasts could be drawn from the dozens of concerts that the Arts Council has brought for more than a decade to the Gilmer Civic Center and, before the Center was opened, to the Trinity Street Gym.

ONE OF THE nationally syndicated newspaper columnists recently wrote on the subject of whether federal money should support classical music through the National Endowment for the Arts. He made the flat statement that no one likes both Merle Haggard (or maybe Waylon Jennings or some other big country name) and a Bruckner Symphony.

The name of the columnist escapes me, but the idea stuck, because I couldn’t disagree more.

I may be in a minority, as often happens, but I enjoy both Waylon, Willie and the boys and symphonies by Bruckner — or Mahler, or Beethoven, Brahms and others. I’ve recently read Joe Lynn Patoski’s excellent biography of Willie Nelson, which both justified my fondness for and added to my knowledge about that great one.

I ALSO ENJOY grand opera, and for more than 15 years have trekked to Tyler for Jim Yancy’s excellent non-credit opera classes, now held at the UT Tyler Cowan Center in a special room with excellent sound and movie/video equipment for the Yancy collection of great opera recordings from around the world.

Each of those years I have enjoyed season tickets for the Dallas Opera with transportation in the chartered buses that the class takes from Tyler.

I saw my first grand opera at age 10 when my mother sent me to Dallas on the train for a friend to take me to the Metropolitan Opera’s production of The Daughter of the Regiment with Lily Pons at the State Fair Music Hall.

MANY ARE the other Metropolitan productions I enjoyed there before the tours, which had begun in 1898, were stopped in 1986 because of financial problems. Dallas Opera is still at the Music Hall, but it will be taking a step up next fall when the new Winspear Opera Center opens in the arts district downtown. I have my seat reserved.

Without a doubt, the music of one’s youth and young adulthood has a lasting effect, as proven by the audiences that show up for ‘50s doo-wop concerts broadcast as public television fund-raisers.

These are apparently made up of the same age cohort that always fills up large halls for Johnny Mathis concerts, which take place about once a month, on average, with symphony orchestras in Dallas, Houston, and elsewhere around the country.

If children are exposed to all kinds of music, they may grow up with an appreciation of the many forms it takes. That’s one of the aims of the Arts Council’s student programs.

Considering the appeal Branson music demonstrably holds for Northeast Texans, there should be a good turnout for the Hughes Brothers Variety Show when it comes here next Tuesday as a post-Valentine’s Day treat.

The adult tickets priced at $15 are a bargain compared to other live performance venues in this area. The show starts at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center.

Hope to see you there.


AS YOU MAY have heard,Texas hosts more migratory birds than almost any state. The state Parks and Wildlife Department in 2002 established the three divisions of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trails and began distributing maps that can guide you to the top birding sites.

Many serious birders from all over the world converge on these areas in the fall and spring when huge bird migrations pass through these areas and provide great chances to add to their “life lists” of birds sighted.

The Upper Coast map covers driving loops from the Louisiana border, through the Houston and Beaumont coastal areas, and down to Brazosport. The Central Coast map starts near Matagorda Bay, goes through the coast around Victoria and Corpus Christi, and ends just south of Kingsville.

The Lower Coast map takes in the southern tip of Texas along the border with Mexico, from South Padre Island through Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen, and west towards Laredo.

I ENVY THOSE who have both the strength and the wherewithal to settle in with their binoculars at these sometimes remote sites, but I must content myself with backyard bird watching. This year it’s been pretty good at my north Gilmer house.

The migratory goldfinches, juncoes and song sparrow flocks are still competing for the seeds in feeders and on my deck. They will soon be gone, no doubt to the relief of the resident cardinals, titmice, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers, the smallest of their breed, that compete with them.

THE OTHER DAY I was watching from my living room when a Eurasian collared dove swooped down like a bomber, scattering all the other birds that were less than half his size.

It wasn’t the first I had ever seen, but the first this season. Like the house sparrow, this dove is an import from Europe that stowed away on some ship and entered through Florida a few years ago.

My 2000 edition of the Sibley Guide to Birds shows it resident only in Florida and along the coastlines of states from South Carolina to Lousiana along with isolated spots through the Middle West, Texas and elsewhere.

The Eurasian collared dove is easily distinguished from our native mourning doves by its larger size, very pale grey color and a black neck mark that does, indeed, look like a collar.

15 days ago | 62 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IN HER ROLE as a UT Distinguished Alumna, internationally renowned mezzo-soprano and civil rights pioneer, Barbara Smith Conrad will be honored Thursday at the Texas capitol in Austin.

And what a deserved honor it will be when resolutions are read in the House and Senate chambers that morning, preceding a noon performance by the singer in the Capitol rotunda at noon.

Regrettably, a commitment to the Texas Press Association convention in Arlington Thursday will keep me from accepting the invitation I received to the Capitol honors and the reception to follow.

AS IS WELL KNOWN in this area, Barbara grew up in the Center Point community near Pittsburg, and she has many friends and admirers as well as relatives in this area. (She is the niece of the late Bruce School principal, Curtis Smith.)

Audiences here have been privileged to hear her sing several concerts at the Gilmer Civic Center, part of a career that has touched the lives of opera audiences and other music lovers around the world..

Her story tells, in its own way, as much about interracial change in this country as does the election of the first African American president. Certainly Barack Obama never encountered the kind of treatment Barbara Smith Conraf faced at the University of Texas when she enrolled there as a talented music student in the 1950s.

THE CENTER for the Study of American History at UT Austin describes the courageous behavior that has been well rewarded by her alma mater in recent years. The Center’s website explains:

“She entered UT in 1956, the first year in which African American students were admitted to the University as undergraduates. With her natural talents and stage presence, Barbara was encouraged to audition for a role in the University’s 1957 production of Dido and Aeneas. She was awarded the leading role of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, opposite a white boy as Aeneas, her lover.

“Soon after the start of rehearsals, word spread that a black girl and a white boy were to play the lead roles in a romantic opera, and Barbara’s trouble began. Ultimately, the controversy escalated to the Texas legislature, and the president of the University was advised to remove her from the cast.

“Barbara’s story was covered by national news media, prompting a carte blanche offer from Harry Belafonte to underwrite her studies at the institution of her choice. Barbara, however, chose to remain at the University. She was one of the early pioneers in the movement to create a more open and diverse university community, and her accomplishments and fortitude as a student represent an important chapter in the University’s history.

“The Texas Ex-Students’ Association named her a Distinguished Alumnus in 1985, and the University has honored her with the founding of the Barbara Smith Conrad Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Fine Arts.”

THE GEORGE Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, Huston-Tillotson University and UT Austin’s Butler School of Music sponsored “An Evening with Barbara Conrad” on Tuesday of this week, and the Museum has an archive that gives the flavor of the uproar that even a hint of integration elicited in the Texas legislature of the 1950s.

Letters to the editor to the Daily Texan, UT student newspaper, had comments such as these:

“It strikes me after reading the statements by two of our legislators in the Barbara Smith story of May 8 that there is some confusion in these gentlemen’s minds as to the true function of an educational institution.

“I would like to say that the University is not a public relations organization for this state, but rather an educational institution. And as such, gentlemen, it is its proper function to explore the expanding frontiers of interracial relations.

“The girl in question had a good voice; but this of course is not the point. We agree that the time is not quite ripe for a member of her race to take such a part. But we rejoice that soon such a casting at this University will occasion no lifted eyebrows or sneers of disapproval.”

ANOTHER, more sarcastic, writer opined:

“I was shocked to hear that a Negro was ever granted the part of Dido in the coming University opera. I was shocked because I felt sure, in my secure little way, that our wonderful fellow citizens down the street had special controlling measures to see to it that just any old Negro couldn’t participate in campus activities with us Texans. . .

“Yes, we almost sneaked by casting the best voice, we almost made a step to pull our University and our state away from the South. Thank God that we have foresighted individuals . . . in our government. They are protecting us from Communism, they are helping to make our college educations make sense, they are 100 per cent Americans.”

Barbara Conrad performed with the Metropolitan Opera for eight years, from 1982 to 1989, and has performed leading operatic roles with the Vienna State Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, and many other international opera houses around the world.

IN 1977 she played Marian Anderson in the 3-hour ABC movie Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years and in 1994 followed that performance with a European concert/recital tour commemorating the renowned contralto.

She has recorded a collection of Negro spirituals with the choir of Harlem’s Convent Avenue Baptist Church on the Naxos label.

That CD, which I’m pleased to own, includes a wonderful variety of songs, from Steal Away to Jesus!, Certainly, Lord; Wade in the Water to My Lord What a Morning and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand. And of course, Amazing Grace.

RETURNING to her story as the UT Center for American History tells it:

“Today Barbara continues to complement her performing activities with artist residencies and master classes, establishing herself as one of the foremost builders of voice both in the U.S. and abroad. She is the co-director and co-founder of the Wagner Theater Program at the Manhattan School of Music, and maintains a private vocal studio in Manhattan.

“Barbara traces her musical roots to her family’s home in the tiny east Texas community of Center Point, where she and her siblings explored a variety of musical genres on the family piano an in their local Baptist church. It was in this community, to which she still maintains ties, that her love of the spiritual first developed.

“Barbara works closely with The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, which is the home of the University’s Endowment for the Study of American Spirituals, to preserve this important American art form.”

At 68, she deserves all the kudos that are coming her way — not least, for her magnanimous forgiveness of the 1950s racists. Without doubt, a majority of white Texans then shared the legislators’ views.

22 days ago | 75 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE MIRROR is blessed with a stable of both local and distant writers who sometimes have good ideas at the same time. For example:

Columnist Pappy Moore expounded on Jan. 17 about his dislike for Billy Mays, the all-too-present TV commercial pitchman who is not a pirate but could easily be called Blackbeard — except that no self-respecting pirate would have such an irritating high-pitched voice.

Tumbleweed Smith, writing below here in this edition, expands his dislike for Billy Mays to take in the whole world of TV commercials. Both he and Pappy preempted my future column on the Mays phenomenon. May’s success evidently bears out the advertising maxim that litte drops of water and little grains of sand can wear away the hardest stone.

PRITCHETT Correspondent Jim Eitel wrote in the Jan. 21 Mirror about the successful 1941 Buckeye football team. It was a bare bones account that is supplemented in this issue by a fuller history written by Mary Lee Baird and Joe Blount, who were seniors that year.

Joe was too modest to recount some of the accolades he got in The Mirror that season, when he played tackle.

My father, Russ Laschinger, was the sports writer that fall, in addition to being publisher, bookkeeper and sometime printer, among other duties. Of the Oct. 3 game that Gilmer won over Judson, 38-0, he wrote:

Murphy Lee, Sonny Hamberlin and W.A. Phillips scored on “three of the most thrilling touchdown jaunts seen on the local sod in many a day.” And, “Blount was a terror to the Blue Devils all night, turning in some of the most quick thinking and aggressive defensive plays of the entire year.”

WINNING ON Oct. 10 at Pittsburg, 13-0, the Buckeyes had their toughest regular-season game. End Ray Reid scored one of the touchdowns on a Statue of Liberty play.

Today’s Buckeyes and their fans may be surprised to learn that in that long-ago time, a Thanksgiving afternoon game was a tradition.

By beating Winnsboro 20-0 that Nov. 20, the Buckeyes gave Coach Leonard Pickitt his first district championship.

It was the first time since 1933, when Gilmer won bi-district over the Odd Fellows’ Home at Corsicana and then defeated Texas State Home in the same city for regional that the Buckeyes had gotten out of the district.

My dad’s Looking ‘em over on the Gridiron column said the man to be singled out against Winnsboro was W.A. Phillips, and the old standouts in the line were outstanding again: Blount, Huggins, Pilcher and Smith.

OF THE DEC. 4 bi-district game at Gladewter in which Gilmer defeated Van, 7-0, he wrote:

“Twelve iron men. Twelve. Count ‘em. Clinnon Baxley, Joe Blount, Gene Smith, B. J. Bullard, Dude Huggins, Paul Pilcher, Ray Reid, Sonny Hamberlin, J. E. Thweatt, W. A. Phillips, Murphy Lee and R. H. Barrett. Shout their names and sing their praises to the skies. For it was these 12 stalwart Buckeyes who snatched glorious victory from from what seemed certain defeat from an inspired, rough and ragged crew of Vandals to determine the bi-district winner for Districts 19-AA and 20-A.

“A crowd of 1,700 thrilled to the play of these most evenly matched teams ... Van was ahead on 20-yard-line penetrations when a seemingly hopeless pass from Sonny Hamberlin reached 40 yards into the arms of Ray Reid on the Van 2-yard line.”

THE GAME FOR the regional championship the next week was almost an anti-climax.

The Mirror reported:

“All Gilmer closed for the game, which the Buckeyes won, 51-0, the season’s biggest score.

“They proved themselves probably the greatest Class A team in Texas this year of 1941. Those fans who have followed the Buckeyes’ every game have seen them rally with an invincible spirit whenever the occasion demanded it . . . Gilmer scored 369 points to 6 for opponents (Emory).

The Buckeyes were also regional champs in 1930, beating Mart, 13 to 6, and in 1929, winning over the legendary Mighty Mites of Fort Worth’s Masonic Home, 25-6.

ONLY TWO OF the 1941 Buckeyes returned for the next season, Sonny Hamberlin and Gene “Bird Dog” Smith, who were co-captains. That team won the bi-district championship over New Boston, which, according to Joe Blount’s memory, had a line anchored by big Dan Blocker, later known as Hoss Cartwright on the TV series Bonanza.

By the fall of 1942, the World War II exodus of male Gilmer High students to the armed forces had begun in earnest. And it also extended to male faculty members of an eligible age.

AS FAR AS I can tell, there was one Gilmer High annual produced between the 1920s and the post-WWII years.

I guard that 1943 Buckeye, published when I was a sophomore, more intensely than any of the other books I have acquired in a long lifetime. Thus I am able to look at it today and see that by the spring of 1943 all the regular faculty members and administrators were women.

The only man pictured is Supt. John Avery, who doubled as football coach. By the end of the war he was also teaching physics and college-level math courses, including trigonometry and college algebra. Theoretically there were no advanced placement courses for high school students then as there are now, but Mr. John was not one to let that stand in his way.

1 day 5 hrs ago | 4 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MANY COMPARISONS have been made to Barack Obama’s inauguration as president this week to the ceremonies that elevated John F. Kennedy to the office on Jan. 20, 1961.

Did President Obama’s address contain any lines as memorable as these from Kennedy?

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

At this writing we haven’t heard the new president’s address. But of course he and his speech writers will hope to make the kind of historical impact achieved by Kennedy and only a few other inaugural speechmakers.

THERE ARE similarities between the two inaugurations — each replaces an 8-year Republican administration with a new young Democratic leader saddled with great expectations — and the excitement level is high.

But so much has changed in the last 48 years. What was then a nation of 180 million people now has more than 305 million, according to a Jan. 1 estimate.

And nowhere near the two to five millions who streamed into the capital this week showed up that frigid late January in 1961.

THANKS TO THE new vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson, my husband Ray Greene and I were privileged to have close-up seats for the JFK swearing-in and many other inaugural events.

Until President Ronald Reagan moved the inauguration to the west side of the Capitol in 1981, the ceremonies were held on the much more restricted east side. Instead of the 250,000 with tickets on the mall to see Barack Obama take the oath of office, only a few thousand huddled in the cold on that Friday in 1961.

An 8-inch snow had ended only hours before and the sun had come out. The temperature was 22 degrees with a 17 mph wind, making the chill factor 7 degrees, a recent check of the weather records showed.

IT TOOK AN extreme effort for this Southerner to concentrate on the speech, but I remember thinking that the “ask not” lines were designed to be engraved in marble some day.

Ray had the same reaction, for he wrote in his Mirror story that these were “Probably the most remembered words, directed right at every American man and woman . . . ”

There were no taxis available, and it seemed like a mighty long walk from the Capitol to the White House, where we had tickets for seats in the bleachers set up just below where the presidential party watched the inaugural parade.

OUR WALK ended in frustration. Men from all three service academies (there were no women students then) were marching by and police would not let anyone cross Pennsylvania Ave. We learned later that John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist, got the same treatment, though he said he was a personal friend of the president.

We looked for Gilmer’s Charlie Hogg, then a West Point cadet, and Phil Maywald, attending the Air Force Academy, but could not spot them. Nor could we locate former Buckeye Bob Parsons, who marched with the UT Longhorn band.

Seated near us in the parade bleachers were Barefoot Sanders and his wife, Barefoot already well known to Ray and me from his year as student body president at UT-Austin. Sadly, he will miss this inauguration, for he died last September after a long and distinguished career as a U.S. district judge in Dallas.

SOME OF my other reflections, as reported in The Mirror:

En route to a coffee given by Texas Sen. William P. Blakley (temporary appointee, as it turned out) at his office, we saw Joseph P. Kennedy, the president’s father, bound from a Cadillac limousine up the steps of the Senate office building to shake hands and engage in back-slapping with Virginia Sen. Harry Byrd, whose very conservative political views are said to be similar to the elder Mr. Kennedy’s.

(It was the following December that Joseph P. Kennedy suffered the crippling stroke that afflicted the last eight years of his life.)

A [Jan. 18] night reception for Sen. Johnson, which attracted 8,000 people to the Statler Hiilton Hotel, came to a halt for 15 minutes when President-Elect Kennedy stopped by. The $5 ticket included a buffet. (That cost would be $25 now.)

AT THE YOUNG Democrats dance at the Mayflower Hotel the center of attention was the box where Lynda Bird and Lucy Baines Johnson were seated with their Texas escorts. Lynda wore the blue gown she had chosen for her apppearance as a visiting duchess at the Yamboree in the fall of 1960. She and Jim Cockrell of Hillsboro danced the Charleston to music by Woody Hermann’s band. Lynda asked to be remembered to her Gilmer friends.

At the inaugural ball at the Sheraton Park Hotel, attended by mostly Texas and Indiana folks, Jackie Kennedy had left the presidential party by the time it arrived. Three hundred Marines formed a corridor where the new cabinet officers and their wives entered, followed by the president introduced with Hail to the Chief. The Armory ball and others preceded ours, and by the time the president left and we shared a taxi a gracious Indiana couple had hailed, it was 2:30 a.m.

I’M MORE THAN happy to watch the Obama inauguration on TV, as he himself suggested for any tempted at the last minute to attend in person.

My mother, the late Georgia Laschinger, wrote a column in Ray’s absence and the final paragraph said that he and I did not have to wire home that we had arrived.

“That very afternoon the Huntley-Brinkley NBC news program took pictures at the tea for distinguished ladies and Sarah Greene was seen standing in the receiving line.”

(The receiving lines were distinguished, not the attendees. I still remember the Marine officer in dress uniform who said, “Mrs. Auchincloss, Mrs. Greene” when I was introduced to Jackie Kennedy’s mother.)

MY MOTHER also wrote about how special lyrics are sometimes written for old tunes and the adaptation becomes better known than the original. For example, she noted, England’s God Save the Queen became My Country ‘Tis of Thee. The column concluded:

“Now that we have a vice-president from Texas newscasters are finally learning the Texan’s favorite tune is The Eyes of Texas and not I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.

“So it goes. maybe some day An Army of Buckeyes will supersede The Stars and Stripes Forever. When President Kennedy entered the inaugural platform to this Sousa march our 5-year-old granddaughter jumped to attention, saying, ‘Why that’s the Buckeye song.’ ”

9 days ago | 61 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE MIRROR is blessed with a stable of both local and distant writers who sometimes have good ideas at the same time. For example:

Columnist Pappy Moore expounded on Jan. 17 about his dislike for Billy Mays, the all-too-present TV commercial pitchman who is not a pirate but could easily be called Blackbeard — except that no self-respecting pirate would have such an irritating high-pitched voice.

Tumbleweed Smith, writing below here in this edition, expands his dislike for Billy Mays to take in the whole world of TV commercials. Both he and Pappy preempted my future column on the Mays phenomenon. May’s success evidently bears out the advertising maxim that litte drops of water and little grains of sand can wear away the hardest stone.

PRITCHETT Correspondent Jim Eitel wrote in the Jan. 21 Mirror about the successful 1941 Buckeye football team. It was a bare bones account that is supplemented in this issue by a fuller history written by Mary Lee Baird and Joe Blount, who were seniors that year.

Joe was too modest to recount some of the accolades he got in The Mirror that season, when he played tackle.

My father, Russ Laschinger, was the sports writer that fall, in addition to being publisher, bookkeeper and sometime printer, among other duties. Of the Oct. 3 game that Gilmer won over Judson, 38-0, he wrote:

Murphy Lee, Sonny Hamberlin and W.A. Phillips scored on “three of the most thrilling touchdown jaunts seen on the local sod in many a day.” And, “Blount was a terror to the Blue Devils all night, turning in some of the most quick thinking and aggressive defensive plays of the entire year.”

WINNING ON Oct. 10 at Pittsburg, 13-0, the Buckeyes had their toughest regular-season game. End Ray Reid scored one of the touchdowns on a Statue of Liberty play.

Today’s Buckeyes and their fans may be surprised to learn that in that long-ago time, a Thanksgiving afternoon game was a tradition.

By beating Winnsboro 20-0 that Nov. 20, the Buckeyes gave Coach Leonard Pickitt his first district championship.

It was the first time since 1933, when Gilmer won bi-district over the Odd Fellows’ Home at Corsicana and then defeated Texas State Home in the same city for regional that the Buckeyes had gotten out of the district.

My dad’s Looking ‘em over on the Gridiron column said the man to be singled out against Winnsboro was W.A. Phillips, and the old standouts in the line were outstanding again: Blount, Huggins, Pilcher and Smith.

OF THE DEC. 4 bi-district game at Gladewter in which Gilmer defeated Van, 7-0, he wrote:

“Twelve iron men. Twelve. Count ‘em. Clinnon Baxley, Joe Blount, Gene Smith, B. J. Bullard, Dude Huggins, Paul Pilcher, Ray Reid, Sonny Hamberlin, J. E. Thweatt, W. A. Phillips, Murphy Lee and R. H. Barrett. Shout their names and sing their praises to the skies. For it was these 12 stalwart Buckeyes who snatched glorious victory from from what seemed certain defeat from an inspired, rough and ragged crew of Vandals to determine the bi-district winner for Districts 19-AA and 20-A.

“A crowd of 1,700 thrilled to the play of these most evenly matched teams ... Van was ahead on 20-yard-line penetrations when a seemingly hopeless pass from Sonny Hamberlin reached 40 yards into the arms of Ray Reid on the Van 2-yard line.”

THE GAME FOR the regional championship the next week was almost an anti-climax.

The Mirror reported:

“All Gilmer closed for the game, which the Buckeyes won, 51-0, the season’s biggest score.

“They proved themselves probably the greatest Class A team in Texas this year of 1941. Those fans who have followed the Buckeyes’ every game have seen them rally with an invincible spirit whenever the occasion demanded it . . . Gilmer scored 369 points to 6 for opponents (Emory).

The Buckeyes were also regional champs in 1930, beating Mart, 13 to 6, and in 1929, winning over the legendary Mighty Mites of Fort Worth’s Masonic Home, 25-6.

ONLY TWO OF the 1941 Buckeyes returned for the next season, Sonny Hamberlin and Gene “Bird Dog” Smith, who were co-captains. That team won the bi-district championship over New Boston, which, according to Joe Blount’s memory, had a line anchored by big Dan Blocker, later known as Hoss Cartwright on the TV series Bonanza.

By the fall of 1942, the World War II exodus of male Gilmer High students to the armed forces had begun in earnest. And it also extended to male faculty members of an eligible age.

AS FAR AS I can tell, there was one Gilmer High annual produced between the 1920s and the post-WWII years.

I guard that 1943 Buckeye, published when I was a sophomore, more intensely than any of the other books I have acquired in a long lifetime. Thus I am able to look at it today and see that by the spring of 1943 all the regular faculty members and administrators were women.

The only man pictured is Supt. John Avery, who doubled as football coach. By the end of the war he was also teaching physics and college-level math courses, including trigonometry and college algebra. Theoretically there were no advanced placement courses for high school students then as there are now, but Mr. John was not one to let that stand in his way.

7 days ago | 24 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THANKS TO Mirror reader Jo-Ann Zimmerman of Euless for writing about a Johnny Mathis concert she attended on Jan. 6 at Bass Hall in Fort Worth, and for sending a clipping of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s review of it.

Punch Shaw wrote that the 1,437 in the audience “melted a little each time he eased into a signature number such as Chances Are or Misty.”

Shaw also wrote, “Mathis, who was born in Gilmer, was supported by a 30-piece-plus band comprising mostly Fort Worth Symphony players.”

The critic thought some of the singer’s lesser-known numbers, such as Secret Love and 99 Miles from L.A. were more impressively delivered than his classics. At 73, Shaw asserted, Mathis “has lost little of the magic that graces his impossibly smooth vocals.”


RESEARCHING the microfilm files of the 1941 Gilmer Mirrors, I came across a fish story that represents the writing style of my late uncle, Jinx Tucker of Waco.

My mother’s brother is still remembered there through, among other things, the annual award of the Waco Tribune-Herald Jinx Tucker Trophy. Quoting from the newspaper, “The Jinx Tucker is given each year by the Trib to honor the memory of a man who gained national respect in his 33 years as the Trib sports editor until his death in 1953.

“The award is emblematic of Tucker, who stressed sportsmanship, fairness and team play.”

Summer, 1941 editions of The Mirror reflected the fact that this country was on the verge of entering World War II. They also reported on a disastrous fire that destroyed the Mirror building on the east side of the courthouse square, and led to construction of the present building at the corner of U. S. 271 and Hwy. 154.

The (then daily) Mirror was printed at the Pittsburg Gazette plant until the new building was finished in 1942.

No doubt thinking that the publisher, my father, needed a break, the family arranged an outing that my uncle reported on. What follows is a slightly shortened version, but still with a twist:

WE HAVE JUST returned from a fishing trip with Russell Laschinger of the Gilmer Mirror and Horace Davis, mayor of Gilmer.

For years they have been endeavoring to get this scribe to go to Black Lake over in Louisiana fishing. It is a beautiful lake about 70 miles south of Shreveport and it is 50 miles long. At some spots it is five miles wide and it is full of fish—mostly white perch, or crappie and bass. It had been pictured to us as a fisherman’s paradise.

Up at 4 o’clock Thursday morning, we got into a motor boat with a guide and went roaring away to a group of tall cypress trees growing out of the beautiful limpid water. The still waters were disturbed only by silvery bass leaping out to snap at bugs or whatever they snap at when they jump out of the water.

Before the sun had risen, we had our hook in the water, felt something pulling, brought it up, but it was only 12 inches long, so we were told to throw it back.

Then on and on until the sun’s rays bore down with customary Louisiana midsummer emphasis, we fished and fished and fished. The next one we landed was 24 inches long, and we pulled it in. Never did we go for over five minutes without catching something.

Shortly before 8 o’clock we snagged one that we could not handle. It must have been four feet long as we had it at the top of the water when the hook was turned as straight as a nail, but we did not land it.

We got the limit finally and were back in camp before 11 o’clock, the limit being 20.

The next morning we were up again at four after lolling around the modern Collins camp for the rest of Thursday. Out once more, we darted past the innumerable stumps, into the clear channel, and back into another lake forest. Then midst the tall trees furnishing shade we started fishing once more.

We pulled in one weighing eight pounds, another weighing less than that by only a few ounces, and then a half dozen varying from 24 to 36 inches. Once more we snagged one over four feet long, and this time profiting by the experience of the day before, did no jerking, played it carefully, let it handle the boat, and then with skill, aided by the guide, pulled it in. It was our largest catch, and before the sun was very high, once more we had the limit of 20.

In fact, during the two days we hauled in enough wood and stumps to keep the home fires burning throughout the winter if we just had had a way of getting it back to Waco, because everything that we caught or snagged was some sort of a stump or log.

The Gilmer mayor had told us that we could get lots of action at Black Lake if nothing else, and he was eminently correct. When we were not hooking a log we were trying to get our hook loose from one. We forgot to mention that we also caught and landed without any help, one 7-inch white perch. How it found its way to the hook midst all of the logs and stumps will always be a mystery to us, but it was a very small fish and I take it for granted that it had become lost from its parents while feeding.

This trip did much for us. It proved beyond a doubt just what a great place Lake Waco is to fish. Now in Lake Waco you won’t see as much action as you do in Black Lake. You won’t be busy all day trying to get your hook out of one log so you can hook it into another, but otherwise you will find the fishing about the same.

[We] headed for home . . . carrying with us enough bruised places on our anatomy to let the folks back in east Texas know that we did get a number of bites, if no fish, but all, of course, were mosquito bites. Yes, sir, if you want action, go to Black Lake, but if you also want fish, carry them with you and at Collins’ camp you can get them cooked for you in a manner to appease the appetite of a king.

2 days 5 hrs ago | 8 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
IT’S BEEN SAID that newspapers write the first draft of history. Since The Mirror itself has a considerable history, dating back to 1877 as a continuous publication, and to 1915 under the current family’s ownership, we take that responsibility seriously.

We find it interesting, and useful, that several of our correspondents currently add local history to their community reports: Jim Eitel from Pritchett, Lurline Johnson from Bettie, Charles Johnson from Rosewood, Katie Breazeale from Ore City and perhaps others.

This is the time of year when regional history is on many minds, since the semi-annual meeting of the East Texas Historical Association draws near.

When members gather at the Holiday Inn in Paris Feb. 20-21, they will be representing the second largest historical organization in the state. Only the Texas State Historical Association is larger.

DURING THE PAST year the longtime executive director/editor, Archie P. McDonald, turned over the leadership reins of the association to Scott Sosebee. But Archie has not really retired. In a new role he will still be writing his regular historical column for The Mirror and other newspapers.

And he will be on the program in Paris doing one of his specialties: singing songs of World War II.

The only drawback to ETHA meetings is the concurrent sessions, which require you to make a choice between speakers who often have equally interesting subjects.

AT THE SAME time Archie is singing, a session on WWII prisoner of war camps will feature two speakers, one of them, Kyle McGrogan, speaking on the POWs at Camp Maxey in Paris.

Old Buckeyes from that era can remember when our legendary coach, Henry McClelland, left his 1940s position as Gilmer school superintendent to accept a commission as an Army captain. He served out the war at Camp Maxey, and John Avery took his place as superintendent.

The Friday afternoon program at the spring meeting will take place in Clarksville, and will include a tour of that historic town and a banquet at its First Presbyterian Church.

I look forward to the Women’s History Breakfast, held on the Saturday mornings of the meetings. Women in attendance are expected to, and do, give reports on their current historical research or interests.

THE SATURDAY morning program also will include a session on East Texas Women, with Dee Rinkes Marshall of Commerce speaking on Ruby Allmand, Northeast Texas Musician, and Gail Beil of Marshall reporting on Martin Dies Jr. and the Marshall Housewives.

The final Saturday morning sessions willl require a difficult choice for me.

Historian James Smallwood will preside over two talks on East Texans in the Civil War; Karen O’Neal of Panola College will introduce two papers on Northeast Texas Shootouts and Shootists and a third session will offer three speakers on The People Known as Redbones and Multi-EthnIc Legacies in East Texas.

NOT CONTENT with the present total of 700 enrolled, Membership Chairman Smallwood has launched a membership drive. For dues of $25, ($35 for a family) one receives, among other benefits, a subscription to the East Texas Historical Journal, a quarterly that always covers topics of interest in our region and sometimes beyond.

The current issue, No. 1 for 2009, has a story by Ken Untiedt, who succeeded F. E. (Ab) Abernethy as secretary editor of the Texas Folklore Society, another organization close to my heart. Both ETHA and TFS are headquartered on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State university in Nacogdoches, where the folklore society will hold its 100th anniversary meeting on Easter weekend.

The younger ETHA was founded in 1962 at the Nacogdoches university.

Dr. Smallwood, retired Oklahoma State University history professor, has proposed that each member be challenged to recruit one new member in the next year. Modest awards are offered for the most successful.

So I would like to extend an invitation to anyone interested in East Texas history to join. Just e-mail me at" or contact me otherwise and I’ll be glad to provide a membership form.

THE AFOREMENTIONED Pritchett Correspondent Eitel, as his readers all know, has been preoccupied in recent months by the buzzard question, concerned that their numbers stay large enough to carry out their essential scavenging function. He has given custody of the Patterson Addition flock to Dr. Randy McDaniel, whose residence on the Cherokee Trace is northwest of my Patterson Addition home.

I never fail to wonder, when I see the buzzards circling my place, what they know that I don’t. Some days, as they mount ever higher, I think the buzzards may just be riding thermals.

READING John L. Tveten’s excellent book, The Birds of Texas, one learns that the turkey vultures (more common here than the shorter-winged black vultures) have a slow wake-up period. After roosting all night, probably in trees, they raise their 6-foot wings and hold them out to dry. They also need to warm up after having maintained a a lower body temperature through the night. When they do launch, they seek a thermal to carry them high.

According to this book — commercial note: on sale at The Mirror ­— ornithologists have long wondered whether the vulture/buzzard locates its decaying food by sight or smell. Most likely, Tveten writes, one vulture spots carrion from on high and others follow it down.

WHAT I REALLY wonder about is the flock of crows that frequent the streets in my neighborhood. Something in the 900 block of Madelaine Dr. has kept them busy for months, and made them something of a traffic hazard.

I was slow getting a feeder out last fall, but once I did the goldfinch and slate-colored junco flocks that had found some kind of wild seeds on my driveway soon located the bought variety in my back yard.

They are regularly joined by the more solitary birds: two pairs of cardinals, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch and red-bellied woodpecker. All are fun for this not-very-accomplished bird watcher.

2 days 6 hrs ago | 3 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away . . .

The poet Emily Dickinson wrote these lines.

For readers, the current hard times may mean fewer opportunities to buy the new books that keep presses constantly rolling, regardless of what you may have heard about the disappearance of ink on paper as a medium.

In this season of hard times that may or may not turn out to be as bad as the Great Depression, but at least rates comparison, the public library is more valuable than ever. And it’s always one of any community’s most important institutions.

Librarian Mark Warren reports in the current Friends of Upshur County Library Newsletter that the library has been buzzing with activity this fall.

STORY TIME and arts and crafts activities for the youngsters have been popular, and two authors had book-signings: Kathy Patrick of Jefferson for her entertaining work, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, BookSharing Guide to Life, and Dub Mowery’s Colloquial Phrases and Sayings.

And no matter if the library does have computer terminals that many patrons use to connect to the Internet, an outstanding genealogical collection, audio and visual materials, many magazine subscriptions and more—books are still the heart of it.

As Poet Dickinson, wrote, metaphorically making the book a vessel for travel:

This traverse may the poorest take

Without oppress of toll . . .

For the library’s web page, with its history and other data, see (Alas, if you Google up Upshur County Public Library, the first page of websites will refer you to the library in Buckhannon, W.V.)

FOR READERS suffering from a true addiction to books, there is no better Christmas present.

I have already received one such present early, and I will get to it as soon as I finish reading Willie Nelson: an Epic Life, a biography by Joe Nick Patoski. I bought it in Jefferson at the aforementioned Kathy Parker’s Beauty and the Book store, when she had an autographing party for Patoski.

Love him or leave him alone, Willie is a Texas original, I am convinced by this book. Though he tried several times to fit into the Nashville scene, the pull of Texas was always too strong.

Patoski even credits Willie with some of the 46 percent growth the Austin metro area experienced between 1970 and 1980. (Some of us UT-exes who remember the small city Austin was before then still find it hard to believe that the metro area has now passed one million residents.)

WILLIE NELSON was born a performer and that is all, apparently, that really interests him. That’s why he was able to smile and shrug his way through an argument with the Internal Revenue Service about $17 million in back taxes that nearly cost him everything before it was ended in 1993.

And what but the love of an audience could have moved Willie to take part in Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special on Comedy Central TV channel last week.

Colbert was hiding out in a mountain cabin decorated for the holidays, afraid to go outside because of a lurking bear. The manger scene on a shelf suddenly came to life and one of the three Wise Men (thanks to the wonders of trick photography) was Willie Nelson, appropriately costumed.

Willie sang a song about being one of the Magi, but one who had no frankinsense, gold or myrrh to bring the Christ child. What he did bring was not exactly spelled out, at least not for me, but suddenly smoke began arising from the manger scene and miniature police cars pulled up on each side.

FOR THE TRULY addicted book buyer, being crowded out of living space can become a problem.

In the Nov. 20 New York Times Book Review, this was expressed eloquently in an essasy by Laura Miller, staff writer for Salon.

She wrote that although she follows a rigorous “one book in, one book out” policy, she found things had gotten out of hand when she contracted to have her apartment repainted. She pulled every book off its crowded shelf and asked herself whether she really wanted it.

Ms. Miller concluded that there are two general schools of thought on which books to keep: The first “views the bookshelf as a self-portrait, a reflection of the owner’s intellect, imagination, taste and accomplishments.”

THE SECOND sees a book collection “less as a testimony to the past than as a repository for the future; it’s where you put books you intend to read.”

I suppose I follow the second view. I have stacks of unread or unfinished books, mainly biographies. Among them are a new biography of Lyndon B. Johnson by Randall B. Woods, an Arkansas professor; and books on the late Gov. John B. Connally, writer Pearl Buck and the composer Kurt Weill.

Then there is an assortment of other fiction and nonfiction that I have bought, or been given, but not yet read. I may have something in common with Laura Miller, who summed up her failing quest to get rid of books:

“I have turned out to be less rational about this than I thought, and have made my library into a charm against mortality. As long as I have a few unread books beckoning to me from across the room, I tell myself I can always find a little more time.”


4 hrs 52 mins ago | 0 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TEXAS PRESS Association’s current program to have member newspapers exchange issues with their counterparts around the state has impressed me anew with the variety of news Texans make.

Last week a Page One story in the Baylor County Banner at Seymour,just south of Vernon in Northwest Texas, was headlined, “K9 Harley Passes.” A picture showed a handsome German Shepherd with the caption, Officer Harley 1996-2008.

The story related how Harley was responsible for numerous drug busts in Baylor and other counties. Retired in 2005 from the Seymour Police Department because of arthritis in his hips. Harley at one time won a competition that made him the No. 1 drug dog in Texas.

BUT IT WAS his most famous case that caught my attention.

As told by Police Chief Tommy Duncan:

In 2003 Shooter Jennings, the son of Jessi Colter and the late Waylon Jennings, was traveling with his band through Baylor County on their way to do a show in Wichita Falls. When they were stopped for speeding Harley alerted on the trailer filled with musical equipment. A small amount of marijuana was found.

This inspired Shooter Jennings to write a song called Busted in Baylor County, which soon climbed the music charts across America and was used as the opening song in the 2005 movie, The Dukes of Hazard.

THIS EXCHANGE matter works the other way, as well. When The Mirror’s Yamboree edition arrived at the office of the Clay County Leader in Henrietta, we got an e-mail saying that the staff wondered how much the queen’s royal gown cost.

I replied that I wasn’t privy to that information, but I assured them that our Yamboree is a high-class, high-dollar operation all around.

NEWSPAPERS and many other pieces of mail are welcomed, whether they come through the Postal Service or via the Internet. Junk mail can be another beast altogether, particularly when it arrives in the form of what has become known generically as the 419 scam.

This is a thriving industry involving e-mail scammers who extort money from thousands of victims by promising them compensation for help in moving funds from foreign countries to banks in the United States. Nigeria began as the most common point of origin, but now the scammers may claim residence in many other nations.

A sample of those I have received in the past week:

Mrs. Lucy Baines wrote that “Your e-mail have won the sum of £516,778.00 pounds, for more informations about your winnings and claim of prize, contact your claim agent . . . ”

Said agent is named Peter Taylor. Casual observer will note that Lucy Baines is the name of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s younger daughter and Taylor was the maiden name of Lady Bird Johnson. Perhaps a subliminal message to convey authenticity?

AN ERIC ALLEN wrote from the Ivory Coast that his parents were both killed in a civil war, his house was burned down but his father has left $5.5 million in a bank there. He confided that he needs my help to get the money transferred out of the country “because of the political situation here.”

Tony Clive, who said he is an Internal Auditor of one of the leading banks in the United Kingdom, discovered an abandoned $12.2 million deposit made by Andrea Schranner, who died along with his entire family in an automobile crash. None of his relations has come forward to lay claims for this deposit as the heir, so Mr. Clive wants me to apply for the money so that his London bank can release it.

THESE ARE such obvious frauds that it’s hard to believe anyone could be taken in, but it only takes a few per million to make the scammers’ efforts worthwhile, apparently.

I got one the other day that alarmed me, since it sounded almost realistic. It said:

“We are pleased to inform you that you have emerged a recipient of our Rotary International Cash Grant Programs. You were selected by our Electronic Random Selection System (ERSS) from an exclusive list of 800,000,000 individual and corporate bodies generated from our resource database. . .

“As members of the world’s first service club organization, Rotarians have much to be proud of as they put Service Above Self while advancing world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education and business and the alleviation of poverty.”

(The above paragraph is all true.)

“. . .You are therefore to receive a cash prize of 750.000 EURO .”

A list of 800 million is hardly exclusive, but otherwise the letter might pass muster, at least with non-Rotarians.

ROTARY spent many millions of dollars in a drive to wipe out polio worldwide without getting much public notice — not, that is, until the Bill Gates foundation got in on the act. It is offering a $100 million challenge grant to the Rotary Internaitonal Foundation to complete the polio project.

Any Rotarian would know that grants are given to clubs that apply for them, not to individuals who don’t apply. And certainly not to “randomly selected” ones.

Sadly, in a world where more than a billion people suffer deprivations that include going to bed hungry every night, and many people of good will are working every day to alleviate their suffering, so many other people devote their lives to the big rip-off.


7 days ago | 19 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DURING RECENT months of speculation about President and Mrs. George W. Bush’s future home, one Internet writer reported that Laura Bush was checking out houses in Preston Hollow, a town north of Dallas “with views of lakes and mountains.”

So much for accuracy on the worldwide web. But even this off-the-wall dispatch had an element of truth. It was announced last week that a house at 10141 Doria Place in Preston Hollow has been purchased for the Bushes as their post-presidential residence.

PRESTON HOLLOW, a long-established neighborhood, is notable mainly for views of the Dallas cityscape around Northwest Highway and Preston Road; it’s just north of the Park Cities and west of North Park shopping center.

Of course there are some lakes in the area, but nary a mountain for hundreds of miles.

I am familiar with the Preston Hollow street where George and Laura Bush lived from December,1988 until January, 1995, when he was associated with the Texas Rangers.

MY FRIENDS Vee and Allen Maxwell, who owned a farm near Little Mound that they used as a rural retreat until a few years ago, have their main residence on a Preston Hollow street, Northwood.

When I visited them there during the administration of the first President Bush, they pointed out the Secret Service cars parked in front of a house a couple of blocks down the street. The younger Bush’s ranch-style house was under surveillance.

George W., Laura and family lived there until he became governor of Texas in 1995.

IN JANUARY, the Bushes will move into a new home about a mile northwest of their former Northwood residence, dividing their time between Dallas and their ranch house at Crawford.

The house on Daria Place, a cul-de-sac, is described as a one-story, 8,501-square-foot light red brick that was built in 1959.

A smaller house at 10151 Daria Place has recently changed hands, and may be used as Secret Service headquarters, according to reports.

The Dallas Morning News described a mix of excitement and concern among neighbors at the prospect of an ex-president moving in next door. Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, oilman T. Boone Pickens and Ross Perot have large houses in the neighborhood.


FOLLOWING UP on the discussion here last week of the Civilian Conservation Corps and other New Deal agencies that were created to fight the Great Depression in the 1930s, be it noted that the Texas Forestry Museum in Lufkin has a special CCC exhibit on display through next September.

Crosscut, the museum’s newsletter, interviewed three former CCC workers for its current issue.

Three Lufkin men, Floyd Mize, Henry Morehead and Charles Kimball, each spent a year with the CCC and each took advantage of the opportunities it gave to work during a time when jobs were very scarce.

THE HARD WORK and strict discipline prepared them to serve in the Army during World War II, and all three vividly remember the lessons learned in the CCC, the story said.

Morehead and Campbell both had long careers with the Southland Paper Mill and Floyd became a college teacher and grant writer at South Dakota State University.

All three think their CCC work meant something to the country, and they apparently take pride in the fact that some of the roads and buildings they built are still being used.

IN AN APPEARANCE on Meet the Press Sunday, President-Elect Barack Obama referred to President Roosevelt’s challenge during the Great Depression of the 1930s, saying there is no doubt that FDR “had to create an entire economic structure that had entirely collapsed.” But there was up to 30 percent unemployment across the country then, and “we didn’t have many of the social safety nets that emerged out of the New Deal,” he pointed out.

And this was President-Elect Obama’s response to a question about his plans:

“Fortunately, as tough as times are right now — and things are going to get worse before they get better — there is a convergence between circumstances and agenda. The key for us is making sure that we jump-start that economy in a way that doesn’t just deal with the short term, doesn’t just create jobs immediately, but also puts us on a glide path for long-term, sustainable economic growth.

“And that’s why I spoke in my radio address on Saturday about the importance of investing in the largest infrastructure program — in roads and bridges and other traditional infrastructure — since the building of the federal highway system in the 1950s.”

Considering how the world has moved on, can’t we assume that there will be no more CCCs, WPAs or other alphabet agencies, and private contracts will be let for infrastructure work? If current experience is any guide, the contractors’ crews will be mostly Hispanic.


14 days ago | 42 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN THE SWIMMING pool in Gilmer’s Roosevelt Park opened in the summer of 1985, lifeguards were these three young people: Buffy Ballard Massey, Keith Austell and Shari Kramer Borden. " rel="lightbox[parent736561]">slideshow
AS THE NEW president-elect faces economic woes that have been compared to what confronted Franklin D. Roosevelt when he took office in 1933, FDR’s famous First Hundred Days have been getting new attention.

The Great Depression by then had caused 25 percent unemployment, bank closings and a nationwide crisis in confidence. In his inaugural address Roosevelt famously told the nation that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But what came next was anything but easy.

In a recent book, FDR: The First 100 Days, Historian Anthony Badger gives Roosevelt credit for “an exercise in exceptional political craftsmanship.”

THE NEW president sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. From legalizing the sale of beer to providing mortgage relief to millions of Americans, Roosevelt launched the New Deal that conservatives have been working to roll back ever since.

Some of what Roosevelt tried failed: “packing” the Supreme Court and the double-eagle-signed National Recovery Administration failed to pass constitutional muster. But many other efforts made a lasting contribution.

Young unemployed men were put to work in the Civillian Conservation Corps, which built many of the state parks we still enjoy, including the Daingerfield and Tyler State Parks.

Others were hired by the Works Progress Administration and the Public Works Admministration.

I’VE BEEN thinking especially of what the New Deal meant to this area since the City Council last week decided to do away with the swimming pool in Roosevelt Park.

This pool, built by the city in 1985 (according to Ann Stembridge Bates, who gave summer swimming lessons starting then), replaced the original pool that was built when the park was created as a New Deal project in the 1930s.

That large pool meant that Gilmer children for the first time didn’t have to find a lake to learn to swim in. (Fountain Lake, still located on the west side of U.S. 271 about four miles south of Gilmer, continued as a good public place to swim for some years after that.)

The late Buckeye coach, Truett Rattan, was the pool manager and swimming teacher in the 1960s when my children were the age to start swimming lessons, and his were top-notch.

THE PARK originally had a gazebo of native rock built next to the pool. And it was in the 1930s that the former pump house at the north end of Roosevelt Park became the County Library. It moved there from the courthouse, where it had been housed in the county superintendent’s office after the Twentieth Century Club got it organized.

I am one of many who thinks it a shame for Gilmer to no longer have a public swimming pool. I’ve heard that the Yamboree Park might be a good site if the City of Gilmer’s finances ever improve enough to build one.

Without doing the research I’m not sure whether Roosevelt Park was a CCC or a WPA project. I am sure that it was the WPA that built the County Rock Building on U.S. 271 in Gilmer, as well as a school building of native rock still in use on the Harmony campus and one that has been demolished to make way for a new building at the New Diana ISD campus.

SO GILMER benefitted greatly from the New Deal, but there were other significant improvements in that decade not connected with the federal government. Gilmer began its first big-scale street paving program, with Montgmomery and other streets being paid for by the city (the middle third) and property owners on each side (one third plus curbs).

This was a source of great pride at the time; those of us who can remember those early streets are especially saddened by their current condition.

The oil boom in the southern part of the county added to the tax base and made possible the construction of the current courthouse for cash in 1935-36.

MOST OF THE economists and others who write about the current economic crisis cite need for a spending stimulus through public works. Upgrading our infrastructure, mainly the nation’s highway systems, is often recommended.

Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman recently wrote:

“The point in all of this is to approach the current crisis in the spirit that we’ll do whatever it takes to turn things around; if what has been done so far isn’t enough, do more and do something different, until credit starts to flow and the real economy starts to recover.

“And once the recovery effort is well underway, it will be time to turn to prophylactic measures: reforming the [financial] system so that the crisis doesn’t happen again.”

SINCE 9/11 of 2001 the Federal Emergency Management Administration has passed out many millions of dollars that may have had some positive impact on the economy that is not readily apparent.

We note in the Rains County Leader of Emory that the City Council there has accepted a $1,097,720 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).

Joined with a 25 percent match from the City of Emory, the grant will build a 6,000-square foot building characterized as a tornado shelter that will withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds. A large room can be used for community events and several small rooms can temporarily house evacuees, if ever needed.

Rains County is one of the state’s smallest — 258 square miles, compared to Upshur’s 592— but it makes three major claims, according to the Leader: Eagle capital of Texas, Western gateway to Lake Fork and Eastern gateway to Lake Tawakoni.


9 days ago | 17 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A NOVEMBER week spent with my daughter and family in Chapel Hill, N. C. provided treats on several levels—not the least being food.

Sally and I, joined on some occasions by her husband Paul Jones and their son Tucker, enjoyed meals at several of the excellent locally-owned restaurants in Chapel Hill and the adjoining town of Carrboro. And it sunk in on me for the first time in more than 20 years of Carolina visits why Sally and her friends are so bent on patronizing the many locally-owned eating places in this town of 55,000. Chain restaurants? Forget it.

A story in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine called Chapel Hill “America’s foodiest small town.”

Writer Andrew Knowlton described Durham and Chapel Hill, two of the places which, along with Raleigh, bound the North Carolina Research Triangle, as being best known for tobacco and their hatred for one another’s college basketball teams, the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels. But after spending several days meeting farmers, visiting restaurants and farmers’ markets, and eating “local,” he decided food was the area’s outstanding asset.


“. . . I found myself daydreaming about ditching the big city. How could someone so infatuated with food and restaurants, with chefs and fancy cocktails and plates of oysters at 3 a.m., think that these two towns (with a combined population of less than 300,000) would stand up to my hometown, New York City? Had the fresh country air and wide open spaces distorted my thinking? The folks here, when it came to food, were onto something. And I wanted a piece of it.”

I am accustomed to being teased by my son-in-law about the superiority of North Carolina barbecue (pulled pork, with a thin, vinegary sauce). Beef brisket can’t hold a candle to it, in Paul’s world view, and tomato-based barbecue sauce? The horror!

AND CAROLINA barbecue was front and center when Sally and Paul hosted a party honoring their friends the Reeds, who have out a new book from the University of North Carolina Press, Holy Smoke.

The book is graphically attractive, and acknowledges that there are other kinds of popular barbecue in Texas, Kansas City and Tennessee.

This is one of the cover blurbs praising the book:

“Southern studies guru John Shelton Reed and fellow pork pro Dale Volberg Reed have teamed up with pig-pushing alum William McKinney to give us the first definitive guide to the people, places and culinary secrets behind the world’s best barbecue.”

That’s from Carolina Arts & Sciences News.

AMAZON.COM website gives this description:

“North Carolina is home to the longest continuous barbecue tradition on the North American mainland. Authoritative, spirited, and opinionated (in the best way), Holy Smoke is a passionate exploration of the lore, recipes, traditions, and people who have helped shape North Carolina’s signature slow-food dish.”

To go along with the barbecue at the party, Sally prepared a much-praised cole slaw and other side dishes that were enthusiastically received by the 35 eater-guests.

ONE MORNING Sally and I attended a breakfast for U.S. Rep. David Price, her district’s long-serving Democratic congressman who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

In his remarks, Mr. Price said that no one has seen an agenda “so long and daunting” as the one that will face the Congress in the new year. How to prioritize the problems is a question currently being discussed, he said. This “tightly held process” is now going into high gear, he added.

Mr. Price said that he had visited the border with Mexico and he found that no immigration officers think the problem is one of enforcement. The business community “needs to step up to the plate” to get a reasonable immigration bill, the congressman said.

“A group of good people working together can right ancient wrongs,” he said. “Sometimes government can get in the way. Sometimes we need it.”

ANOTHER DAY we made the short run to Durham for a visit to the excellent Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Yes, this beautiful building was inspired by and partially financed by a $7.5 million gift from the same Raymond P. Nasher who established the Nasher Sculpture Center, which has become such a focal point for the arts in downtown Dallas.

The 65,000-square-foot building, designed by architect Rafael Vinoly, was opened in 2005. It occupies a wooded site next to the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a popular North Carolina tourist destination.

Nasher graduated from Duke in 1943 and embarked on a Texas-based career that has made him an internationally prominent art collector and philanthropist. Northpark in Dallas and Tyler’s Broadway Square mall are two of the properties he developed.

After enjoying the antiquities from the museum’s permanent collection that were on display, Sally and I lunched at the excellent museum cafe — where freshness was emphasized once again.

FOR OUR Sunday noon after-church meal, at my request, we ate at Mama Dip’s country cooking restaurant in downtown Chapel Hill. Mama Dip is an African-American former fraternity house cook who was encouraged to open her own place 32 years ago.

Since then she has been nationally recognized on network TV and in magazine “best” ratings. On previous trips when I had mentioned wanting to try it, Sally had demurred, saying it was just the same sort of food I grew up on.

Maybe so, but while others at tables all around me were chowing down on fried chicken and catfish or chicken fried steak with gravy, I relished a vegetable plate — all fresh, very fresh.

UNC’s legendary basketball coach, Dean Smith, has said, “I’ve been a fan of Dip’s for years. Chapel Hill wouldn’t be the Southern Part of Heaven without her.”

9 days ago | 7 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FOLLOWING A tradition begun in 1967, the Dallas Morning News in its Christmas Day edition reprinted the late Paul Crume’s column, Angels Among Us. And that’s a good thing.

Crume was a uniquely talented writer who died at age 63 in 1975. His Angels column makes him available to new generations, who may be inspired to read his two books, A Texan at Bay and The World of Paul Crume.

Regarding angels, Crume wrote, he was highly in favor of them. “As a matter of fact, I am scared to death of them.”

He poetically described how any adult human being who has spent time in loneliness, “when the senses are forced in upon themselves,” has felt the wind from angels’ wings and been overwhelmed by realizing “the endless and gigantic dark that exists outside the little candle flame of human knowledge.”

In conclusion he quoted the 19th century English poet, Francis Thompson, who wrote, “The angels keep their ancient places. Turn but a stone, and start a wing.”

I HAVE A correction to the current version, in which an editor’s note says that Crume’s Big D column appeared in The News from 1948 until 1975.

No, it took longer than that for the top brass to realize what a writer they had on board.

Paul had served in the Navy during World War II and was one of the generation of veterans who staffed the newsroom when I went to work there as a new journalism graduate of UT-Austin in the summer of 1949.

I was soon in awe of Crume, the writer. He would pace around the newsroom, chain smoking, and make several trips to the cafeteria for coffee before he was ready to write.

Once he sat down at the typewriter (manual, of course) the story would unfold in perfect form. It was so well organized in his head that there were no strike-overs or changes of any kind.

BUT THEN HE was mis-assigned as assistant night city editor. That was when my stories began to come under his pencil. This was a unique form of torture. I would watch Paul slashing away with his pencil, looking perturbed, until finally he would reach for a blank sheet of paper.

I knew that he was about to rewrite my story; it would emerge as a much superior piece of writing to what I had turned in. Sometimes a fact or two would be misplaced or turned around, but that would be my problem, should any news source complain.

Sometime in the early 1950s one of the higher-ups had the idea that a local column was needed. So that various writers could take turns writing it, a nom de plume was chosen for the byline. If memory serves, the name was Lorrie Brooks.

THE COLUMNS Crume wrote were so superior that he was invited to write the new daily column called Big D. At the urging of many, including the publishers McGraw-Hill, he collected the best of his first nine years into a 1961 book.

Paul inscribed my copy of A Texan at Bay to my children, writing, “To Sally and Russ Greene, with affection.” His other book, The World of Paul Crume, was assembled from his writings by his widow, Marion, and published by the SMU Press in 1980.

The angel column was the subject for longtime SMU professor and Dallas Morning News book editor Lon Tinkle when he wrote in the foreword: “[Crume] believed in the existence of good and evil, of good tutelary angels and fallen ones like Lucifer. One of his best essays, stating this view, forms in a way the climax of this book . . . ”

And so the famous column, then titled To Touch an Angel, appears on the last page.

IN GETTING these two books off the shelf I found an editorial page I had saved from the May 29, 1978 News. Columnist Ann Melvin wrote about Crume under the headline, There Were Giants in Those Days. Ms. Melvin joined The News after I left and enjoyed a long career there.

She wrote about the “heady circumstance” it was for a young writer from a small town “to be in the same newsroom with king Krueger, with McCormick who knew every significant criminal in the pen, with Foree and his blistering agile tongue that wove stories with the ease of breathing, with the ponderous political acumen of Duckworth and the scathing, sure copy pencil of King, the bright irreverent brass of Tolbert, the gentle probing of Callaway . . .” This cast of characters greatly influenced me as well.

She referred to City Editor Jack Krueger, crime reporter Harry McCormick, columnist Kenneth Foree, political writer Allen Duckworth, Assistant City Editor John E. King, columnist and roving reporter Frank X. Tolbert and medical writer Helen Bullock Callaway.

“And behind it all, ranged against a post, just at the edge of the fray, the baleful, chain-smoking rangy figure of Crume, back to the wall, watching the scene unfold.

“Most of what he wrote turned on the fine point of a well-honed wit, and some of it was just unabashed chuckles. But sometimes he cut to the heart and left you bleeding.”

CRUME FOUND many column subjects in his growing-up years on a farm at Lariat, a hamlet near the New Mexico border on the far western High Plains of Texas. But he knew all about Gilmer before he met me.

That was because he had served in the Navy with the late Jack F. (Spot) Baird of Gilmer.

They shared a duty station on Treasure Island in San Francisco before the luck of wartime assignments in World War II sent Crume to the Aleutian Islands. Baird went on to Pearl Harbor, where he maintained an unofficial Gilmer welcoming station for home boys who passed through.

And in his postwar life the late possumologist, “Professor Spot” Baird became a colorful enough character he cropped up in Big D columns from time to time.


1 day 8 hrs ago | 6 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN FIRST LADY Laura Bush escorted Michelle Obama through the White House living quarters on Nov. 10, she was carrying out a tradition that began 100 years ago next month.

It was on Dec. 11, 1908, when Edith Roosevelt, Teddy’s wife, invited Nellie, wife of William Howard Taft in for a tour. Mrs. Taft “overcompensated for her nervousness by acting high-handed,” Carl Anthony wrote in his book Nellie Taft: The Unconventional First Lady of the Ragtime Era.

“After lunch as the two walked into the Green Room, Nellie quipped in a whisper loud enough for Edith to hear, ‘I would have put that table over there,’” the Washington Post quoted from the book.

IT WAS thoroughly reported in the national press that Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama had a cordial visit during which they agreed that the rooms previously occupied by the young children of the Kennedy family as well as first daughters Lynda and Luci Johnson, Amy Carter, Chelsea Clinton and Jenna and Barbara Bush could easily be redecorated to suit the Obama daughers, Malia,10, and Sasha, 7.

Of course Mrs. Bush has now experienced both sides of the White House transition. But even before that, she played similar roles as First Lady of Texas.

I don’t know how long the Austin First Lady/mansion turnover tradition goes back, but I know that one of unusual signifigance took place in 1978, when Janey Briscoe (Mrs. Dolph) showed Rita Clements (Mrs. Bill) through her new home.

THE DECISION had been made to replace all the mansion’s furnishings, which were predominantly mid-Victorian with lots of red velvet, with authentic American Empire period antiques. These were in vogue in 1856 when the mansion was built.

Bill Clements was the first Republican governor to have been elected by Texans since Reconstruction ended in 1874. But because of the refurbishing, the Clementses moved into a nearby high-rise condominum for their first years in Austin. He was defeated by Democrat Mark White in 1982, but won the office back in 1986 for a second term.

There was no First Lady when Ann Richards served Texas as governor in 1991-95, so I’m not sure who welcomed Laura Bush to her new Austin home when Mrs. Richards’ tenure ended after one term.

THE TEXAS ALMANAC considers First Ladies of Texas an important enough category to list them chronologically in a table complete with footnotes, starting with Martha Evans Wood in 1847-49.

It is noted that Gov. Peter H. Bell was not married when he held the office in 1849-53; Gov. Hardin R. Runnels, 1857-59, never married; Fay (Mrs. Coke R. ) Stevenson died in the mansion on Jan. 3, 1942, and his mother, Edith, served as mistress there until he left office in 1946.

No mention is made of the 1991-95 interregnum when Mrs. Richards lacked a First Lady.

Laura Bush’s successor as Texas First Lady, of course, is Anita Perry, whose husband Rick has been governor since 2000. They have a much sadder reason than the Briscoes did for living in Austin rental property.

AN ACT OF ARSON on June 8 this year caused a 4-alarm fire that nearly destroyed the mansion. In the current issue of The Medalliion, bi-monthly magazine of the Texas Historical Commission, Mrs. Perry writes eloquently of the mansion’s history and the reasons it needs to be restored, great though the expense will be.

She tells how its history began with a $14,500 appropriation from the legislature about 10 years after Texas became a state in 1845. Austin master builder Abner Cook got the contract and adopted the Greek Revival style of architecture for the house in downtown Austin. Cook owned a clay pit on the Colorado River nearby and the mansion’s bricks were molded there.

MRS. PERRY recounts a few colorful stories from the early days.

Elisha M. Pease, who became the mansion’s first resident during the late 1850s, held an open house for his Austin neighbors, gave them a guided tour and invited them all to stay for supper.

Sam Houston, elected governor in 1859, paced the halls in deep thought over whether Texas should join the Confederacy. (He decided he was against it, and was pelted with rotten tomatoes and worse when he expressed his view outside of the Gilmer courthouse; read about it on the historical marker on the south side of the lawn.)

Gov. W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel hosted a barbeque to celebrate his reelection in 1941.

“The celebration required that pits be dug on the mansion grounds to roast more than 19,000 pounds of meat, including a buffalo shot by Pappy himself,” Mrs. Perry wrote.

“The buffet was made complete with 1,000 pounds of potato salad, 3,500 loaves of breadand 32,000 cups of coffee.”

THE BEST NEWS in Mrs. Perry’s story is that, because the mansion was undergoing extensive maintenance at the time of the arson, valuables like Sam Houston’s mahogany 4-poster bed, Stephen F. Austin’s writing desk and numerous pieces of art and antique furniture were in storage at the time.

The mansion is the oldest continuously inhabited house in Texas and fourth oldest governor’s mansion in the United States that has been continuously occupied by a chief executive. It was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1974.

Because it is such a treasure, and essential to preserving the state’s proud heritage, Mrs. Perry has established the Texas Governor’s Mansion Restoration Fund.

THIS IS A nonprofit organzation that will raise the money needed to restore and reopen the old home.

She wrote that she has been touched by the outpouring of support from her fellow Texans. The State Preservation Board has chosen Dealey Herndon of Dallas to manage the task of restoration.

More contributions are needed. They may be given on the Internet at, or you may send a tax-deductible check to Texas Governor’s Mansion Restoration Fund, P. O. Box 12878, Austin, TX 78711-2878.


8 days ago | 19 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN LAURA BUSH created the first Texas Book Festival in 1995 she did a good thing — good for public libraries, which have received $2.3 million in grants from the festival’s proceeds, and good for readers.

This year’s festival at the state Capitol was held the weekend before the presidential election, and parts of it were replayed Sunday on C-SPAN 2. I was grateful for that, since I was not able to go to the festival this year as I have in earlier years.

I expect Mrs. Bush was glad to have an excuse not to attend; surely the complicated transition from one White House family to another has her schedule filled. For, like the good librarian that she once was, she does not practice censorship. And there was much on the program that would not have pleased her family.

THOUGH THERE are programs going on simultaneously all over the capitol, the C-SPAN camera is set up only in the House chamber.

One of the Nov. 1 panels, rebroadcast Sunday, was titled, America — United We Stand?

Not surprisingly, the panel saw a divided nation. Two of the three panelists were Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing, co-authors of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart.

The book asserts that Americans are becoming increasingly polarized – not just by red or blue state, but separated down to the community level.

“We have built a country where everyone can choose the neighbors (and church and news shows) most compatible with his or her lifestyle and beliefs,” Bishop writes. “And we are living with the consequences of this segregation by way of life: pockets of like-minded citizens that have become so ideologically inbred that we don’t know, can’t understand, and can barely conceive of ‘those people’ who live just a few miles away.”

(I don’t think this quite applies to our county, since the one out of four Obama voters is more likely than not to have near neighbors who voted for McCain. And Upshur is unusual, also, in the amount of ticket-splitting it took for Sheriff Anthony Betterton and Tax Collector Mike Smith to get elected as Democrats.)

IN 1976, according to The Big Sort, fewer than a quarter of Americans lived in places where the presidential election was won by a landslide, but by 2004 nearly half of all voters did. Living in such homogenous groups leads to extreme positions, Bishop wrote.

A third panelist, Ron Brownstein, is a journalist well-known for appearances as a pundit on CNN and other TV channels. Newest of his five books is The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.

He says that the job of the next president is to find the center of the country. President Bush, he claims, governed instead from the center of his party. We are now in an era as divisive and bitterly partisan as any since the Civil War, Brownstein believes.

AN AUDIENCE member asked a question that I have long wondered about: why not do away with the Electoral College? Another election (as in 2000)in which one candidate won the popular vote and another won the Electoral College would increase whatever demand there now is to do away with the college, a later panelist pointed out.

But Bishop and Brownstein explained why a pure popular vote would increase polarization. Republicans would hang out in Dallas, trying to increase their assured vote there, and Democrats would focus on Los Angeles, for example.

But the Electoral College forces candidates to worry about states at the tipping point, not dominated by one party or the other. North Dakota, for example. On balance this is better, they think. So what if California and Texas receive no attention whatever from the candidates for president.

THINKING ABOUT the writers’ idea of homogenous communities sent me back to a map of Texas election returns, by county, that the Austin American-Statesman published.

As reported in The Mirror, John McCain received 74 percent of the votes cast for president in Upshur County. And every county in East Texas, from just north of Houston to the Red River, gave McCain a margin somewhere between 60 and 77 percent.

In West Texas the result was even more striking. Many non-metro counties in the South Plains and Panhandle were nearly unanimous: King and Roberts Counties, each 92 percent for McCain; Archer County (home of the writer Larry McMurtry), 82 percent.

CONSIDERING THE geographical dominance of red counties, I was surprised to find a Los Angeles Times story Sunday arguing that Texas could be the next Democratic target.

But blue did show up strikingly. Obama carried big-city Dallas, Harris, Travis, Bexar and El Paso Counties — along with 23 far South Texas counties from El Paso to Brownsville.

The population density in those counties was what brought McCain’s overall Texas percentage down to 55 percent. So it’s hard to dismiss the LA writer’s prediction out of hand.


7 days ago | 2 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE SEVENTH ANNUAL Airshow to be sponsored here by Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum — this year as a Veterans Day tribute — held many delights for aviation buffs.

The event at Gilmer’s Fox Stephens Field had such treats as World War II standouts — two P-51 Mustang fighter planes, a B-25 bomber and a Navy DC-3 transport. These were available for close inspection on the ground, and of course there was a variety of other planes featured in flyovers.

To me the most unexpected participant was one of the classic autos that paraded out to the tarmac near the reviewing stand.

This was a 1926 Rolls Royce that had been converted into an “estate car” with wood panel sides that, in this country, would make it a station wagon.

OWNERS OF this unusual vehicle are Kenneth and Evelyn Godden of Winona. I learned from Mr. Godden, a native of England, that he found the Rolls Royce in 1964, stored in a garage in Glousectershire in southern England.

He said that the owner of a large estate had taken a Rolls Royce sedan and had a carpenter customize it with wooden sides and racks inside for fishing tackle and guns, since the vehicle was used for hunting and fishing on the estate.

In the 1920s, he noted, this was a car in limited production, mostly for use by the royal family.

He brought it to this country and once drove it across the U.S. to San Francisco. With no air conditioning, the Rolls passengers suffered inferno-like heat in crossing the desert, he recalled.

IN MORE THAN 40 years of ownership he has had to replace the distributor and the wood paneling, and the front seat needed new leather upholstery. Outside of that, he said, it’s been fine.

Mr. Godden enjoyed showing off the pristine 6-cylinder engine to interested Air Show guests. He brought it on a trailer to the Gilmer airport. The 45-mile-an hour speed at which he drives it provides a dangerous irritant to today’s drivers, he said.

At least one Packard from the 1930s was among the group of classic cars that came to the Airshow. Old-timers will remember that the Packard’s vertical grill was similar to the Rolls Royce’s. But when you see them driving by in sequence, as at the airport Saturday, the Rolls is unmistakeable.

ON ANOTHER historical topic, we appreciate being brought a copy of the March 16, 1934 Gilmer Daily Mirror by Perry McCoy of the Gilmer Muffler Shop.

These four yellowed pages were at least five inches wider than the current Mirror, which measures about 12.5 inches, in line with today’s industry standard.

Ads on the front page touted living room suites sold by J. W. Croley Hardware Co. and fresh bread (“It tastes GOOD”) from Gilmer Sanitary Bakery. Magnolia Service Station, managed by Malcolm Smith, offered to clean spark plugs for 5 cents per plug.

THE CRYSTALTheatre was showing Fashions of 1934, starring Willliam Powell and Bettie Davis and featuring 40 gorgeous models and 200 glorious girls. (Movie making costs were so low in those Depression years that actors, including dancers, could be hired for peanuts. For a real nostalgia trip, check out the 1930s musicals that are regularly rerun on the Turner Classic Movies channel.)

The Strand Theatre, located where the Gilmer Cable TV office is now, was showing Clearing the Range with cowboy star Hoot Gibson. The weekly serial and a comedy short subject were extra treats for Saturday matinee attendees, whose average age was probably about 12.

GILMER ROTARY Club, meeting at the Jefferson Hotel, heard a discussion of the appalling frequency of serious highway accidents around Gilmer. John A. Brogoitti was appointed by President Edwin Aldredge to confer with highway officials relative to anything that could be done to make travel safer.

Not so coincidentally, another page one story told how O.T. Thrasher, prominent Mount Pleasant businessman, was mortally injured south of Gilmer when his Chevrolet crashed into a concrete bridge. “In the uncertain dusk” he was trying to turn out for a truck being towed ahead of him — hurrying home from business in Tyler to attend a 7 p.m. dinner.

“Circling the Square” was a regular feature. In this issue the reporter saw “Leo Hart, one of the town’s most elgible bachelors, saying he would send his son to Texas A&M College — if he had a son.”

A society page story described a 16th birthday party for Bob Epperson that was hosted by his aunt, Mrs. Hilton McClelland. She was assisted by Miss Euinice Roberts, who had moved here to teach at Gilmer High School.

THOSE OF US in the know can appreciate that Leo Hart and Eunice Roberts were subsequently married; that their only daughter, Rose Ann, became an honor graduate of UT-Austin, and then went to law school.

And I personally am glad to know that Rose Ann, married to Paxton Littlepage and herself the mother of two daughters, lives in Mart and still reads The Mirror.

Dr. Hugh Ragland had completed his medical internship in Fort Worth and had joined his father and brother, Drs. T. S. and Madison S. Ragland, in practice at the Ragland Clinic-Hospital.

A PERKINS BROS. store ad on the back page offered one-day specials at prices that seem remarkable even considering subsequent inflation: silk hose for 49 cents a pair (the supply of those dried up in World War II, never to return since nylon was a superior alternative); full-sized double thread Turkish towels for 17 cents each; men’s silk ties for 39 cents and percale fabric for 10 cents a yard.

The Mirror masthead included the double-eagle insignia of the National Recovery Administration, which included the motto, “We do our part.” Many stores around the courthouse square also displayed the NRA emblem.

This early effort of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lessen unemployment and mitigate the Depression had less than two years to run. The death blow came in 1935 when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that NRA codes were an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power and also violated the Constitution by regulating commerce within sovereign states.


7 days ago | 4 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MEMORIES of Upshur County elections:

Do you recall when winning in the Democratic Party primaries was “tantamount to election,” and that was the phrase automatically cranked into newspaper stories?

Were you there after those summertime elections when a huge “tote board” was erected on the south steps of the courthouse? And the courthouse square would be filled with cars that brought in folks from all over the county who stood, sat or stretched out on the lawn while results were posted by voting precinct as each counted box was brought in. It was sort of like a mass picnic with less food.

Some of my earliest memories are of being my father’s messenger from the courthouse to the Mirror office, where he was stationed as the Texas Election Bureau’s Upshur County correspodent. Russ Laschinger would be waiting by the telephone to call Dallas with the box-by-box returns I brought him.

I was not yet in high school, but I have probably not ever had a job that made me feel more important. Texas waited breathlessly for my messages — or so I thought.

WONDERING ABOUT the timeline for when all that changed, I did a little research.

I knew that William P. Clements was elected in 1978 as the first Republican governor since the Texas Reconstruction ended in 1874, was defeated in 1982 by Democrat Mark White, then served another 4-year term before Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican Clayton Williams for governor in 1990.

An essay by Carolyn Barta in the 1996 Texas Almanac was headlined “1994 Elections: A Rising Tide of Republicanism.” George W. Bush had just defeated Mrs. Richards for governor, and Ms. Barta wrote that “Republican leaders were predicting that, after 1994, the GOP would become the majority party in Texas by the turn of the century.”

A SHREWD prediction, it turned out. As of this week, Republicans held every statewide office and controlled the Legislature. The Handbook of Texas was an excellent resource to trace the political changes that brought Texas to this point.

I learned that it wasn’t until 1918 that a primary election runoff became compulsory for all state and district offices, and not until 1947 that this applied to all county offices. For some years before 1918, the Democratic state convention picked the nominees, based on whomever got a plurality in the one primary. The first primary was held in July and the runoff in August of even-numbered years.

Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson’s unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1960 brought about special election laws enacted for his benefit in 1959.

ONE LAW moved the dates of the primary elections from July and August to the first Saturdays in May and June. This allowed Johnson to be nominated for reelection to the U.S. Senate and simultaneously to have his name on the ballot as a presidential candidate.

The law was subsequently used to allow Lloyd Bentsen to run for vice president and senator in 1988, when another Texan, George H. W. Bush, was elected president.

You may recall, since it has been often repeated, what President Johnson told his aide Bill Moyers after he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964: “I think we’ve just delivered the South to the Republican Party for the rest of my life, and yours.”

Since the useful citizen Bill Moyers is still alive, well and broadcasting a public television program every Friday night, that prediction is still pending.

ACCORDING TO the Handbook, LBJ’s opponents resented the permanent changes in the primary arrangements, but the Legislature has not repealed the law except for changing the time of the primary and runoff. Since 1988, primary elections have been held the second Tuesday (“Super Tuesday”) in March to conform with primary elections in other Southern states.

The election of 1964 was the first one in which no poll tax was required to vote in federal elections, thanks to the 24th amendment to the Constitution, but the tax still survived for state and local elections. So, in 1964 Texas counties had to provide different ballots for voters qualified for all elections and for those voting only in federal elections.

Early in 1966 the poll tax was ruled invalid for all elections.

Many historians credit the poll tax as a tool that kept black people from voting for decades in the 20th century. But there were also Democratic Party rules with this intent. Between 1923 and 1944 federal court decisions struck down each of these rules, and since 1944 African Americans have been admitted to the Democratic primaries.

IN 1966 the Legislature required voters to register, in person or by mail, with the county tax assessor once each year between Oct. 1 and the following Jan. 31.

In 1971 the Legislature did away with the annual registration requirement and provided, instead, a continuing registration system, whereby voters were automatically registered after participating in primaries or elections. A law passed in 1973 gave all persons 18 years of age all the privileges hitherto granted those 21.

Neither the change in registration laws nor the vote for 18-year-olds came voluntarily, according to the Handbook, which says all changes in the election laws were fought bitterly by the Legislature and came only after U.S. Supreme Court decisions against the Texas position and amendment

THERE HAVE BEEN other changes in recent decades, major and minor.

Laws passed in 1941 and 1949 barred Fascists, Nazis, Communists, and other subversives from the ballot and exacted loyalty oaths from all elected officials and other officeholders. The loyalty oath was found to be unconstitutional, and the other provisions are no longer part of the election code.

Hard as it is to imagine today, anti-German feeling was so strong in the wake of World War II that in 1919 the then-governor, William P. Hobby, vetoed the University of Texas appropriation for its German Department.

Early voting is so popular today that as many as 60 percent of all votes may be cast in Texas before the deadline Friday. It was not ever thus, of course.

ABSENTEE voting was provided by the Legislature in 1925. The citizen had to swear why he could not vote on election day, mark his ballot in the presence of a notary public or a county official, and return it at least three days before the election. It was not until 1987 that any qualified voter could cast a vote early for any reason, including convenience.

This week and on Nov. 4 all voters have the option of voting a straight party slate at the top of the ballot. In this connection a change in the law was passed in 1951 and used only once; candidates of one party could also be filed by another party in general elections.

In the election of 1952 the Republican party cross-filed all but one of the Democratic party’s candidates for statewide office to make it easier for Democrats to vote for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican candidate for president.

As the Handbook of Texas notes, this action no doubt helped the general carry the state, and caused the Democrats to demand an end to the cross-filing privilege. It was repealed in 1955.

IT WASN’T what helped General Eisenhower get my vote. I’m chagrined to recall that I had a worse motive than party loyalty for choosing him.

Those were the days when Texas was still “in play.” I was living in Fort Worth, and I had a chance to hear both the general and the Democratic nominee, Gov. Adlai Stevenson, speak in close-up settings: on the courthouse square in Denton, and next to the Will Rogers Coliseum, an easy walk from our Fort Worth apartment.

It was clear to me that the World War II planner of D-Day was going to win, and I hated to see my first-ever vote go to a loser.

I hope I’ve been more judicious in my choices as the years have passed. But it makes me wonder if lowering the voting age was a good thing.


7 days ago | 10 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RIDING AS grand marshal of the Yamboree queen’s parade in Kenneth Stewart’s classic Thunderbird convertible was a privilege, an honor and more — a chance to see the huge parade crowd from a unique vantage point.

The crowd Saturday must have been one of the all-time largest, drawn both by the historic appeal of Yamboree Saturday and a perfect crisp fall day.

Residents of Gilmer Care Center had a perfect vantage point from in front of the building, since the parade started on Titus St. just north of there. And as it approached the courthouse square the people numbers rose dramatically. And what a happy, friendly throng it was.

I especially enjoyed seeing the multigenerational families that came to the parade; little children do seem to enjoy being waved at the most, and seem happy to wave back.

I MISSED SEEING horses in the parade, though I understand the reason for the rule change. It seems in recent years some riders have not been able to keep their mounts under control, and that could be a safety problem.

What I didn’t miss was politicians and their supporters.

The 1988 Yamboree visit of Sen. and Mrs. Lloyd Bentsen, when he was the Democratic nominee for vice-president, was enough to make politics an unwelcome intruder in the queen’s parade. (See photo above.)

So in this year of endless campaigning it was a relief to be in a politics-free zone where tens of thousands of folks were gathered with (mostly) only fun in mind.

YOU MAY recall that 1988 was the year when Gov. Michael Dukakis and Sen. Bentsen ran against then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle, whom Democrats criticized as too young and inexperienced to be on the ticket.

Bentsen is remembered mostly for his debate with Quayle — often cited this season — in which he responded to Quayle’s statement that he had as much Congressional experience as John F. Kennedy did when he ran for president. Bentsen shot back:

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.”

THE DEBATE, held on Oct. 5, 1988, was well behind him when the Bentsen entourage arrived for the Yamboree. Between the Secret Service and the sizable Washington press corps, his participation was disruptive, to say the least.

But the worst part, in my recollection, was the visiting press’ reaction to our revered festival. One of them wrote scathingly to the effect that it was an ordeal to have to spend time in this hayseed town.

Earlier, Gov. Dukakis had visited the area to speak to assembled union workers at the Lone Star Steel Co. plant.

WITH TEXANS on both tickets, the personal campaigning was so unlike this year, when both parties have written us off as a solid “red” state. But it was not much help for Dukakis and Bentsen. Texas went for Bush and Quayle by 55 percent to 45 percent, slightly better than the GOP national victory. The elder Bush won an electoral vote landslide, 426 to 111.

Presidential politics also had a role in the 1960 Yamboree, when Lynda Bird Johnson was Duchess of Texas in queen Peggy Ingram’s court. The queen’s mother, Janet Ingram, and Lady Bird Johnson had been classmates and friends at the University of Texas at Austin.

Lynda Bird took time to campaign on behalf of John F. Kennedy and her dad at a downtown Democratic booth. The presence of Lyndon Johnson on the ticket has been credited with swinging Texas to the Democrats in that very close race.

ONE YAMBOREE factoid, new to me, surfaced when 2008 Yamboree First Lady Dian Melton presented me a miniature yam corsage before the queen’s parade started.

Instead of the real miniature yams of previous years, she pointed out, these were ceramic ones. Why? It seems that feral hogs have been deadly to the supply. That’s one more black mark against these beasties, but on the positive side, the ceramic corsages are permanent.

One Saturday event I try never to miss is the fiddler’s contest.

I ENJOYED visiting with Charles Gardner of Nacogdoches, who was one of the judges. He is a bass fiddle player who was one of the East Texas String Inn-semble that entertained Texas Folklife Festival audiences in San Antonio for many years before they reached retirement age. (All of the players, including my friend F.E. [Ab] Abernethy, were Stephen F. Austin State University professors.)

Rex Gillentine, guitarist who won the award as best accompanist, took the microphone to make a plea to keep the contest going. “Tell the Chamber of Commerce,” he entreated.

Of course, even though the Yamboree operates out of the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce office, it’s the Yamboree board that determines each year’s events.

I hardly think there’s a chance that the fiddlers’ contest will be dropped. It began with the third Yamboree in 1937 — which was also the first year that the queen’s Coronation Pageant had an overall theme — and it is a proven crowd pleaser. All you need is a folding chair and ears to listen with.

THIS YEAR’S lovely queen, Stephanie Henson, takes her place in a long line of past royalty, each with a unique perspective on Yamborees yet to come.

If I’m reading the list correctly, more than 60 of the 71 queens are still with us. Recent years have taken a toll, and Clarine Smith Tucker of Longview, the sixth Yamboree queen in 1940, is the earliest queen still living. In the last 50 years, two queens, Teri Smith, 1984, and Amy Dean, 1987, have been lost at tragically young ages.

Since they were older at the time they served, Yamboree presidents have a few more missing from their list. Don Williams, who served in 1950, is the earliest surviving president. And what a joy it was to see him sitting with several generations of his family Saturday on the Titus St. part of the parade route.

I BELIEVE I’m right in saying that in the list of presidents since 1962, only Cranfill Cox Jr., Jack F. (Spot) Baird, and Richard Potter have passed on.

I heard some people speculating on why Freddy Arnold was president four times, 1939 through 1942.

Mr. Arnold was a major figure in the local yam-growing industry, as was J. R. Penn, the second president, in 1936. I guess it took a while to figure out that it was too big a job for one person to hold more than once — and an honor to be spread around, as well.


7 days ago | 25 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THIS IS THE week when, if you live in Upshur County and don’t like yams, it’s best to keep it secret. (For shame! And I am one of those, even though I know all about how much more nutritious they are than Irish potatoes.)

For a long lifetime I have disliked baked yams, which many relish, but I have learned there are many ways to spice them up — or, sugar them up.

Yam pie is the most obvious example, but there are many other recipes available. In my collection I have Let’s Cook with Yams!, the excellent Upshur County Extension Homemakers booklet that was recently reprinted by Historic Upshur Museum and is on sale there for a bargain $5.

The Cook’s Guide to Texas Sweet Potatoes, put out by the Texas Sweet Potato Council and the Texas Department of Agriculture, is another small treasure, with recipes for main dishes using ham, chicken, sausage and pork chops; tempting vegetable recipes such as candied yams, orange-sweet potato cups and yams with marshmallows; colorful bread and delightful desserts.

ON ONE OF my frequent trips to North Carolina, where my daughter Sally lives with her husband Paul Jones and their son Tucker, I picked up a leaflet claiming that North Carolina leads all states in sweet potato production. It is said to account for 40 percent of the national supply.

Inspired by a letter-writing campaign by fourth-graders in Wilson, N. C., state legislators declared the SweetPotato (spelled as one word) the official vegetable in 1995.

As to the eccentric spelling, the leaflet says “This is to avoid confusing them with potatoes.”

IT GOES ON to note that the most common inside color is a vivid orange, and “These are sometimes called ‘yams.’ However, a yam you buy in the store, is actually a SweetPotato. A true yam is a starchy tuber that grows in south america and the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and not even related to the SweetPotato.”

This publication of the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission claims that the vegetables have been around since prehistoric times, and some scientists believe that dinosaurs might have eaten them.

Native Americans were growing them when Columbus arrive in 1492 ahd the ship’s log indicated he took some back to Europe with him. George Washington grew them.

THE NOVEMBER, 1936 edition of the Tuskegee Institute Bulletin, which came to my hand I know not when, was written by the famous George Washington Carver, then director of the Institute’s Experiment Station.

Dr. Carver was berated by later generations of more militant black leaders as too timid in terms of race relations — a veritable “Uncle Tom.” This has always seemed unfair, for he was principally a scientist.

The revised fourth edition of this bulletin, dated 1937, was titled How the Farmer Can Save His Sweet Potatoes — And Ways of Preparing Them for the Table.

DR. CARVER wrote that “the splendid service [the sweet potato] rendered during the great World War in the saving of wheat flour, will not soon be forgotten. The 118 different and attractive products (to date) made from it, are sufficient to convince the most skeptical that we are just beginning to discover the real value and marvelous possibilties of this splendid vegetable.”

Of the 11 yam varieties on his list, he recommended the Porto Rico, Dooley, Triumph, Pumpkin and Nancy Hall Yams for eating.

In addition to directions for growing and curing yams, Dr. Carver includes a recipe book, writing: “There is an idea prevalent that anybody can cook sweet potatoes. This is a very great mistake, and the many, many dishes of illy cooked potatoes that are placed before me as I travel over the South prompt me to believe that these recipes will be of value . . . “

HOW TIMES HAVE changed, agricuture-wise, since the early days of the Yamboree. Our files contain a Dallas Morning News story pubished on Oct. 28, 1940, by Ag Editor Victor Scholffelmayer, who visited Gilmer.

“Old Mother Nature and science, working together, are putting a lot of new wealth into the pockets of East Texas sandy land farmers from this season’s crop of sweet potatoes,” the story began.

During the Yamboree, it went on, growers told of a record crop bringing in probably $2 milliion to the yam belt — new wealth, at a time when cotton prices were disappointing.

THE STORY was illustrated with a scene of workers at J. R Penn’s Gilmer packing plant getting yams ready for market.

July rains made more oversized yams than the market could take, and the editor bemoaned the fact that probably one million of the three million-bushel crop would either harmfully compete with higher quality yams in the market, or go to waste. Yam growers needed other channels, such as a dehydration plant, to process these culls into other products, the ag editor wrote.

A couple of Dallas promoters made an effort to get a dehydration plant started here during World War II, but it never quite got off the ground.

Today the Yantis-Golden area is the East Texas center of yam production, and it has been years since the Extension Service had an experiment station (on the present location of the Gilmer airport) to advise farmers. Our Yamboree thrives anyway, and gives us plenty excuse to wear the orange proudly — and not just to Buckeye football games.

Sideglances in The Mirror

DELVING INTO Mirror microfilm files of the early 20th Century, I have been surprised to see that in those pre-World War I days there was a small Socialist voting bloc in Upshur County. A paper presented at the recent East Texas Historical Association meeting in Nacogdoches filled me in. The subject for Kyle G. Wilson of Collin College was Yeoman, Sharecroppers and Socialists: Poor Peoples’ Protest in Texas, 1870-1914. He explained that the small tenant farmers, sharecroppers and owners of very small farms felt increasingly shut out by landlords, bankers and large farmers. The white and black poorest farmers came to feel that land ownership as then existing violated moral precepts. The ablest among them, Wilson said, turned to populism and agrarian socialism in a quest for land redistribution. By 1912, 16 percent of rural Texans were voting Socialist, Wilson said. (Towns people never took part.) IN THE NOV. 14, 1916, Mirror, a story said commissioners had canvassed the general election ballots and reported that Coffeeville went Republican with 33 votes to 27 for the Democratic slate, and in the Rocky box, there were 17 Socialist, 15 Republican and 10 Democratic votes. The entire Democratic ticket was elected, the other parties not making much showing except in these two boxes. Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1916 with 49.1 percent of the vote, ahead of Republican Charles Evan Hughes with 46.1 percent. The Sociallist nominee, Allen L. Benson, got 3.2 percent. THAT SAME election season, my grandfather, the late Mirror Publisher George Tucker, wrote about a Socialist rally he attended south of Pritchett. Here is part of what he wrote in the Aug. 16, 1916 Mirror:

About a mile and a half south of Pritchett, in a pretty grove with a beautiful lake hard by, there was a Socialist encampment last Friday and Saturday. There was a large brush arbor constructed in a grove of oaks, with pulpit and seats. There were numerous refreshment stands.

On the pretty lake there were boats, on which some of the younger attendants were drifiting about running their hands through the cool clear waters . . .

Scattered around over the grounds there were hundreds of vehicles ranging from the most primitive to the modern limousine, and in these there were many young people who seemed not to care for the proceedings, but enjoying themselves just the same.

The Mirror man accompanied Mr. J.C. McDonald down there Friday afternoon, and we wended our way to the arbor, where every available seat had already been taken and hundreds were standing on the fringe listening to a speech by Mrs. Kate O’Hara of St. Louis, she of “Rip Saw” fame, the editorial genius that promulgates through this organ with its 250,000 circulation the doubtful doctrine of Socialism.

Owing to the reconstruction of a bridge between Gilmer and Pritchett that delayed our arrival for nearly an hour, we missed a good deal of the speech. We were informed Mrs. O’Hara had been speaking for something over two hours . . .

She was dealing with the double standard of man and womanhood and pointing out the dangers to the sons and daughters. It was strong language for a mixed audience, and ugly, homely facts she was presenting that required plain language, but we could not help wondering if it wasn’t a chapter of her lecture more suitable to the larger cities, than in a rural neighborhood so far away from the red-light districts she so familiarly described, with all their sins and polllution, and that if it wouldn’t have been better to let the young people to have remained in ignorance of the ways and evils of such places.

Her arraignment of man was severe — and there was no condonement of the sins of her fellow woman, but she said that where there was one of that kind, there were 20 men, just as guilty.

She said that she never asked for recruits to the Socialist ranks, but asked them to read and get wise, to be enlightened, not to jump as conclusions of carping critics that thought Socialism meant “free love, and n______ equality.”

She talked of the horrors of war, and preparedness, on which she has written a motion picture scenario, that she says was suppressed at a cost of $250,000 by the manufacturers that want preparedness.

She came from underneath the arbor and the Mirror man introduced himself, and learned that for 26 days she has been addressing large audiences along a mapped out route, and she was then looking for the committee to learn when she would get to Gilmer to catch a train for her next appointment.

THE MIRROR MAN was sorry we didn’t hear her explanation of the Socialist propaganda, for there is no question but what Socialism is spreading, and at some remote time may become one of the political problems of the country, however much we may question its chimerical promises of an unattainable Utopia.

Depending on where you are on the political spectrum, my grandfather was either prescient or a poor prognosticator. Calling a political opponent “socialist” as a bad word is still a tactic used by Ron Paul’s libertarians and others on the far right. And since Ronald Reagan became president in 1980 there have been many trying to roll back President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal on grounds that it was socialistic. Devoted followers of FDR — mostly those who were alive during his presidency which ended with his death in 1945 — think of him as neither sociallist, conservative nor liberal. Rather, he was a pragmatist, willing to try anything that would help get America out of the Great Depression. After World War I the Socialist movement, which depended on a coalition of white and black tenant farmers and sharecroppers, died out because the poll tax had effectively ended black voting.

Sideglances in The Mirror

Oct. 1, 2008
EAST TEXAS Historical Association’s annual fall meeting in Nacogdoches last Thursday-Saturday had a slight drop-off in attendance because many of the members living in the Houston and Beaumont areas were still trying to overcome the effects of Hurricane Ike.

There was no lack of attendance, however, at the Saturday luncheon, which featured a good-natured “roast” of Dr. Archie P. McDonald. He has retired after 37 years as the association’s executive director and editor. He also is stepping down as the alternate-Saturdays writer of the All Things Historical column that appears on The Mirror’s editorial page. (Co-writer Bob Bowman will continue the column.)

Contributors to the roast, among others, were Gail Beil, Marshall writer and woman of many accomplishments, among them having been a graduate student of Dr. McDonald; Kyle Childress, the subject’s Baptist pastor for 17 years, and Roger VanHorn, Nacogdoches mayor and Dr. McDonald’s dentist.

In the latter role, Dr. VanHorn said, he is privileged, from time to time, to have Dr. McDonald situated with his mouth open for 45 minutes “when he can’t talk. And I am a Republican.”

The dentist gave credit to Dr. McDonald’s wife Judy, a former Nacogdoches mayor, for inspiring him in that role.

ETHA IS fortunate to have so many able presenters of historical papers that three sessions are held at a time, making for some difficult choices. One of the Saturday sessions was sponsored by the Texas Folklore Society, another of my favorite organizations.

Kenneth L. Untiedt, who has replaced Dr. Francis E. Abernethy as secretary-editor for the Folklorists, presided at that session. It concluded with a talk by L. Patrick Hughes, Austim Community college teacher, on Hobo Heaven: The Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Most Americans associate hobos with the Great Depression of the 1930s; I know I do. Unlike tramps or bums, a hobo will work for his handout.

WHEN I WAS growing up in the 1930s our house was just a half block from the Cotton Belt tracks, and I remember when hoboes came to call — respectfully, always at the back door.

And my mother always had a chore they could do in return for food. She suspected that our house was “marked,” as fruitful stops were wont to be.

Coincidentally, I learned from the CBS Sunday Morning TV program that there are people of means with wanderlust today who have taken up a hobo hobby. In early August they attended the 108th National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa, the site of a Hobo Museum.

At the ETHA meeting, Hughes took hobo music as his topic. The list of hobo songs is long, and at least one has a long history, he said.

THAT WOULD BE Big Rock Candy Mountain, the hobo’s idea of heaven on earth.

Harry McClintock is most associated with the 1928 version of the song, which he recorded. Some credit him with writing it. But, as Hughes said, folk songs are malleable, and this one actually evolved over centuries. McClintock was a country music composer, hobo, and labor organizer, a lifelong member of the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as “the Wobblies.” He organized union workers in the oil fields of West Texas.

Hughes distributed the words to the songs Big Rock evolved from, starting with the 1685 vintage An Invitation to Lubberland. It began:

There is all sorts of fowl and fish, with wine and store of brandy;

Ye have there what your hearts can wish: the hills are sugar-candy.

Ten more verses of this English song describe a land that “is not above two thousand leagues from Dover,” and end by advising:

You that are free to cross the seas make no more disputation: In Lubberland you’ll live at ease, with pleasant recreation. By the 1890s the song had turned into The Appleknocker’s Lament.

This was the story of a farmer’s lad who believed a bum who promised to show him great wonders. In the end, the lad learned,

There are no bees in the cigarette trees,

No big rock candy mountains,

No chocolate heights where they give away kites,

Or sody-water fountains.

HUGHES ENDED with McClintock’s Big Rock Candy Mountain, the version used in the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou.

The hobo tells of a land that’s far away beside the crystal fountains. The second verse refutes the farmer’s lad, and the third verse adds:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs

And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs

The farmer’s trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay

Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow

Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Hughes told of some other singers associated with the song. including Western movie star Gene Autry and Panola County’s own cowboy singer, Tex Ritter, who recorded a cleaned-up children’s version.

II’ll be back in Nacogdoches next Easter weekend for the 100th anniversary meeting of the Texas Folklore Society — glad that it’s East Texas’ turn for such a significant occasion.

Sideglances in The Mirror

TWO KEY FIGURES on Galveston Island who have been in the news since Hurricane Ike wreaked its devastation are the Rev. Bert Bagley, senior pastor of the Moody Memorial First United Methodist Church, and Dolph Tillotson, publisher of the Galveston County Daily News.

Rev. Bagley is remembered here as youth director of the Gilmer First United Methodist Church in the early 1970s before he finished Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

On being qualified for a pastorate, he served at Elysian Fields and Crossroads Churches in the Longview District and Winona in the Tyler District. As he rose in the Texas Conference, he served several other churches before being assigned as senior pastor of the Moody Memorial FUMC, one of the oldest and largest in the coastal area.

Cable TV channel MSNBC interviewed Rev. Bagley in its Sunday coverage of the Galveston storm. He was standing in front of the huge Italian Gothic cathedral that has housed the Galveston Methodist congregation since 1964.

IN ITS LONG history the church has had various names and occupied different downtown sites. The present 12-acre property is at 53rd and U Sts. two blocks north of the Seawall Blvd.

Rev. Bagley explained that the storm tore off much of the roof of the main building, so the mayor and other officials were about to gather in the chapel to hold a Sunday morning service of thanksgiving for deliverance from the hurricane.

According to the Sunday Internet edition of the Galveston County Daily News, Rev. Bagley said he wanted to remind people that the hurricane didn’t change God’s love for them. During the service, the story said, congregants wrote down something they pledged to do for someone else this week instead of giving a monetary offering. They sang old hymns asking for “shelter from the stormy blast” and prayed for mercy.

“God is good, no doubt,” Rev. Bagley is quoted. “We’re not quite as good. We will rise again. We have a ways to go, but we are grateful to God, who restores our strength.” HURRICANE IKE dealt a blow to the Galveston County Daily News that is any publisher’s worst nightmare. Floods and fires head that list, but the Galveston newspaper, oldest in the state, did an admirable job of getting the news out without interruption.

Dolph Tillotson, a native of Alabama, has been the publisher for the last 20 years.

The newspaper never missed an edition during Hurricane Ike and the days following, although the papers were greatly reduced in size and distribution was very difficult. Tillotson was interviewed by National Public Radio Sunday. In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, the newspaper staff moved to New Braunfels and the paper was printed in Victoria.

BY SUNDAY, operations had moved to the daily’s Texas City building (the Galveston Daily News added County to its name in 1993, when it began covering all of Galveston County, and it merged with the Texas City Sun in 2004.)

For the first week, single copies were given away at various sites on the island. By last weekend the newspaper was reestablishing delivery in Galveston County.

According to a history related on the Web site, when the first edition of The Daily News appeared April 11, 1842, it attracted little notice. And at the time, it would never have occurred to its founders that the newspaper would still be here today as the oldest continuously published newspaper in Texas.

The old Daily News building, located on Mechanic St. in Galveston, was the first building in the United States designed solely for a newspaper plant. Today, the building is a residential complex.

THE FIRST edition was published by George French from a single-story building on Tremont St. in downtown Galveston. At the time, Texas was an independent republic. Sam Houston was finishing his last term as president. Galveston was a fledgling village of more than 4,000 citizens — and anything that came into Texas from the Gulf of Mexico came through Galveston.

The newspaper founded The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 1, 1885. The Dallas newspaper is considered to be Texas’ oldest business institution, due in part to its affiliation with The Daily News.

During The Civil War, the Galveston newspaper was briefly published in Houston, and may have missed a few editions then, according to Tillotson. The publisher expressed both concern for and optimism about Galveston’s economic future. HE FEARS THAT some residents may not return, but the newspaper will do all it can to encourage them, he said. (This Wednesday is the day authorities have said Galveston will be open to returnees and others.)

“The newspaper must go on” is not as well-known an idea as “the show must go on.” But the New Orleans Times-Picayune lived up to the tradition in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, as the Galveston daily has done.

Though it happened 67 years ago, The Gilmer Mirror family well remembers when we were called on to live up to this ideal. The newspaper was located on the east side of the square, in the second building from the north corner, when fire destroyed it in 1941 a few months before Pearl Harbor. For more than 20 years it had been a daily newspaper, a frequency that did not survive World War II.

We rented a building on the north side of the square for the office staff, and accepted an offer from the Lockhart and White families of the Pittsburg Gazette to print the newspaper there until the present building could be designed and built. The old Duplex Mirror press was rebuilt and moved there, and lasted until the offset revolution made newspaper letterpresses obsolete.

Sideglances in The Mirror

I WAS NOT “Born on the Island,” as Galveston natives describe themselves, and I have never lived there. But like many Texans, I have a sentimental attachment to the city. So the Hurricane Ike devastation is painful to hear about.

Family vacations in the 1930s, when I was a pre-schooler, comprise some of my earliest and best memories. We stayed at the now-vanished Bucaneer Hotel on Seawall Blvd. and, on day trips from Houston, changed into our bathing suits at Murdoch’s Bath House.

In the summer of 1949, newly graduated from UT Austin and employed in the Dallas Morning News city room, I joined my parents for the 70th Texas Press Association convention. A highlight for the delegates was a chance to spend Saturday evening at the Balinese Room.

WHEN I READ that Ike surges destroyed Murdoch’s and the Balinese Room, both jutting out into the Gulf from Seawall Blvd. near 21st St., I was moved to ponder their history. The brief newspaper and TV reports implied that these two were continuous over the decades; not so, as a little Web research confirmed.

Today’s Murdoch’s was mainly a group of gift shops and a bar, a pale imitation of its onetime role. And the Balinese Room reopened in 2001 after a 20-year hiatus.

The Balinese Room name dates back to 1942, when Sam and Rosario Maceo, the owners of a Chinese restaurant called Sui Jen, changed the name after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U. S. into World War II.

The pier was extended from 200 to 600 feet and the back room was equipped as a modern casino.

THE PRESS GROUP I was with did not feel reticent about patronizing a club that was run by the Maceos, who were enriched by a combination of legal and illegal operations. (They owned both the Balinese Room and Murdoch’s, among other properties in Galveston, Las Vegas and elsewhere.)

We entered through a long gallery that took us to the casino room and the dining and dancing area, which featured music by Joe Reichman and his orchestra. One of the numbers they played was a theme song, At the Balinese Room.

It was altogether the most glamourous evening of my young life.

ACCORDING TO Wikipedia, the club’s illegal gambling made it a hub of mob activity. It was well-known that the casino was operating in violation of the law. But the Maceos had many allies in the local government and on the police force, so charges were never filed.

In 1956, Will Wilson was elected Texas’ attorney general after campaigning to “close down Galveston” and its illegal casinos using the Texas Rangers. The Rangers started sitting in the casino all day, every day. Customers, intimidated, stopped coming. Business was so bad that the club closed its doors in May, 1957.

After sitting vacant for 20 years, the Balinese Room and its pier eventually became the property of the State of Texas. A Galveston attorney, Scott Arnold, took out a 60-year lease on the pier, and in 2001, reopened the Balinese Room for business.

IN THE 1940s and 1950s the Balinese Room featured entertainment by such as Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, George Burns, Duke Ellington and other top acts of the day. Patrons of the private club included Howard Hughes and oil barons from Houston.

Olivia Maceo, the sister of Sam and Rosario, married Joseph Fertitta and they became the great grandparents of Tilman Fertitta, owner of today’s large Landry’s restaurant chain. So the family continues to prosper.

In 1996 I was president of the Texas Press Association. One of the perks was getting to pick the summer convention site. I hesitated not a moment in choosing Galveston.

We met at the historic Tremont Hotel downtown. It’s closed now, though not damaged, I hope, like the Flagship, the San Luis and others on the seawall. Who knows how long it will be before Galveston is again ready to welcome visitors.

ANOTHER casualty of Hurricane Ike was Brennan’s Restaurant in Houston, destroyed by fire Saturday night. It was usually described as being made famous by its role in the movie, Terms of Endearment. High winds blew off the restaurant’s transformers, and whipped the resulting flames beyond firemen’s efforts to contain them.

It was famous with me because it was connected to Brennan’s in New Orleans, noted for its “Breakfast at Brennan’s” calorie-laden, utterly delicious brunches. Crepes Fitzgerald, Bananas Foster and other treats were on my mind when the Houston branch opened in 1967, and I managed to eat there as often as possible on trips to Houston.

CONSIDERING that 3 million customers were without power on the coast, and destruction there will take many months and billions of dollars to fix, I am not inclined toward any emotion but gratitude for the way Gilmer and Upshur County were treated by Ike.

I appreciate SWEPCO’s speed in getting power restored to my end of northwest Gilmer after a 12-hour outage Saturday night, and Upshur Rural Electric crews have been doing their usual dedicated job of getting the lights back on.

Sideglances in The Mirror

Change, change, change.

IT’S A MANTRA you can’t escape if you read, listen to or view national political news. I weary of it, considering that Texans are not going to play a role in picking the next president — assuming the pundits are right in singling out a few “swing” states that will get all the attention for the next eight weeks.

If the Congress only would give us a chance to vote out the Electoral College (by constitutional amendment), then every American would truly have a vote. Apparently, though, the legislators have no incentive to do that.

This being the case, I am focusing on changes that I can at least observe, as autumn slips in to my back yard.

AN ABSENCE of migrating birds makes the summer a dull season for bird-watching, but now that the American beautyberry shrubs are draped in their clusters of purple berries, robins and other birds are drawn in to eat them.

According to my research, the berries are eaten and the seeds dispersed by more than 40 species of birds as well as raccoons, possums, armadillos, deer, squirrels and other small rodents.

Callicarpa Americana, as the beautyberry is known botanically, is found from Texas to Florida and north as far as Missouri and Maryland. It frequently occurs in both old forests and new pine plantations. And what an amazing shrub it is.

I’ve never planted one. I’ve cut them back to the ground, and it only makes them bushier when they grow back to four or five feet tall in less than a year.

AND THOUGH I can’t imagine having to pay for one, they are sold by some nurseries.

Dave’s Garden, a website that serves as a forum for gardeners to exchange information as well as plants, describes American beautyberry in so many ways that a newcomer to this shrub would have a hard time placing it Some have planted the bush and it failed to thrive, while other Southern gardeners describe it as a weed that can’t be eliminated if you try.

One woman said she preferred it to poison ivy or poison oak. So do I, and those grow in my woods, too. But talk about damning with faint praise.

ONE MAN SAID he eats the berries but the Wikipedia web page states that the “berries are astringent and unfit for human consumption.” The same site declares, however, that they make good jelly.

I like trying out wild foods, but I’m steering clear of beautyberries, which are also known as French mulberries.

It’s good to know that the shrubs repel mosquitoes that cause yellow fever and malaria as well as ticks that carry lime disease. They surely don’t seem to repel the ordinary mosquitoes that keep invading my house.

MOCKINGBIRDS are in no danger of becoming endangered, if the Gilmer population is any indicator, and they seem especially active at this season. I’ve never been bothered by their song, but when I saw the movie Failure to Launch last week, for the second time, I was reminded of one of its funniest scenes.

The plot involves parents (Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates), who hire Sarah Jessica Parker to entice their 35-year-old son, Matthew McConaughey, to move out of their house.

Ms. Parker’s roommate, played by Zooey Deschanel, is driven crazy by the incessant song of a mockingbird outside her window. She talks her new boyfriend into shooting the bird, and when he succeeds she has a sudden change of heart.

The boyfriend, played by Justin Bartha, resorts to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to bring the bird back.

THIS BIRD got good notice Aug. 20 when Garrison Keillor chose a mockingbird poem for his daily Writer’s Almanac (heard at 9 a.m. weekdays on the Shreveport public radio station, and posted weekdays on the Internet).

Thus Spake the Mockingbird by Barbara Hamby includes these descriptive lines:

The mockingbird says, Hallelujah, coreopsis, I make the day bright, I wake the night-booming jasmine. I am

the duodecimo of desperate love, the hocus-pocus passion

flower of delirious retribution. You never saw such a bird,

such a triage of blood and feathers, tongue and bone. And . . .

I am the green god of pine trees, conducting the music of rustling needle through a harp of wind.

Truly a worthy choice to be the state bird of Texas.

Sideglances in The Mirror

PARDON MY BIAS, but I think Gilmer is more than just a run-of-the-mill small town (or “tiny town,” as big city newspapers often characterize it). I think that throughout much of the 20th Century, perhaps not so much in recent years, growing up in Gilmer made an unusually strong impact.

One of the things that has contributed to the town's uniqueness is the Yamboree, now 73 years old. County fairs and other harvest festivals come and go, but our Yamboree has a special strength, I believe.

Certainly Juanita Nelms, who died last week at 101 and was celebrated in a funeral service Monday, was one of a handful of women who launched the non-agricultural side of the Yamboree and have carried on with dedication ever since that first pageant and queen’s parade in 1935.

IN RUMMAGING through our files since Juanita’s passing I came across a carbon copy of a story about her. Loise Graves had written it in 1975, a time when Juanita had already directed 16 Yamboree pageants.

Juanita also wrote the script for that year, Our American Heritage. And, as so often, there was a strong family connection. Juanita’s granddaughter, Lesa Nelms of Lake Jackson, was a duchess representing the Noble Savage and another granddaughter was also in Queen Stephanie Mayfield’s court.

Speaking of Juanita’s contributions in other fields, Loise listed: organist at First Methodist Church for 40 years, Rotary Club pianist for 38 years and the Eastern Star for 18 years. (Before she retired, these stretched out into records that probably never will be broken.)

Also mentioned were Outstanding Citizen Award in 1970, president of the 20th Century Club and permanent Yamboree director.

JUANITA AND her husband Marshall were newlyweds when they moved to Gilmer from Timpson in 1926, and she was soon involved in business and civic activities. She was pianist for the first Yamboree pageant in 1935 and her son Bill was the queen’s crown bearer. She remembered the first tickets sold for 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.

Juanita recalled for Loise that the queen was left out of the first queen’s parade, an error that took years to live down. Someone started the first units of the parade before the queen, Jane Tuttle, had arrived at the elementary school assembly grounds. (In those days it was called the Gilmer Ward School.)

Juanita noted that each year since, no parade had started without a check being made that the queen was on her float. ONE OF HER talents in the business field surfaced long before she and Marshall founded Nelms Furniture and Gifts. As a sales person for Hudgins store she made trips to the women’s wear markets.

My mother, the late Georgia Laschinger, once told me she thought Juanita was the best buyer ever. It was the same good taste that later made her successful in her own business. And it seems appropriate that this connection lives on in today’s Nelms at the Hudgins House store in the longtime Hudgins location on the southwest side of the Gilmer square.

My mother, who served as Gilmer Mirror advertising manager and in other roles during a long career with our family-owned newspaper, was also active in getting the Yamboree well launched, and was only slightly older than Juanita. They were two women who “had it all” — family and career with neither slighted — long before that was the (still elusive) goal of feminists.

THE IMPACT of Gilmer on people who grow up here and move away is exemplified by another who passed from the scene last month.

Dr. Bob Gordon graduated from Gilmer High School in 1944, joined the Army and returned for college, after which he never lived here again. He had a career first as a pharmacist and then for many years as a medical doctor, living in Conroe at the time his death.

He was one of five children of the late Mr. and Mrs. Ed Gordon, only two of whom survive: Jim of College Station and Jane Watkins of St. Francisville, La.

In recent years the Gilmer High Class of 1946 has held annual reunions that have attracted some members of other 1940s classses. Jim and Bob Gordon have been among them.

On learning of his death several of these Old Buckeyes looked for a way to honor him more personal than giving to a national medical organization.

And so it is that checks totalling several hundred dollars will be presented this week to Historic Upshur Museum as the Bob Gordon Memorial Fund.

Sideglances in The Mirror

STATE FARE: An Irreverent Guide to Texas Movies. By Don Graham. Texas Small Books. TCU Press. 90 pp. $8.95.

Don Graham is the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American English Literature at The University of Texas at Austin, a prolific writer on Texas subjects and perhaps the state’s leading authority on Texas movies.

This treatment is limited to films about Texas subjects, though not necessarily made in the state. He covers more than a century, starting with the Galveston hurricane of 1900, filmed as Edison newsreels.

In the silent film era and beyond the Texas cowboy was important, for he is “above all, a paragon of American qualities.”

MORE THAN half of the 600 films with Texas content are Westerns, Graham has found.

The first big Western star, Tom Mix, was reportedly a former Texas Ranger who hailed from El Paso, but he actually came from Mix Run, Pa.

Many of the silent films have been lost to the fragility of film that causes “nitrate death,” but Graham singles out four that remain: Martyrs of the Alamo, “which turns the entire battle for Texas into a racial conflict between white and brown;” North of 36, the first cattle drive movie, shot on a ranch near Houston; A Texas Steer, 1927 comedy starring Will Rogers, and The Wind, based on the Dorothy Scarborough novel that told of the devastating effect the West Texas climate had on a bride from the East. Set near Sweetwater, it was protested by that town’s chamber of commerce and many West Texas newspapers.

The novel has a tragic ending as Letty wanders into a desert suicide. That wouldn’t do for Hollywood, which insisted on a happy ending.

Graham explains how the advent of sound brought about a 2-tier system: major expensive productions with big stars, and “B” movies that could be cranked out fast and cheap. These were done by the big studios, and were vital to smaller studios like Republic and Monogram.

EXAMPLES OF the “B” Westerns take a child of the 1930s back to afternoons at the Strand Theater (located on the site of the present Gilmer Cable TV offices.)

The Big Show, starring Gene Autry, was filmed partly on the State Fair grounds in Dallas during the Texas Centennial of 1936, a film that has documentary value today, Graham believes. The SMU Marching Band, the stripper Sally Rad and scenes of the Art Deco buildings are cited.

Three Texas Steers, 1939, starred John Wayne, who wasn’t proud of it.

Graham writes that “it does seem odd that a steer, a castrated bovine, represents the image of the Texas macho male. It’s probably because nobody knew what a steer was.”

BUT WHAT’S the excuse for athletic teams at the university where Graham teaches? Surely they know what a steer is, Longhorn or not.

Terror in a Texas Town, 1958, is rated by several critics as the best B Western ever. It was scripted by Dalton Trumbo, best known of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten.

Graham somehow failed to include my favorite B Western, Terror in Tiny Town, 1938, with an all-midget cast — most of them the same actors who played munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. Its locale is generic, but there is one character named Tex.

In a chapter on Grade A Texas Beef, the author lists five films that “most powerfully define the state as a mythic site.”

These are Red River, 1948, starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift; Giant, 1956, the movie based on Edna Ferber’s novel, still notable at Marfa for the still-standing ranch house set; Hud, 1963, based on Larry McMurtry’s first novel, Horseman, Pass By; The Last Picture Show, 1971, film version of McMurtry’s third novel, and The Wheeler Dealers, 1963, whose oilmen are all dressed like cowboys.

Graham writes that if The Last Picture Show was the end of a long line of big Texas Westerns, it was the beginning of a long line of small Texas movies.

GRAHAM GIVES capsule comments on 23 Texas movies pro- duced between 1945 and 2004.

John Ford’s 1956 Western, The Searchers, starring John Wayne, is rated as one of the most im por tant movies in American cinema history. Written on the Wind, 1956, deals with a rich Texas oil family and is notable for Dallasite Dorothy Malone playing opposite Rock Hudson in a career that faded fast.

Bonnie and Clyde, 1966, naturally makes the list, as do two classic favorites, Tender Mercies, 1983, featuring one of Robert Duvall’s many great roles, and Places in the Heart, 1984, filmed around Waxahachie and starring Sally Fields. It’s indeed poignant to lean that from 1921 to 1930 more films were made with Texas titles or settings — 88 — than any other state. But Hollywood was already dominating the young film industry, and the rest is history. Now we have Louisiana, New Mexico and other states with better inducements stealing productions that could better be made in Texas.

This Small Book is a worthy companion to the two described in this space last week, Texas Country Singers and Extraordinary Texas Women.

Sideglances in The Mirror

TEXAS COUNTRY SINGERS. By Phil Fry and Jim Lee. A Texas Small Book. 88 pp. TCU Press, Fort Worth. $8.95.

Texas is famously hung up on everything big, so TCU Press is taking a contrarian path in starting a new series of small books (4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches).

Before the reader has a chance to question the 25 singers selected for this book, the authors mount their defense: they know a lot of great Texas singers are omitted, but they have their reasons.

All 25 singers were born in Texas, and their chapters are arranged alphabetically, from Gene Autrey to Don Walser. This last singer-songwriter is famous far beyond Texas; he recorded 10 albums, played at the Grand Ole Opry and has been called “the Pavarotti of the Plains.” Not having frequented his favorite venue, Austin’s famous Broken Spoke, I didn’t know about him.

Also less familiar, to this reader, were Tommy Duncan, lead vocalist of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, and Adolph Hofner, San Antonio based, who blended Western swing, central European polkas and folk tunes with country sung in his native language, Czech. (Bob Wills didn’t make the list because he wasn’t a singer, the writers explain.)

Most of the others are household names, if your household listens to country music.

I turned first to make sure Perryville’s Ray Price got proper treatment, and he did. His chapter calls the roll of famous former members of his band, the Cherokee Cowboys: Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Bush, among others. Those four each rate a chapter of their own, quite logically.

Johnny Bush joined the Cherokee Cowboys as a drummer in 1963 when Willie Nelson was the band’s bass player. Bush is most famous today as the composer of Nelson’s theme song, Whiskey River, according to Fry and Lee.

Ray Price has been a star for more than 50 years, “an endurance record rare in country music circles,” the writers note. They tell of how he spent part of the 1990s singing in his Branson, Mo., theater but in 2007 he toured the country with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, backed up by Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel.

Benson, whose own Texas fans are legion, was not born in the state, alas, so he’s not one of those profiled.

In addition to his other touring, Price has perfomed at the Gilmer Civic Center twice in recent years and, if we’re lucky, may return one day soon. Neither this book’s writers nor anyone else can explain how Price still sounds so great at age 82.

The other singers featured in this small book are a mix of the living and the dead, all worthy. In the latter category: Lefty Frizzell, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, Tex Ritter, Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb and Buck Owens.

Still with us are George Jones, Kris Kristofferson and George Strait. Unliike some, Strait embodies the look and the sound of a real cowboy because he is one, having been raised on a ranch near Pearsall in South Texas. He continues to sell more records than almost any country singer, the writers point out.

Texas country singers are mostly male, so it’s not surprising that the only two women in this book are Barbara Mandrell, born in Houston on Christmas day in 1948, and Tanya Tucker, 49, who was born in Seminole but mostly grew up in Arizona.

Co-author Jim Lee is better known as Dr. James Ward Lee, professor emeritus of English at the University of North Texas (formerly North Texas State University) and author of several much thicker books. This time he’s using a shorter name for your shorter bookshelf.

EXTRAORDINARY TEXAS WOMEN. By Judy Alter. A Texas Small Book. TCU Press. 86 pp. $8.95.

A challenging task it was to pick 26 “extraordinary” women from Texas’ colorful past. Ms. Alter arranges them chronologically, starting with Jane Long, said to be the first white woman to have given birth in Texas, and by category.

Women of the Texas Revolution include Emily Morgan, the so-called “Yellow Rose.”

Cynthia Ann Parker, Indian captive, is in a category by herself, as she should be. Captured by Comanches from her home near present-day Mexia in 1836 at age 10, she grew up to be the wife of Chief Peta Nocona and the mother of Quanah Parker, who eventually led the tribe onto the reservation in Oklahoma.

In 1860 the famous Texas Ranger, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, captured Cynthia Ann at a riverside camp in North Texas and returned her to an uncle near Fort Worth. Totally Indian, if only by adoption, she died in the early 1870s, some say of a broken heart.

Four notable ranch women include two from famous families, Henrietta King and Electra Waggoner, for whom the town of Electra was named.

Three worthy selections from the ranks of Texas authors are Katherine Ann Porter, called great on a national scale, but whose relationship with her native state was rocky at best; Dorothy Scarborough, whose novel The Wind was not intended to flatter West Texas, and Jane Gilmore Rushing, less known than the other two but dead-on accurate in her depiction of small town West Texas life. (Most of her characters were molded by their participation in the Church of Christ.)

In the Public Eye presents a varied trio: Bessie Coleman, first black woman in the world licensed to fly as a pilot (in 1921); Mary Martin, famous Weatherford-born entertainer, and Babe Didrickson Zaharias, golfer, Olympics track star in 1932 and all-round sports heroine.

Culinary Entrepreneurs include Ninnie Baird of the Baird’s Bakery family and Helen Corbitt, she of cookbook and Neiman Marcus Zodiac Room fame.

Most interesting to this reader was the final category, Politics on the Distaff Side. The five women are well profiled, considering space limitations, but there are some questions.

The two women governors, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson and Ann Richards, could not have been more different. After his impeachment in his second term, Jim “Pa” Ferguson convinced his non-political wife to run for governor and restore the family honor. In her two terms, 1925-27 and 1933-35, he had a desk next to hers and pretty much called the shots; she would have rather been home tending her garden.

By contrast, Ann Richards, who had four children by her husband, lawyer Dave Richards, was divorced by the time she entered statewide politics — a change not mentioned here.

Ms. Alter mentions that Houston black congresswoman Barbara Jordan was “never married,” but fails to mention that same status in the case of Molly Ivins, political writer. Nor does she mention that stentorian vocal delivery that was such a big part of Ms. Jordan’s influence.

Odder still, Lady Bird Johnson is described as Ladybird Johnson, a name that would mess up the family’s LBJ initials. You’ll recall that LBJ extended to daughters Lynda Bird and Lucy Baines and even to the family dog, Little Beagle Johnson.

Little they may be, but this new series is well worth the attention of any Texas book lover.

Sideglances in The Mirror

NOW THAT SAVING energy is a topic on everyone’s mind, I find some of the suggestions quite interesting.

I’ve seen a few reports from up North that do not wish us Southerners well — suggestions that the South is uninhabitable for half the year without our too-expensive air conditioning, so we might as well turn out the lights and all head for cooler climes.

Of course this is a ridiculous idea, since civilization existed south of the Mason Dixon line for centuries before air conditioning arrived. Some of us still alive today can actually remember those days, when oscillating fans and open windows were the only relief from the heat of summer nights. I’m not sure which pre-World War II year brought the relief of attic fans, but what a marvel it seemed. If memory serves, the arrival of window air conditioning units was a gradual transformation.

MY FAMILY moved into a new Gilmer rent house, complete with attic fan, in 1954, but by the time we moved into our own house in 1957, central air conditioning was one of its prime blessings.

A letter to the Dallas Morning News Sunday asked, “Where are the ‘swamp coolers’ we had years ago? These were big, blocky window units with a fan that pulled air through dripping water.”

West Texans swore by them. But West Texans who moved to this area soon found out that the evaporation that worked so well in, say, Midland, was a total dud in our humid area. The Dallas letter writer suggested these coolers would be an ideal way to save on cooling bills; maybe in Dallas, but not here.

THE HIGH COST of food is prompting advice on saving at the grocery store, of course, and many of the suggestions involve growing your own food. This is great if you have a garden plot, but, since I don’t have enough sun in my yard to even grow potted tomatoes, I have checked out a hobby I took up in the 1960s, harvesting wild foods.

I was inspired by the book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by the late Euell Gibbons, who grew up in Clarksville and learned from his mother about how to live off the East Texas land.

“Even those too gentle or too squeamish to kill and dress game or fish can enjoy gathering and preparing wild plant food for the camp table,” he wrote.

(Sadly, he died in 1975 at age 64, but by then had achieved nationwide fame as part of the “back to nature” movement.) I TRIED MANY of his suggestions, including making elderberry jelly and frying the blossoms in a batter (daylilly and wisteria blossoms can be treated in the same way); using wild grapes for jelly (unfortunately it tasted no different from the store-bought kind); eating the tender shoots of greenbrier, also called smilax; making tea from horsemint (an acquired taste.)

I also treasure Gibbons’ other books, Stalking the Healthful Herbs and Stalking the Good Life - My love affair with nature.

Some of his suggestions are not necessarily wild FOOD — persimmons, blackberries and dewberries, for example — and others had little appeal for me — dandelion as a medicine, and finding food in the common cattail, “supermarket of the swamps.”

PERHAPS Euell Gibbons’ time has come round again. For summer soul food of the domesticated kind I will continue to depend on local produce sellers and friends. And a meal enhanced by turnip greens, creme peas, home-grown tomatoes or squash makes the summer heat easier to accept, with or without air-conditioning.

Cornbread also is a must, of course, and I find there is not general agreement on just what is meant by my favorite kind — hot water cornbread. (Not egg bread, which is best made in a black iron skillet, and another story).

When called hush puppies, this cornbread includes flour, sugar and often onion as well as the basic cornmeal. But I am a purist, and still favor the kind I grew up eating: nothing but cornmeal, salt and boilig water, formed into patties, the thinner the better, and fried. Scrumptious. And totally unhealthful.

Sideglances in The Mirror

HOT AS AN AUGUST afternoon is the Haynesville Shale natural gas play centered around Shreveport and extending an unknown distance into the Ark-La-Tex.

Chesapeake Energy, the largest independent and third-largest overall producer of natural gas in the U.S., announced the find in March. Since then, oil and gas companies have been scrambling for leases, creating what has been called a “gold rush” atmosphere.

The Haynesville Shale is a geologic formation of sedimentary rocks 10,000-to-13,000 feet below the surface that some believe may be the largest onshore natural gas field in North America — bigger even than the Barnett Shale that has produced lucrative natural gas drilling activity in the Fort Worth area.

THOUGH ONLY a few wells have been drilled to date, the leasing frenzy has attracted nationwide attention.

A story in the Friday Los Angeles Times said the speculation is “as frantic as anything seen here since a gusher on a Texas hill named Spindletop in 1901 ushered in the modern oil industry.”

Landmen who were leasing land for as little as $200 an acre earlier this year are now paying upward of $20,000 an acre, the story said.

The newspaper interviewed Chris Morenoa, 38, who bought 40 acres of land on Caddo Lake two years ago to build a house. He has been offered $750,000 to drill for natural gas on his land as well as 25 percent of whatever the wells yield, which could bring him an additional $900,000 a year. But the bids keep getting bigger, so he’s waiting.

Thr City of Shreveport has sponsored meetings to advise landowners on their options, and at least one neighborhood association has done the same. And a good thing that is, since there is a dark side to the Haynesville Shale mania.

ACCORDING TO the LA Times story, Shreveport is “awash in dubious characters taking advantage of the gullible.

“Freelance landmen are coaxing naive landowners into signing away gas rights for small amounts and are then selling the contracts at huge profit. (Shreveport City Councilman) Michael Long said he was outraged to hear the story of a man who turned to his preacher, a landman, for advice and ended up signing with him for $200 an acre when bonuses were going for thousands.”

The story also related:

“The mere promise of a big strike in natural gas, which has soared in price, has already brought hundreds of millions in investment dollars to Shreveport, a riverboat gambling hub. That’s turned Ark-La-Tex into a particularly vivid example of how America’s thirst for energy is creating wealth in a few lucky pockets of the country, even as high oil and gas prices drag the overall economy down.”

THE MOST optimistic maps of the Haynesville Shale deposits show Texas counties along the Louisiana line, from Shelby north to Bowie, having a small part of them on their far east.

The Times story is headlined, “Natural gas find in Louisiana makes Jed Clampetts out of property owners.”

Unlike all the East Texas farmers who learned their land could be “bubbling crude” nearly 80 years ago, the Shreveport area landowners have better ways to communicating with each other — such as sharing information online — to get the best deals.

WHAT THE 1930 “gold rush” that ushered in the great East Texas Oil Field was like is a familiar story to longtime residents of this area. But I got a new slant on it after reading an essay by Jeff P. Jones, a poet who teaches at the University of Idaho.

In “Dad Joiner’s Dream — how a con man struck it rich in East Texas,” he leaves one wondering how long it would have taken someone else to find the largest oil field in the world.

Joiner was born in Alabama in 1860, son of a Confederate soldier, and by 1926 he had spent his life on the move, buying and selling land, making and losing a couple of fortunes.

At 66, he spent one night on the Galveston seawall, contemplating suicide. Instead he went to sleep and, according to the writer, dreamed of some cheap Rusk County leases he had bought six years earlier, then abandoned. ON AWAKENING he had lost his suicidal impulse, and grabbed a pencil to sketch a place by a stream in the piney woods — or so Jones reports.

Geologists and government experts had proclaimed the general EastTexas area dry after 11 dry holes had been sunk in 1911, and major oil companies had no interest in it. But promoters such as Columbus Marion Joiner could profit by buying leases cheap, generating excitement and reselling them at a profit. The writer tells how Joiner used a Dallas office where he studied the Dallas Morning News obituaries every morning in search of new East Texas widows — the best prospects for leasing land on favorable terms.

In 1925 Joiner had made train trips to Rusk County to put together new leases. Overton was a town where he felt welcome, Jones writes, explaining:

“The people of East Texas are closer in manners and ancestral lines to the Deep South than any other Texans. Joiner fit in. He didn’t drink, smoke, or curse, and though he gambled, it wasn’t with cards or horses but with other people’s money, which somehow seemed more acceptable. He often carried a Bible and, during a sales pitch, would sink his head and eyes to thumb through it, searching for a passage appropriate to the moment.”

AFTER THE NIGHT in Galveston, Joiner returned to Rusk County and scouted his leases on foot. He crossed a wooden bridge on Daisy Bradford’s land and saw a vision of the landscape he had dreamed about, Jones relates.

Daisy was the widow of a Henderson doctor, and he already had her 974-acre farm under lease. He had put together a large enough block that he started work on financing, and acquired a partner, Joseph I. Durham.

Joiner needed Durham, described by Jones as a fellow con man, to give the appearance of geologic expertise. Durham was not the geologist he represented himself to be, but he was interested in the subject. Locals were impressed when he admitted to having been married six times, Jones writes.

DURHAM produced impressive, though mythical, maps showing salt domes topping oil deposits on the Bradford farms, and Joiner signed up investors in Dallas.

Joiner’s first two wells on the Bradford farm, drilled with rusty old equipment, broke down before reaching the woodbine sand, which Durham had correctly predicted would be below 3,000 feet. Joiner hired Ed Laster, a professional driller from Shreveport, to drill Daisy Bradford No. 3. When it came in as a gusher on Oct. 5, 1930, the great East Texas Oil Boom was launched.

JOINER, who never believed it would happen, “now wouLd have hell to pay,” for he had oversold shares in the well.

In the famous picture from that day, Jones points out, lurks a man in the background, “Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr., a shrewder snake even than Joiner.” Hunt isolated Joiner in a Dallas hotel room, distracted him with luxurious food and other distractions for two days while he got telephoned reports on tests which gauged the oil field’s extent. After a day and a half Joiner agreed to sell Hunt his holdings for $1.3 million, and that’s how the H. L. Hunt family fortune got its start.

Sideglances in The Mirror

SOME OF US are old enough to remember when Gilmer had cotton gins and the sight of mule-drawn wagons bringing the crop to town for processing was part of the changing seasons. World War II was the dividing line for the agricultural economy of Upshur County—a century of cotton farming gave way to the cattle raising, dairying and tree farming that dominates today. When mechanical cotton picking and irrigation arrived in the South Plains, the cotton industry promptly moved there.

But what happened to all the mules that made cotton farming more efficient than it could have been with horses? These days you rarely see a mule unless you happen on to a trail ride with a wagon. Indeed, they are such a small factor that the Texas Almanac doesn’t even mention them.

ANSWERS TO questions I never even knew I had about mules are found in the new Southwestern Historical Quarterly, published by the Texas State Historical Association.

The Mule: the Worker that Can’t Get No Respect is the title of a paper by Watson C. Arnold, a medical doctor and history Ph.D who teaches at TCU in Fort Worth. Mules don’t get respect, he sums up, because their history reminds one of “poverty, hard work and sweat, of muddy fields and dusty roads.” Plus they have a reputation, perhaps undeserved, of being stubborn and contrary.

As you probably know, mules are the hybrid offspring of a female horse and a male breeding donkey; they cannot reproduce. Their history goes back as far as 2800 B. C., when they were mentioned in Sumerian texts, Dr. Arnold reports.

AS COTTON growing became more important in Texas, the mule population increased exponentially; by 1910 the number of mules had increased to more than one million, and by 1927 there were more mules than horses.

Because of their “sobriety, patience and endurance” from the father and the “vigor, strength and endurance” of the mother, the mule is a superior work animal, Dr. Arnold relates. By 1900 Texas had become the nation’s largest cotton producer, and this depended on the mule’s pulling the plow, according to the writer.

The mule became a status symbol. Owning a mule (or, even better, two mules) elevated a farmer from sharecropper to tenant farmer.

(A sharecropper used the owner’s equipment and worked for a share of the crop, while a tenant farmer was an independent contractor not subject to the whims of the landowner, Dr. Arnold explains.)

OTHER GROUPS that depended on mules were stage lines, teamsters and the U.S. Army. For the long westward migration, traders and teamsters preferred mules to pull their wagons while familes preferred the slower and gentler oxen.

Pack mule trains provisioned the Army as they chased the nimble horse-riding Apaches as they raced through the mountains.

In 1899, the New York Times carried an item out of Austin, saying that Gov. Sayers had received a telegram from Major Scovell of the British Army, in the U.S. to buy mules, saying he could not enter Texas from New Orleans for eight days because of a yellow fever quarantine. He had hoped to buy several thousand Texas mules.

Where a farmer with a mule team was limited to farming 75 to 100 acres, today’s tractor is up to 35 times as productive and has displaced both (many) men and mules, Dr. Arnold writes.

BUT WHILE the mule has been rendered superfluous for farming, he still holds an honored niche in Texas culture, I learned from Internet research.

The fifth annual Texas Select Annual Mule and Equipment Sale was held in Sulphur Springs in March. Two years earlier the sonsoring Kelso Mules of Murray, Ky. had sold one top mule, Texas Rose, for $6,500 and the top 15 averaged $3,050.

The Texas Draft Horse and Mule Association sponsors playdays, seminars, trail rides and shows; the American Donkey and Mule Society is headquartered in Lewisville. The Sandhill Mule and Jack Farm in Nacogdoches County breeds fancy mules and mammoth donkeys, and also has an English Springer Spaniel breeding program.

RANCHO SANTIAGO, east of Lubbock, has an intriguing website. It is run today by Jim Gamble, a grandson of A.N. “Ott” Gamble, who told stories of trading and selling trainloads of mules with East Texas farmers.

Jim Gamble is one who believes mules aren’t more stubborn than horses — just smarter, though not as smart as donkeys. “A mule has to be shown and communicated with as to what the trainer wants,” Gamblel writes. “A good mule cannot be bullied or punished into responding because the mule will just shut down and say “Oh Yeah Before I’ll Hurt Myself You Will Have To Kill Me!” This behavior has become known as stubbornness.

Rancho Santiago breeds appaloosa mules, spotted like their mothers. I’msure I’ve never seen one. And in fact the thought reminds me of the Gelett Burgess verse, “I’ve never seen a purple cow, I never hope to see one; But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one.”

When it comes to appaloosa mules, I’d be very interested to see one.

Sideglances in The Mirror

WITHIN THE last month The Mirror has published obituaries of the first two Yamboree queens.

Jane Evelyn Tuttle Jones, native of Union Grove, was crowned the first queen in October of 1935 and Marjorie Coe Presley of Gilmer was Queen Yam II in 1936.

Mrs. Jones died June 30 in Wichita Falls, where she settled after years of traveling the world as a miitary wife with her late husband, Col. Francis L. Jones.

Mrs. Presley died July 11 in Longview, where she and her husband Jim Fred have been longtime residents.

IN CONNECTION with Marjorie’s passing I received a phone call last week from Jimmy Johns, Buckeye football and track athlete who graduated with the class of 1959 and went on to coach in Palestine and white Oak. Now retired as principal of White Oak Middle School, he and his wife Sue live in the same neighborhood with the Presleys and another former Yamboree queen, Betty Ann Quinn Tilllery. She reigned over a 1942 Yamboree that was truncated by World War II; it was the last until the Yamboree was resumed in 1946.

Jimmy wanted to make sure the historical record includes the fact that Marjorie Coe, GHS Class of 1937, wrote the words to An Army of Buckeyes. As all old Buckeyes know, the Army is sung to the tune of one of the greatest of all Sousa marches, The Stars and Stripes Forever.

OTHER HIGH SCHOOL alma maters pale by comparison, I’ve always thought.

Marjorie was certainly inspired when she came up with some perfect lyrics which, to this day are downright inspiring and a unifying thread for the widely scattered former students of Gilmer High School.

The sixth Yamboree queen, Clarine Smith Tucker, also lives in Longview.

While the ranks of the early queens have thinned, there are nearly 60 still living as the 71st Yamboree approaches. They form a unique sorority with a perspective on our “great festive show” shared by no others.

You may recognize that phrase from another locally famous song, March Yam, which was composed by Col. Irons, Union Grove band director in the mid- to late-1930s and inspiration for the “Marchiesta,” a massed band event held at the old McClelland Field.


YOU MAY HAVE noticed a recent news item about actor Josh Brolin, starring in director-producer Oliver Stone’s film W, was arrested on July 12 during a bar fight at a downtown Shreveport nightspot.

According to the Shreveport Times, officers were called to the Stray Cat bar just after 2 a.m. to deal with a rowdy patron.

Several other patrons at the bar, including Brolin and fellow actor Jeffrey Wright, 42, tried to impede the officers, the police report said.

Brolin, Wright and four other people were charged with interfering with police, a misdemeanor. Brolin was booked into the city jail, and posted $334 cash bond to be released.

Brolin plays the role on George W. Bush in the movie and Wright depicts Gen. Colin Powell.

THIS STORY, while less than monuental, is interesting as a sidebar to the much larger story of Shreveport’s emergence as a nationally-ranked film capital.

It was noted in this space last December that most of Denzel Washington’s film, The Great Debaters, set at Wiley College in Marshall, was actually filmed in and around Shreveport.

But this is only one of many productions that have been attracted by a financial incentive program that offers 25 percent cash rebates or credits for in-state spending along with other incentives.

MENTION Shreveport-Bossier City and I expect most East Texans think reflexively: “the boats.”

But an essay by Oxford American Publisher Warwick Sabin in the summer issue doesn’t even toucn on gambling. Speaking of Shreveport’s transformation into a film-making center, he wrote:

“It’s in one of themost isolated corners of the South; much of its population and major industry had dwindled; it was barely hangng on in a way that has become familiar among old Southern agricultural trading centers.

“Hollywood arrived like a hero on horseback, and Shreveport benefited from some visionary civic leaders who pushed for downtown revitialization, hotel improvements and other amentities that would ensure that moviemakers would feel at home.” OXFORD AMERICAN, which originated in Oxflord, Miss., is now published quarterly at the University of Central Arkansas, billing itself as “the Southern magazine of good writing.” If “isolated” is hardly the word that comes to mind when Northeast Texans think of Shreveport, it’s probably true that the TV term “Ark-La-Tex” does not travel far from here.

The Oxford American South does not include Texas, at least not in the current issue, but the Austin American in its may 18 edition gave a comprehensive summary of how Shreveport has surged ahead of Austin as a film center. The story by Chris Garcia reports that Louisiana has been so successful that other states have upped or forged incentive programs to compete with it. In its record year, 2007 a total of 53 film and television projects poured $400 million into Louisiana.

SHREVEPORT hosted 24 of those projects, bringing in $182 million, Garcia wrote. In May alone, at least four major movie projects set up shop in Shreveport, including the Jim Carrey comedy I Love You Phillip Morris and Stone’s controversial Bush biographical project, W.

Austin attracted $38.6 million in film spending last year, down from a recent high of $95.8 million in 2003, according to Garcia, and Austin is likely to end the year far behind its Louisiana rival.

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed its first film incentive program, which offers a 5 percent rebate on money spent in the state, but many in the Austin film industry say it falls alarmingly short compared with the programs in New Mexico, Michigan and others.

The competition recently prompted California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to propose a first-time tax incentive to prevent more productions from fleeing for better deals, Garcia reported.

BOB HUDGINS, director of the Texas Film Commission, is quoted as saying with frustration: “Here we have this amazingly diverse state, all this capacity, great crews and a great tradition of filmmaking. We have all the tools, and everything is ready to go. But we’re being undercut by these upstart programs, and it’s really unfortunate.”

Gov. Rick Perry and key legislators are said to be very supportive of the movie industry. But more than economic impact appears to be at stake.

Don Baylor of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin said the economic argument is “a zero-sum game.” “There’s much more prestige that comes with having the film industry in your state than there is true economic impact,” he told the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s not really a sustainable effort. You’re subsidizing things one project at a time, and the impact is fleeting.”

SHREVEPORT is praised for its sophisticated filmmaking infrastructure, including a healthy film-crew base, equipment vendors and three enormous production studios, along with a city government that bends over backwards to help filmmakers.

A talent drain has already drawn 25 percent of Texas’ crew base to Louisiana and New Mexico. On the surface, at least, one wonders why Austin is still even in the game.

GARCIA WROTE that Austin’s competitive edge is based on cultural, not financial, incentives: a large, respected film school at the University of Texas, resident film pioneers like Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Bill Witliff and Mike Judge, as well as decades-old film advocates such as the Austin Film Society, directed by Rebecca Campbell.

“People are not coming to Austin for soundstages,” Ms. Campbell said. “They’re coming here for the fantastic locations, incredible crews and, frankly, for the nightlife. Austin just needs to keep being Austin to attract production. It’s a cool place, and people want to be here.”

Gary Bond, director of the Austin Film Commission, opined: “It’s easier to get talent to come to Austin or Texas. Do you want to spend six months in Bossier City or six months in Austin?”

As usual, Austin-lovers may lack some advantages, but their high regard for Texas’ capital is always in good supply.

Sideglances in The Mirror

IF YOU’VE WATCHED any television this month you have almost certainly seen the T. Boone Pickens Plan for curing America’s addiction to foreign oil.

Pickens, of course, is the one-time Texas and Oklahoma independent oil operator who has long since transcended that category of money-making: he chairs the hedge fund BP Capital Management and has an estimated current net worth of about $3 billion, making him the 117th-richest person in America according to Forbes.

Participating in Republican Party politics hasn’t provided the answers Pickens wants, so he’s using some of his mega-bucks to step in where government has failed to tread.

THE TV MESSAGE is repeated on the website, Here’s the gist of the message: “[Foreign oil] is an addiction that threatens our economy, our environment and our national security. It touches every part of our daily lives and ties our hands as a nation and a people. The addiction has worsened for decades and now it’s reached a point of crisis.

In 1970, we imported 24 percent of our oil. Today it’s nearly 70 percent and growing.

“As imports grow and world prices rise, the amount of money we send to foreign nations every year is soaring. At current oil prices, we will send $700 billion dollars out of the country this year alone — that’s four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.

“Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion — it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind.”

WITH ONLY FOUR percent of the world’s population, the U.S. consumes 25 percent of all oil production, Pickens notes, then explains why producing more oil is not the answer.

Oil is getting more expensive to produce, harder to find and there just isn’t enough of it to keep up with demand, he points out.

But then there is good news:

The United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power.

According to Pickens:

Studies from around the world show that the Great Plains states are home to the greatest wind energy potential in the world — by far.

Today’s wind turbines stand up to 410 feet tall, with blades that stretch 148 feet in length. In one year, a 3-megawatt wind turbine produces as much energy as 12,000 barrels of imported oil.

BUILDING wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20 percent of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.

That’s a lot of money, but it’s a one-time cost. And compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it’s a bargain.

According to Pickens, developing wind power is an investment in rural America.

He cites the experience of the West Texas town of Sweetwater, which had seen its population drop from 12,000 to under 10,000 as youth left in search of opportunity.

When a large wind power facility was built outside of town, Sweetwater experienced a revival. The town came back to life and the population has grown back up to 12,000.

ANOTHER KEY part of the Pickens Plan is the conversion of vehicles to natural gas, called the cleanest transportation fuel available today.

Natural gas vehicles (NGV) are already available and combine top performance with low emissions. According to NGVAmerica, there are more than 7 million NGVs in use worldwide, but only 150,000 of those are in the United States. Natural gas is significantly less expensive than gasoline or diesel, and domestic natural gas reserves are twice that of petroleum. Near Pampa in the Panhandle Pickens’ Mesa Power is currently building the largest wind farm in the world, a facility that will double the wind energy output of the U.S.

Cynics are saying that the Pickens Plan is just a scheme to further enrich this oilman who has grown his company by multiple acquisitions rather than exploring for oil. But he has already donated $700 million to charity, including $400 million to athletics and academics at his alma mater, Oklahoma State University.

CALL ME naive, but I don’t see more money as the motivator for a person who has reached billionaire status. Instead I take Pickens’ word for it when he says his Plan is a bridge to the future — a blueprint to reduce foreign oil dependence by harnessing domestic energy alternatives, and buy us time to develop even greater new technologies.

“We’re organizing behind the Pickens Plan now to ensure our voices will be heard by the next administration,” says T. Boone.

I’m behind it. Just don’t ask me to send money.

Sideglances in The Mirror

BACK HOME after two weeks in the Texas Spine and Joint Hospital in Tyler and the ETMC rehab unit at Olympic Plaza, I am nursing a new left knee and catching up with mail, both electronic and via the U.S. Postal Service.

The latter brought an impressive packet of materials from a self-described “old Gilmer boy,” Ben Kinel of Branson, Mo. In a letter Ben wrote that he knows I am a great fan of hometown-boy-made-good, Johnny Mathis, and he thought I might be interested in seeing him perform in Branson later this year. Johnny will make two performances at the Mansion Theater on Sept. 26 and 27, a month before Bill Cosby is scheduled for that same venue.

HAVING MISSED Johnny earlier this year when he performed with the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall, I would like nothing better than to act on Ben’s suggestion.

“This is [Johnny’s] first performance in Branson, so I am sure it will be well received,” Ben wrote. Referring to the many promotional pieces he included from his Branson Group Tours, he said, “As you can see, we are moving away from the ‘pure country’ style of music and bringing in more big names. They usually sell out the theatre for folks like Leanne Rimes and Tony Bennett.”

I knew from previous correspondence that Ben has become a serious gardener, with beautiful landscaping at his Branson home. So it’s no surprise to learn that he is chairman of the selection committee for Blossoms of Branson, which recognizes one commercial and one residential garden each month during the growing season.

THE JUNE 19 Branson Daily News carried a story about Wyndham Vacation Resorts-Branson Meadows winning the June award for its many garden spots. The Wyndham staff was pictured, along with Ben with the sign.

Ben Kinel was one of five people who received an award from “Branson Believers” earlier this year. A handsome plaque describes him as “an individual who gave of their time and talent so our children would have a better community in years to come.”

Ben received the To Leave a Legacy award. A story in the Branson Daily Independent reported that he works at the tree farm for the Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch, and also has spent numerous hours beautifying Branson with various garden plots that the public sees on a regular basis. Part of the Branson Believers mission statement is a vision for the community to be “a role model for America . . . America as it should be.”

BEN’S LIVELIHOOD these days comes from his Branson Group Tours, a full service company that caters to travel agency group tours, bank travel groups, tour operators, church groups and family reunions. A handsome 4-color brochure touts some of the many attractions that make Branson a premier American tourist destination, and notes that more information is available on the website,

I think I may be one of the few East Texans who has never visited Branson in its current incarnation. The Greene family spent a couple of days there on a family vacation in about 1962, and the only attractions then (or at least the main ones) were Silver Dollar City and Marvel Cave, the Bald Knobbers show and a river boat that cruised Lake Taneycomo (now there are at least four).

A map in the Branson free paper that carries the Mathis ad shows an amazing number of theaters, dining rooms museums ad other attractions. No wonder friend Kinel reports he is having the best time of his life.


A WELCOME HOME gift from Kathy Phillips could not have been more timely. Eggplant, squash and tomatoes fresh from her garden.

Much is being written these days about growing your own food. Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist, reported in Saturday’s Dallas Morning News about a movement called Kitchen Gardeners International. Run by Roger Dorion out of his house in Maine, it is “one link in a loose chain of partisans who are neither conservatives nor liberals but locavores. They want to think global, eat local. Very local. As in their front and back yards.”

Mr. Dorion wants both presidential candidates to pledge they’ll turn a piece of the White House acreage into an edible garden — such as Presidents John Adams, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt all had.

There are all sorts of reasons why growing your own food is a good idea for these troubling times. Kathy and Danny Phillips and countless other good Upshur County gardeners are ahead of the curve on this one.

Sideglances in The Mirror

MIRROR READERS who see Texas Highways magazine will notice a familiar face on page 40, illustrating a story on Big Spring. Tumbleweed Smith, whose column appears on our editorial page each Wednesday, is pictured in the broadcasting station where he tells a radio audience “the stories of the outsized characters and everyday folks who give Texas its energetic image.”

He’s quoted in the story as saying that Big Spring is “a high-energy place.” And the region around it definitely qualifies. It has many wind turbines generating electricity, and 300 more will appear this year, the story says.

Also featured are the 15-story Settles Hotel, inspired by the oil boom of the 1920s and now being restored, and the impressive WPA-built municipal auditorium where Big Spring’s symphony orchestra plays. Under each of the original seats is a place to put your hat — a striking symbol of how times have changed in three-quarters of a century.

FOR ANYONE enchanted by Texas history, news of the devastating fire that struck the governor’s mansion on June 8 came as a personal blow.

Oh no, the Sam Houston bed! That was my first thought, quickly relieved when I learned that all the contents of the mansion had been removed as part of a current renovation.

Arson has been blamed, and the Department of Public Safety has been criticized for failing to provide sufficient electricity. What stuck me was the absence of sprinklers that could have doused the fire before it destroyed the roof and blackened the six Ionic columns across the front of the 1856-vintage building not far from the capitol in downtown Austin.

Why, I wondered, had no sprinklers been installed when $4 million was spent to restore the mansion in 1979-82 when Bill Clements was governor?

AS A MEMBER of the Texas Commission on the Arts in 1979, I was one of those charged with approving changes in the mansion. (This was a statutory duty of the commission, which was the late Gov. John Connally organized in 1965.)

Led by the commission’s chairman, the late John Ben Shepperd, several of us joined the wife of the governor-to-be, Rita Clements, on the day in late 1978 when she first visited the mansion. She was welcomed by Janey Briscoe of Uvalde who, with her husband Gov. Dolph Briscoe, was about to end a 6-year tenure in the mansion.

We learned that plans were afoot to replace a lot of the furnishings with pieces more in keeping with the American Empire period when the mansion was built.

NUMEROUS Victorian pieces — chairs upholstered in red velvet and elaborate rosewood furniture — had been donated by Miss Ima Hogg, the Houston philanthropist who lived in the mansion as a child when her father, James S. Hogg, was governor in 1891-95.

The idea was that since Miss Hogg had died in 1975, her feelings could be set aside in favor of historic authenticity.

To refresh my memory of that day, I turned to Gov. Rick Perry’s webpage, which has a wonderfully complete virtual “tour of the mansion.” I was pleased to see that I was properly impressed by the Sam Houston connection.

THIS IS ITS description of the upstairs bedroom (one of four):

“Today the central piece in the room, and possibly the most historically significant piece relating to the Governor’s Mansion, is the Sam Houston bed. It is believed to have been purchased by the state when the Houstons lived in the mansion. The purchase of a superior mahogany bedstead at the price of $30 appeared on a bill dated Dec. 24, 1859. Two children were born in this bed, Sam Houston’s eighth child Temple Lea Houston, in 1860, and Sam Houston Allred in 1937.

“Throughout the room are reminders of Sam Houston. The plaster bust of Houston was sculpted by Elisabet Ney in 1900. The painted photograph depicts Houston as an older man and was given to the mansion in 1935 by his descendant, Temple Houston Morrow. There are also letters and documents with Houston’s signature.

“The photograph of First Lady Margaret Lea Houston was a gift to the mansion from Mrs. Price Daniel, her great-granddaughter.”

HAVING FOUND the mansion in a state of disrepair when Gov. Clements took office, he and his wife undertook the mansion restoration project by getting the Legislature to appropriate $1 million. Then they organized a nonprofit corporation, Friends of the Governor’s Mansion, which raised approximately $3 million in private funds to redecorate the interior.

Today, an Empire breakfront houses half of the Governors’ Memento Collection established by Mrs. Price Daniel in the 1960s. She contacted family members of past governors and asked them to donate an item that was either used in the mansion while the family lived there or a personal family item. A tradition was established whereby each successive governor and first family leave a memento representing their term in office to be displayed in the collection cabinets in the house.

I was interested to learn that Miss Hogg’s touch is still evident in a beautiful oval mahogany banquet table made in England in the late 19th century, bought with state funds in 1942 under her guidance.

COMMENTING ON THE fire, Austin American-Statesman columnist Kelso suggested, tongue in cheek:

“Why not turn the joint into lofts with a penthouse for the governor and his family? Or how about something of the mixed-use sort, with affordable housing and iconic businesses?

“Think about it. If it had been a privately owned and operated condo building instead of the Governor’s Mansion, we probably wouldn’t have had this fire problem because the property would have had tighter security. . .

“Also, there’s the design factor.

“Any student of feng shui would quickly point out that the stodgy old cotton plantation-lookin’ building near the Capitol just doesn’t mesh with the city’s new lofty design. Not that I like the new downtown look. . .”

Gov. and Mrs. Perry have been living in a rented house during the mansion renovation. But the Clementses were ahead of the curve 25 years ago. They moved into a high-rise condo building a few blocks from the mansion.

All the legions who rally round the “keep Austin weird” cry might add “viva the Governor’s Mansion” to their cheering list. I’d certainly endorse it.

Sideglances in The Mirror

ADVANCING AGE can never erase memories of those “lazy, crazy days of summer,” and the magic day when school is out triggers those memories like no other.

High up in my recollections is the role the Upshur County Library played in my summer vacations in the 1930s and ‘40s, including the four years I was away at college during the school year. (In those pre-airconditioning days, being lazy myself, I arranged to get a degree without ever attending a single summer school class.)

The library then was located in an upstaris front room at the old City Hall on Cass St. (now the Senior Citizens Center).

This was a books-only place, and a far cry from the information resource center that today’s library at 702 West Tyler St. has become. Nevertheless, its role was central, then as now, to connecting this small place to the outside world.

MUCH IS SAID these days about the over-programming of children, so it’s quite possible that the lazy days don’t stretch before them as they did for my generation.

But for any age person, the library holds treats worth making time for.

Librarian Mark Warren, who took over the reins from Ruth Semrau several months ago, has been busy orienting himself to his large task and making plans for the future.

Fortunately, Mrs. Semrau, an excellent librarian with a statewide reputation, is still available to counsel and give advice. She attends the monthly Friends of the Library board meetings, and at this month’s meeting said she plans to continue doing so.

THE NEW LIBRARIAN distributed a list of “More Reasons to Love Your Library .....” to the Friends board last week, and it follows:

1. Teach someone how to read.

2. Relish the helpful assistance of library staff who enjoy assisting you and others.

3. Research your local history. Maybe you will find out where the skeletons are buried in town.

4. Learn another language.

5. Ask your library to arrange a loan of a book or other resoure from another library.

6. Locate back issues of magazines and newspapers.

7. Look for the print or electronic book or magazine your spouse threw away.

8.Catch up on the classics.

9. Find selected foreigh language books — libros del idioma extranjero.

10. Save money by borrowing your library’s collection of books, DVD’s audio books, etc. rather than buying them.

11. Enjoy good air conditioning when it’s hot and snuggly warmth when it’s cold.

12. Plan a vacation anywhere from Argentina to Zanzibar.

13. Discover a love poem for your significant other.

14. Take a practice test for becoming a policeman, fireman, graduate student or citizen.

15. Find out what else happened on the day you were born.

16. Learn why all the fish died in your aquarium and how to train your puppy.

17.Get help on preparing your will, trust, etc.

18. Learn how to write a good letter of resignation and a new resume.

19. Check out a couple of great books on tape that the whole family can enjoy on the drive to Grandma’s and other distant places.

20. Find out how to replace your lost birth certificate. AND I WOULD add a couple more. Check out the displays of new books and the special exhibits that change from time to time. Currently one display case has a poster of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Texas Reading Club, along with a selection of the library’s outstanding childrens’ books, and another has some amazing tiny critters and other oddments made of plastic.

Note the generous size of our library, the building of which was made possible through the cash and labor contributions of many civic-minded citizens, as well as Gilmer city government.

And express a silent (or out loud!) thank-you to Upshur County commissioners court, which must recognize anew each year that the library property would have little value without the operating budget that comes from county funds.

Sideglances in The Mirror

A STORY IN the May 30 issue of the weekly Austin Chronicle is headlined: The Honorable Charlie Baird: Judge Baird dispenses evenhanded justice — and Travis County prosecutors don’t know what to make of him.

For Charlie’s many friends in Gilmer and across the state, it is an in-depth treatment that brings us up-to-date on Charlie’s unusual legal career.

In January 2007 he took office as the newly-elected judge of the 299th District Court in Austin. This followed a hiatus of eight years in his judicial career. Elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as its youngest-ever judge in 1990, in 1998 he was the court’s last Democrat to be swept out by the Republican takeover of statewide offices.

TODAY, writer Jordan Smith notes, Charlie presides over a typically-busy district court with a docket of 900 active cases; what makes it different is Baird himself, ­ “relaxed, his manner easy.”

The story details how Judge Baird connects with people, asking each defendant about his personal history and whether he has a drug or alcohol problem. Then he works on connecting people and resources such as substance-abuse treatment and work-force programs.

He was the first felony district judge to use GPS tracking devices for defendants on bond awaiting trial, and he uses alcohol-monitoring equipment for felony probationers, among other individualized efforts.

Writer Smith quotes Judge Baird’s predecessor on the 299th District bench, Judge Jon Wisser, as saying Baird is innovative, “giving people more chances, and using prison as a last resort.”

RATHER THAN making him popular with District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who has “a national reputation for innovation,” this has led to a “frosty” relationship between the two Travis County offices, Smith writes.

Summing up, the story relates that Baird’s defenders say he has simply leveled a playing field that is usually stacked in favor of the state, whereas prosecutorial insiders claim Judge Baird doesn’t understand the law.

This reaction, the writer comments, “reflects the story of a fiercely independent judge, working in the midst of a routinely politicized system of criminal justice that rarely rewards such judicial independence.”

HOW JUDGE BAIRD reached his current legal status is related to his growing up in Gilmer (the son of Mary Lee Baird and the late Jack F. “Spot” Baird). He listened to two lawyer friends of his parents talking about representing several Lone Star Steel workers who were falsely accused of murder during a 1968 strike, and decided he wanted to do this kind of work.

After graduating from Gilmer High, UT-Austin and the South Texas College of Law in Houston, he began practicing law there in 1980. He says this changed him from being an average student to wanting to be the best lawyer he could be. He subscribed to a service that distributed appellate court decisions and he cited them to district court judges in cases he tried.

The judges generally ignored the case law he was striving to follow, Smith quotes Judge Baird; this left him frustrated, and led to his decision to run for the state’s highest criminal district court.

ONCE ELECTED, Baird developed a reputation as an independent-miinded jurist. The story quotes Stephen Brght, Yale law professor, as saying that in many courts prosecutors were used to getting their way, but Judge Baird “did his best to remain above the political fray.”

But as the court moved to the right in the Republican takeover, “the strong judicial voice that Baird had begun to develop in the early Nineties inceasingly became a voice of dissent. What never changed for Baird was his commitment to the rule of law and his concern that the justice sysem carefully handle the cases of individual people . . . ”

BAIRD WAS left frustrated by the shift on the court, and spent the next eight years teaching law at Texas Tech, Loyola University and South Texas College of Law, and working as a visiting judge.

He was approached by a group of lawyers in 2005 to run for the Austin district court seat, and defeated a Travis County assistant DA in the Democratic primary as well as a GOP opponent in the general election.

There is much more to this story about the (“baffling” to Judge Baird) feud with the DA’s office and the judge’s “refusal to adjust his philosophy or aproach in order to appease anyone before or outside his court.”

To read it all, click on the link,

Sideglances in The Mirror

IT WAS IN May of 1804 that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on their heroic journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Northwest, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to search for the Northwest Passage and to investigate resources found in the new Louisiana Purchase lands.

In May this year Betty Parish and I set out to retrace the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery route for its last 500 miles down the Columbia River and other waterways that led them, at last, to the Pacific Ocean.

Despite visiting museums with graphic exhibits, and a replica fort where the Corps passed the winter of 1805-06, it was hard to really grasp the deprivations these explorers survived.

FOR INSTEAD of travel by pirogue, horseback and on foot, we enjoyed the luxurious Columbia Queen, a 150-passenger vessel operated by the Majestic West cruise line.

Embarking at Portland, Ore., we joined my friends Dick and Margaret Elam of Port Townsend, Wash., and their son and daughter-in-law, Rick and Malinda Burch of Portland. Each day but one we had fascinating shore excursions that took up much of the daytime hours. Heading upstream on May 18, we sailed past the 4,000-foot high cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge and saw the towering Multnomah Falls.

We attended a brief interdenominational worship service. The crew member in charge explained that he used one of six sermons provided by a Methodist preacher. We enjoyed singing the familiar and appropriate hymn, Beautiful River, and ended with Amazing Grace.

WE BEGAN our ascent from near sea-level to more than 900 feet by passing Bonneville Dam and locks, the first of eight locks that make Columbia River travel to Lewiston, Idaho possible.

Near Hood River we saw wind surfers and kite surfers taking advantage of the stiff, cool breezes. Though Portland had a brief near-record heat wave (92 degrees) the day we arrived, the weather quickly turned to a more normal range — in the 60s under cloudy skies; one night, a low of 39 degrees. On a scenic drive to the Rowena Crest Center we stopped for a photo op; fields of blue lupines — close kin to Texas bluebonnets but twice as large — and other flowers. In Portland we had visited the city Rose Gardens where roses were not yet in bloom but rhododendrons were spectacular, tall and laden with pink, red or yellow blossoms.

AT THE COLUMBIA Gorge Discovery Center we got an overview of both the geologic and human history of the gorge, including the effect the dams have had on the native American people. In Pendleton, Ore., we visited the headqauarters of the wool company that once supplied 19th-century settlers arriving on the Oregon Trail. Famous for its blankets, the company still manufactures cloth and thread in the U. S., but ships them overseas to be made into blankets, sweaters and other garments in China and elsewhere. (Not exactly surprising news.)

In the Pendleton area we drove through irrigated farm lands where potatoes, onions, sugar beets and other crops were growing. Passing a poplar tree farm, we learned that these fast-growing trees are harvested at 10 years and turned into pallets and lother low-grade wood uses. Wild Russian olive trees, our guide noted, are “good for nothing.”

DURING LUNCH at Hamley’s Slickfork Saloon we were entertained by costumed native dancers, including some very small girls who were diligently working to keep up with their elders. At the Tamastslikt Cultural Cener of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla we learned about the history of those tribes and enjoyed the Blue Mountain WIldlife facility that nurses birds back to health. On display were a golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, peregrine falcon and others.

A highlight of the cruise was a trip by jet boat 55 miles up the Snake River through Hells Canyon to where it joins the Salmon River in Idaho. Because of the heavy snowfall last winter and recent high temperatures, the snow melt was fast and furious, turning the river into a brown mass of logs up to tree trunk size and smaller twigs and bark pieces. We learned from our young Captain Eric that the river was absorbing 133,000 cubic feet of runoff water per second, compared with a usual rate of 15,000 cubic feet.

THE RAPIDS were occasionally loud but not too scary. Our boat had to stop several times for the captain or (even younger) first mate to fish the debris out of the engine. Before the boat ride we were entertained on the Columbia Queen by JR Spencer, a Nez Perce Indian in full regalia. He had a fine voice and a winning way of telling his tribe’s stories. He used a flute made of elderberry wood and a metal flute as well as a tom-tom as he told why the Nez Perce call themselves “Children of the Coyote.” He saId he was given the metal flute by a man who told him to record the traditional songs of his people before they died out.

Thinking of the Upshur County Spencers, I made sure to ask him how he came by that name. He said his father was a Scots-Irish immigrant who married a Nez Perce woman. He himself now lives on the Nez Perce reservation on the Columbia Plateau, he said, and is not at all unusual in being a less than full-blooded Indian.

DURING A FULL day of cruising back to Portland we heard Ian Sampson, native of Australia who served as the ship’s Discovery Guide, lecture on “Lewis & Clark: A Hero’s Journey.” He related the quest of the two explorers to the definitions given by Joseph Campbell, the philosopher who was once the subject of a Bill Moyers series on public television.

Our last two days featured an excursion to one of the Mount St. Helens visitor centers. Located on the side of the mountain that lost 1,300 feet of altitude when it erupted in 1980, we walked through a tunnel of 10-foot- high snow banks on the way into the very informative center.

We drove past stands of red alder, the first trees to fill in the areas that were decimated by volcanic ash, and learned how the region is recovering overall.

OUR FINAL day of cruising found us at Astoria near the Pacific, where we toured the quaint city and the Fort Clatsop replica.

Returning to Portland we sailed by Longview, Wash., where former Gilmerite Beulah Briggs Meyers, member of a pioneer Gilmer family, lived for many years.

Our shipmates scattered to all parts of the U. S. after we disembarked Saturday. I’d hate to have to state definitively what our average age was — somewhere past 70, I’d guess— but they (we) only nodded off occassionally.

And many of the men demonstrated they have good memories: when veterans were called together for a tribute, each one was asked to give name, rank and serial number. Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, without exception, could reel off their serial numbers without hesitation.

Sideglances in The Mirror

HIGH SCHOOL sports have occupied much of The Gilmer Mirror’s news pages during this school year just ending — too much, some would say, but I’m not one of those. As an old Buckeye band member and the mother of a former Buckeye football player and a fan through good years and bad, I love a winning tradition. I not only think it doesn’t take away from academic accomplishment, I think it reinforces excellence across the board.

At the recent Gilmer High academic awards dinner, Athletic Director Jeff Traylor expressed his pleasure at being able to present the Travis Hough Memorial Award to Dustin Varnado, junior who is an outstanding scholar-athlete. THE TOP-RANKING seniors were an impressive group, starting with Valedictorian Kathleen Galeano and Salutatorian Diana Hobbs.

Kathleen applied to a number of the nation’s most prestigious universities, from Stanford in Califorrnia to Columbia, being accepted by all of them and offered scholarships worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. She has chosen to join her brother, a former GHS valedictorian, as a student at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Diana Hobbs will take a year off to be a Rotary exchange student in Germany. On her return she will no doubt continue to excel in her studies as she enters college.

Many students are being honored for their high academic standing in Upshur County’s other high schools. I agree with Dr. Marcy Ragland, whose letter in the May 14 Mirror who expressed her appreciation to the outstanding teachers who contributed to their education. I would add a salute to their parents, as well.

AT LEAST THREE of this year’s Gilmer honor students will enroll in UT Austin, where, according to the current issue of the UT Alcalde, the ex-students’ magazine, they will be among the 81 percent of the freshman class admitted as members of the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes.

This has become a sore subject for the UT administration. Alcalde Associate Editor Tim Taliaferro explained it in the current issue:

It was 11 years ago that the Legislature passed the Top 10 Percent Law to guarantee admission to any Texas public university, UT Austin included, to students graduatng in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

THE INTENT was to alter the racial diversity of Texas public universities to more closely match the state’s demographics; in other words, to cause more black and Hispanic students to be admitted. It worked, in a way.

In 1998, white students made up 64 percent of entering freshmen; now they comprise 50 percent. The percentage of black students has risen from three to six percent, and Hispanic representation has risen from 14 percent to 20 percent.

While 50 percent white is close to matching the state proportion, the black and Hispanic groups still lag behind. And that’s because Asian American students are represented well above their share of the population, having 22 percent of their 9,625 high schoool graduates in 2007 admitted to UT Austin.

BUT THE TREND to admitting more minorities appears to be ending, Taliaferro writes. What worries the administration even more, from what I’ve read, is the growing percentage of Top Ten admissions — 81 percent of the entering class this year. Not being able to admit in-state students with special talents, or out-of-state students at all, is not the way to increase UT Austin’s national standing, it is thought.

UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof had some thoughts as he left to become president of the University of California System. Interviewed by the Alcalde, he spoke about UT Austin efforts to get the Legislature to modify the Top Ten Law.

“In the last session, I was upset with the appropriation for UT Austin, and I still support a modification of the Top 10 Percent Law,” he said.

NOT GETTING as much state money as requested is the reason that all the state colleges and universities are having to raise their tuition and fees to levels that would have been incredible to earlier generations. But that’s another whole story.

The Upshur County students who have prepared to continue past high school are fortunate in the choices they have in this area. Not only are there the old reliables — Kilgore College, Tyler Jnior College, Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas A&M-Commerce — but the newer UT Tyler and Northeast Texas Community College are increasingly important. And let’s not forget the contributionn of Texas State Technical College at Marshall in training students for industrial and technical jobs that are availble here.

One of Chancellor Yudof’s comments is apropos here.

“If we want more nurses and engineers, our budgets should reflect that.”

UT Tyler recently announced its first PhD program — in nursing. As for engineering, the new Bill Ratliff Building that houses the prospective engineers is worthy of a much larger institution, and a deserving tribute to the former state senator and lieutenant governor from Mount Pleasant who worked so tirelessly for all levels of public education in Texas.

Sideglances in The Mirror

I HAVE a dream.

Not Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, famously articulated in a 1963 speech that one day his four little children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

We’re not quite there yet, but maybe in another two or three generations . . .

No, I dream of an Upshur County lush with truck farms producing all manner of good stuff to sell at farmer’s markets and stores: strawberries, blackberries, green beans, cabbage, onions, turnips, collard greens, spinach, tomatoes, yams, squash and more.

Food, of course, has always been a prime topic for human beings. Cave men and women thought of hardly anything else, but through the eons and, especially in the 21st century, Americans have become accustomed to finding abundant supplies at reasonable prices at their local supermarkets.

WHO CARED that the out-of-season grapes came from Chile or the exotic kiwi fruit had traveled clear from New Zealand? Even most produce grown in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets sold, according to the National Resources Defense Council. But the subject of the world’s food supply is taking on a new urgency.

According to the World Bank, global food prices have climbed by 83 percent over the last three years. The real price of rice rose to a 19-year high in March, an increase of 50 percent in two weeks alone while the real price of wheat hit a 28-year high, triggering an international crisis. ONE TIMELY development has been growth of the “buy local” food movement, which calls for buying food (or any good or service) that is produced, grown, or raised as close to your home as possible.

There are other names, such as “slo food” or “sustainable agriculture,” but all have in common the idea that while industrialized farming may be profitable for large agribusiness corporations, it is harmful to the environment, consumers and rural communities.

When I shopped at a Whole Foods Market in Dallas a few weeks ago, I noticed “local” signs on produce, and I only hope the same sort of signs will soon show up in our area. I was heartened to see strawberries grown at the McPeak Orchard in north Upshur County on sale at the Gilmer Wal-Mart.

SOME OF US are old enough to remember when strawberries were grown at Latch in the 1950s and could be bought either boxed or pick-your-own, a choice McPeak has also offered.

A few of us still living can remember the pre-World War II era when Upshur was one of the East Texas cotton-growing counties. And yams were important enough to inspire creation of the Yamboree in 1935.

Cotton began moving to the Lubbock area and never returned after the war. Matt Ward introduced peach growing with his orchard at Midway, followed by the Mings family in that area and the Hills at Pritchett. Those are gone now, but the McPeaks, Efurds and others carry on in peach production.

While I have the greatest respect for the dairy, beef cattle and tree farming operations that have dominated this county’s agriculture for the last half century, it seems that there is enough unused rural land that truck farming could be possible.

BACK WHEN Jim Hightower was Texas Commissioner of Agriculture (1982-1991) I went to Longview to hear him speak; he promoted just this kind of farming. I asked him afterwards what we could do to promote truck farming here. He said he had no idea; he just talked about it.

Now that he is a national figure, called by some the nation’s most popular populist, I guess that you could say Hightower still talks a good game — through his radio show, books, syndicated column and a hundred speeches a year seeking to energize the progressive troops.

I am crazy about Willie Nelson, but his promotion of soybean-based biodiesel for automobile fuel could take a lot of corn land out of the food chain. According to Country World, Sulphur Springs-based farm newspaper, protestors on horseback and tractors rallied at the state capitol in Austin last month to protest the Trans-Texas Corridor, part of the proposed chain of superhighways that would link Mexico and Canada.

Their beef was in the fact that this toll road would take more than 100,000 acres of Texas’ shrinking farm lands out of agricultural use.

A RECENT story in the Chicago Tribune described where we are now:

“With Americans paying $60 to fill up the car and trading down to burgers instead of steaks, practically everyone is feeling the impact of rising food and energy costs.

Soaring prices have put biofuel production under scrutiny, complicated farm bill negotiations in Congress and provoked food riots across the globe.”

Foods local and/or slo and sustainable may cost more than the industrialized products. But as long as we’re paying high prices anyway, it would be nice to have the better tasting, fresher and more environmentally friendly local foods.

Sideglances in The Mirror

FOR THE LAST several months the Texas Press Association has been carrying out a project to acquaint small newspapers and their staffs with what their counterparts in other parts of the state are doing.

Changing times in the media world are a challenge to newspapers from smallest to largest, so this is a helpful idea.

The TPA office in Austin recently mailed us a stack of mailing labels to other papers, so we’ll soon be doing our part by incorporating them into one of our regular mail editions. Up until now, we’ve been on the receiving end.

AN EXAMPLE of the interesting papers we’ve received is the May 1 edition of the weekly Dublin Citizen, published in the Erath County town 12 miles south of Stephenville.

I knew that Dublin attracts many tourists who come to drink a cold bottle of Dr Pepper at the Dublin Bottling Works, the only place in the world that still uses cane sugar — not corn syrup — for its Dr Pepper sweetener.

I had heard that the bottling works, the nation’s oldest bottler in continuous operation (since 1891) had its own museum, witih advertising signs and other memorabilia dating back more than 100 years.

The Citizen carried a column, Museum Matters, by Mary Yantis, who reported recent visitors from as far away as Spokane, Wash., Battle Creek, Mich. and Hibbing, Minn. — visitors who were “taking home their great stories about Dublin and its Historical Museum.”

CLEARLY this wasn’t the Dr Pepper Museum, so I was curious as to just how much museum action this town of 3,700 was offering.

Plenty, I learned from checking the World Wide Web.

The Dublin Historical Museum shares a downtown building with the Dublin Rodeo Museum. Why a rodeo museum there? It seems that Dublin claimed to be the Cowboy Capital of the World when it held an annual rodeo in the 20,000-capacity Colburn Rodeo Bowl from 1940 to 1959.

Lightning C Ranch, operated by Everett Colburn, and joined later by movie and TV star Gene Autry, was the world’s largest ranch devoted entirely to rodeo. This rodeo made up its events and contestants each year in Dublin and then rode the train to New York and Madison Square Garden to perform their rodeo.

LIKE OUR Historical Upshur Museum, the Dublin museum depends on contributions of artifacts to tell the history of this 153-year old town.

A recent one, the museum lady reported in her column, was a computer so old it “might have been a computer on the Mayflower.” Actually, she wrote, it was the first computer owned by the Dublin Dairy Queen.

Nearby is the Wright Historic Park and Miller Grist Mill. No wonder Dublin considers tourism one of its major economic assets.

THE MIRROR “exchanges” regularly with a dozen or more weeklies and semi-weeklies, some as distant as Port Aransas and Gatesville, others as close to home as Gladewater, Big Sandy and Pittsburg.

I’ve always made it a point to look through, if not thoroughly read, all of these newspapers; good ideas are where you find them.

But this idea the Texas Press people came up with broadens our Texas horizons even more dramatically.

From Clarendon in the Panhandle to Fredericksburg in the Hill Country, from Breckenridge to Beeville, from Graham to Goldthwaite, in Albany or Azle, Texas towns have much in common while each maintaining its own special flavor. And this uniqueness comes through in a wide variety of newspapers.

As one West Texas publisher said, explaining why he feels like the luckiest guy in the world: “I get to run a community newspaper in my home town.”

Sideglances in The Mirror

THE MIRROR is on a mailing list that brings us the magazine ArcNews four times a year. If you don’t recognize the name, it’s because this publication has a specialized audience: people who use geographic information systems (GIS) to map any conceivable sector of planet earth.

In the last few decades, computers and satellites have made possible a revolution in understanding the interaction of humans and their environments. No spot on earth is too remote for entry into a valuable computer database.

The current edition of ArcNews demonstrates what a range of uses this new tool has found.

ONE ARTICLE describes the railroad from Xining, China to Lhasa, Tibet, which opened about a year ago. Nearly 600 miles of the track run across the “roof of the world,” a Himalayan plateau more than 13,000 feet high; there is one tunnel at 16,640 feet.

A central control system provides 3-dimensional maps that track the train’s location and the status of the surrounding landscape. The technology safeguards passengers who make a 26-hour trip in pressurized cars.

How small governments can use GIS to stretch their tight budgets is illustrated by an article on Sugar Land, Texas, the suburb south of Houston that has been rated the third best place to live in America by Money magazine.

BOTH RETIREES and a competent work force enjoy many amenities. Among these is a GIS “total enterprise” that is shared by all the city departments. GIS is used to design and maintain the city’s infrastructure, field service calls, dispatch emergency vehcles, provide information to the public via the Internet and plan neighborhoods and parks, among other uses.

The article by Sugar Land GIS Coordinator Mark Hochstein is accompanied by an aerial view of the city overlaid witih remote-sensing images.

Fourth of July activities are mapped with symbols for the main stage, EMS station, vendors, police command and other sites, along with a map of the parade route.

It would be neat to see our Yamboree mapped like this.

ARTHUR GERTIS, distinguished professor of geography emeritus at San Diego State U. in California, writes eloquently of what this marvelous new technology means to his field.

He believes that all children develop a strong sense of place and a strong curiosity about the world around us. But if the spatial perspective is not tweaked, they grow up with little interest in geography.

But today, according to Gertis, “We are, or are becoming, GIS scientists. Before the advent of the GIS revolution, our task in ferreting out the complexities of the world was very difficult, but now we have laid the spatial foundation. We think spatially. We are on the same ship held together by the same structures.”

BUT ISN’T it ironic, and dismaying, that geographic knowledge among young people has seemingly sunk to a low level? You’ve probably seen the stats:

According to a National Geographic survey, only 17 percent of young adults in the United States could find Afghanistan on a map. About 11 percent couldn’t even locate the U.S. The Pacific Ocean’s location was a mystery to 29 percent; Japan, to 58 percent; France, to 65 percent; and the United Kingdom, to 69 percent.

ASKED QUESTIONS on how the United States fits into the wider world, young people gave answers that were equally lame. Three in 10 respondents put the U.S. population between one and two billion (it’s just under 300 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). Seventy-four percent said English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world (it’s Mandarin Chinese).

But 39 percent correctly answered that the TV program CSI is set in Las Vegas.

Is it that young Americans think only our country matters, or maybe they’re centered on the fantasy world of television?

Enrollment in college-level geography courses is increasing, but geography as a separate subject seems scarce at lower levels, where it has been subsumed into social studies. I feel fortunate that this hadn’t yet happened when I entered Gilmer Ward School in the 1930s. Getting my third grade geography textbook when I started in Mrs. Elfie McClelland’s room was a high point in my pre-high school years, and I’ve found the subject fascinating ever since — all during these years when the world has shrunk from a vast place to a global village linked by jet planes and telecommuinications.

TONY AMOS, a columnist who shares my amazement, wrote about these changes in the April 24 issue of the Port Aransas South Jetty. Amos is both a colorful character with a long white beard and a serious scholar who combs beaches in his role as a research fellow at the UT-Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.

Family members who had scattered all over the world came to help him and his wife celebrate 50 years of marraige. NOW LIVING in Bermuda, Australia, New York and elsewhere, they had grown up in houses close to each other in Sutton, Surrey, England. He wrote:

“There is one tool that we could not have imagined when we were children living there: Google Earth. If you have this on your computer, you can zoom in anywhere on earth to see real images of the area detailed enough to see actual people.”

Amos went on to describe all the familiar houses he saw (houses endure longer there) and “Dr. Rosenoer’s home and office at the corner on Windsor Avenue. I could almost imagine old Mr. Dibbs walking along the avenue as we kids were playing Fivestones in the street. Old Mr. Dibbs was probably younger than I am now.”

Sideglances in The Mirror

WHAT A revolting development that was.

I’m sitting down in my living room one day last week, watching for goldfinches to land on the thistle seed stocking hung from a wheel mounted on my deck, when I see a goldfinch all right — in the paws of a gray squirrel, being eaten like a piece of corn on the cob.

So intent was the squirrel on this unexpected treat that he never moved when I opened the deck door to take his picture. The photo didn’t get past the Mirror censorship board, but the pile of feathers that was left is not quite as unpleasant to look at.

I have lived in close proximity to gray squirrels for so many years that I thought I knew all about them. I know that they have to chew on hard things to keep their ever- growing teeth in check, and I regularly pick up pine twigs they’ve chewed off.

My wooden deck railings bear many scars from squirrel chewing. And as Upshur Rural and SWEPCO crews know all too well, squirrels chew on power lines for the same reason, and this has caused many a power outage.

WHEN IT COMES to greenery, squirrels fancy basil and tomato plants, but are not keen on sage, thyme or bee balm. I’ve learned they have a taste for all kinds of bird seeds, and I have invested in more than one squirrel-proof bird feeder. But killing birds?

I turned to the Humane Society of the United States website to check this out. It told me that the eastern gray squirrel diet varies with the season and availability of plant materials, but “squirrels also occasionally eat bird eggs or nestlings, and may even pounce on small birds at feeders — much to the dismay of human witnesses who assume that squirrels are passive vegetarians.”

Indeed, I am one of the dismayed.

THE HUMANE SOCIETY, of course, is pro-animal all the way, but even those folks have to admit there are problems with squirrels, to wit:

“Squirrels generally rank as the top problem-makers among all species of urban wildlife. Paradoxically, these charming, bushy-tailed creatures are also consistently judged ‘Most Popular’ among our wild neighbors. It seems we want them and we don’t want them — depending on what they’re up to at any given moment. Either way, squirrels are undisputedly one of the most successful mammals in human-altered environments.”

With very little effort I have become an expert on the mating habits of gray squirrels. And from what’s been going on at my place this month, I’m sure the first of their two generations per year will be showing up in a few weeks. NEST BUILDING in houses can be a problem, the Humane Society admints. And I’ve been there.

Several times in the past year I have found a squirrel peering from behind the closed glass doors of my fireplace. On each occasion I waited it out and it disappeared. I was supposed to have a screen over the top of my chimney to keep out small intruders, so I called in a chimney sweep to find out what was wrong.

The chimney person said that the squirrels I had seen probably died in there, because he didn’t think the chimney had a surface it could climb. Wrong. No dead squirrels were found, but there was a nest on top of the chimney where the screen had been dislodged. The chimney sweep also fixed my damper, which had been stuck in the open position.

THE GRAY SQUIRRELS have outbred the larger, more attractive fox squirrels that used to be common in my end of Gilmer. As I have mentioned before in this space, I rarely see fox squirrels these days.

Native to North America, the gray squirrel has been troduced to Great Britain, Ireland, and South Africa, where it flourishes and is in no danger as a species. In North America, its numbers are regulated by shooting it for sport and in England, numbers are controlled by poisoning the animals. Squirrels may be America’s revenge for Europe’s sending us the house sparrow.

The Humane Society opines that squirrels are fascinating to watch, photograph and study.

“They make themselves available for observation in ways that few other animals do and they have a rich and complex repertoire of behaviors. For those willing to patiently watch and learn, squirrels have a lot to offer.” Sorry, but my patience has been exhausted.

THE HUMANE SOCIETY has an Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program that “provides individuals and communities the opportunity to assess and improve their property’s usefulness as a wildlife habitat” and offers an official marker and several other benefits. Since my woodsy yard is already a wildlife habitat I have been tempted to apply for this designation. Bad squirrel has removed that temptation.

I like to think of myself as an amateur naturalist, and in my time I have given many a small donation to non-profits such as the Humane Society, the Audobon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the National Wildlife Federation.

I am a paid up-member of Ducks Unlimited, and my name is now on so many do-gooder mailing lists that I have enough mailing labels to last through several lifetimes. But just now, “nature red in tooth and claw” has overwhelmed my humane instincts. After the over-wintering goldfinches had left my yard by March, it was thrilling to see a smaller number migrating through here in their brilliant, fully-developed summer feathers.

I just can’t forgive the wicked rodent that ate one of them.

Sideglances in The Mirror

IT’S BEEN SAID that spring is a great season in East Texas — all two weeks of it. Usually that means endless summer sets in after the mild azalea-blooming time when dogwoods brighten the woods and fresh green foliage sprouts in myriad shades.

Not this year. Between March 25 and April 10 we had seasonal spring temperatures. But then the storm that came in Thursday, and blew over some giant trees, ushered in an unseasonably cool spell.

When frost and a low of 35 were predicted for Sunday night, I had no fear it would be a killing freeze. For cattle egrets have been present in Upshur County pastures for at least two weeks, and folk wisdom has it that they never fly north until the freeze danger has passed.

WHEN I VISITED daughter Sally, her husband Paul and their son Tucker in North Carolina three weeks ago, the glories of a Southern season had to share attention with Tar Heel basketball. The University of North Carolina basketball team was seeded No. 1 in its division and odds makers thought UCLA and UNC would be playing for the NCAA championship.

Sam Perkins, UNC senior who writes a column for the school newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, waxed eloquent about “the most wonderful time of the year.” In the March 28 edition he advised his classmates to make time to get outside. “It’s one of the pinnacles of the Carolina experience,” he mused. BUT THE BLUE skies of Carolina in the spring have to compete with Carolina blue as worn by the Tar Heel cagers. The columnist expressed the idea that I have long gotten from my son-in-law: basketball, not football, is the game that counts.

Sam referred to basketball teams of yore, when the players wore brief trunks, writing about the girls of spring: “ . . . as women’s skirts and shorts make a treacherous thigh-high climb, especially in conjunction with ancient clips of basketball games, it reminds me of the other beauty of this time of year — NCAA tournament time.

“While other schools savor the football season, this is our time to shine. We are blessed to dominate a sport with a sanely organized (no unjust formula) postseason. Plus, we don’t have to endure any nasty or frigid weather to enjoy basketball.”

THAT SAME issue of the Tar Heel carried a story about UNC cagers beating Washington State to advance to the Elite Eight. They then defeated Louisville to make the trip to San Antonio for the Final Four.

Many were betting that the Tar Heels would face off against UCLA for the national championship. But it was not to be. Kansas U. made hash out of the Tar Heels on April 5 before winning the crown by beating Memphis, nemesis of UCLA.

Sam Perkins concluded his column on the glories of spring by writing to his classmates, “This is the most wonderful time of the year, and so these are the most wonderful years of your life . . . Recognize there’s no better place to be.”

Both those assertions may be arguable, but charming college towns do have a way of making permanent good impressions on their temporary residents. However, I’m just as glad I wasn’t in Chapel Hill that first week in April when Carolina Blue turned to grey, if only temporarily.

As all of us Buckeyes know, even teams with a winning tradition run into times when they have to say , “maybe next year.”

MUCH MORE than sports make Chapel hill an always-interesting place for citizens and visitors alike.

During my recent stay Sally arranged for us to attend a lecture by the novelist E.L. Doctorow, one of this nation’s most honored living writers. I first got acquainted with his work when I read his 1971 novel, The Book of Daniel, inspired by the lives of atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. This was followed by Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and others.

I most recently read Doctorow’s 2005 novel, The March, a fictional treatment of General Sherman’s Civil War march from Georgia up into the Carolinas.

Doctorow has written essays, plays and short stories in addition to his nine novels. It was fascinating to hear his thoughtful reflections on how his use of actual historical figures mixed with fictional characters has influenced the genre of historical novels.

ANOTHER DAY we got to hear a lecture by Gary W. Gallagher, a distinguished historian who has recently written a book, Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War.

More than 60,000 books have been published on the Civil War. Most Americans, though, get their ideas about the war — why it was fought, what was won, what was lost — not from books but from movies, television, and other popular media. So say the notes from Gallagher’s publisher, the University of North Carolina Press.

The historian aims to guide readers through the stories told in recent film and art, showing how they have both reflected and influenced the political, social, and racial currents of their times.

He argues that popular understandings of the war have been shaped by four traditions that arose in the 19th century and continue to the present:

The Lost Cause, in which Confederates are seen as having waged an admirable struggle against hopeless odds; the Union Cause, which frames the war as an effort to maintain a viable republic in the face of secessionist actions; the Emancipation Cause, in which the war is viewed as a struggle to liberate four million slaves, and the Reconciliation Cause, which represents attempts by Northern and Southern whites to extol “American” virtues and mute the role of African Americans.

GALLAGHER’S BOOK analyzes 14 Hollywood movies, from Lost Cause-glorifying Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind to more recent films, made since the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. These, he says, celebrate Emancipation and, to a lesser degree, Reconciliation. With the exception of the film Glory, he contends, neither film nor art are sympathetic to the Union Cause, which, he believes, carried the most weight in the Civil War era.

In contrast, the market for art among contemporary Civil War enthusiasts reflects an overwhelming Lost Cause bent, he points out.

This talk was sponsored by the UNC history department, and the many historians attending peppered him with questions that were almost as interesting as Gallagher’s effective lecture.

Sideglances in The Mirror

FOR THE FIRST time since 1960, U. S. census takers in 2010 will count people the old-fashioned way — with paper and pencil. Some people, at least. An Associated Press story last week said that the Commerce Department is scrapping plans to use handheld computers to question the millions of Americans who don’t return the census form that comes in the mail.

The computers turned out to be too complex for workers who tried them in a North Carolina test last year, the AP said, and they were not programmed with enough memory for the job at hand.

Instead, the Census Bureau will hire 600,000 workers who will use pencil and paper to collect information face-to-face.

THE 1960 CENSUS was the first in which the mails were used extensively to collect population and housing data, according to the Census Bureau web page. In urban areas, the field canvass was preceded by delivery to every occupied housing unit of a questionnaire that contained the basic questions asked of every household.

Householders were asked to complete the questionnaire and hold it until an enumerator called. A different questionnaire, for every fourth household, contained many questions about housing and other subjects.

The census year 1960 rings a bell for me. For I was a census taker that year, working under the direction of Mary Lee Baird, who was the person in charge of Upshur County.

THERE WAS NO mailing to residents of this rural area. After passing a test and having a training session, we set out with forms in hand to eyeball at least one resident of every housing unit in our designated areas.

My assignment was to canvass every housing unit in northeast Gilmer, an area bounded roughly by Hwy. 154 on the south, Titus St. on the west and the city limits on the north and east.

There were hardly any businesses on U. S. 271 at that time (see 1972 aerial photo above). In fact, not many years had passed since U. S. 271 was routed around the courthouse and out Titus St.

Many small houses and several large houses divided into apartments were challenges. A number of these were torn down as Titus St. became a medical and professional center and businesses blossomed on U. S. 271.

It was necessary to find and eyeball a person before filling out a form for any given housing unit.

I REMEMBER finding a black man, finally, at 11 p.m. one night, doing janitor work at Kinel’s Cafe in downtown Gilmer. I had been told he lived in a house east of the highway, so I asked him about that. He said he stayed there some of the time, but also stayed in Oklahoma part of the time.

When in doubt, we counted. So he went into the records as a Gilmer resident. Another woman, who still looked rather young, reported that she had 11 children. It took her a while to remember all their names and birth dates. When she finally finished, I congratulated her.

I dreaded the every-fourth questionnaires, which were long and detailed and included questions that were puzzling to some Gilmerites.

It was fair enough for the time, but I recall census taking as the hardest I ever worked for a paycheck.

But thanks to Mary Lee and a group she remembers as dedicated workers, I believe we had a more accurate census in 1960 than any of the mostly-mailed-in counts since then.


TV’S JEOPARDY program had a question the other day that was not answered by any of the three contestants: Who is known as the “Mouth of the South,” and owns more land in the United States than any other individual?

I knew that the answer was Ted Turner, which once more justified time I spend watching Jeopardy. (Far more often, the contestants come up with answers that I had no clue about.)

CNN founder and risk-taking entrepreneur Turner has a continuing career these days as a philanthropist. He was interviewed April 1 on the Charlie Rose Show (seen over Shreveport PBS station KLTS).

Rose brought out that Turner created the United Nations Foundation in 1998 by pledging to donate $1 billion to UN causes.

The foundation has joined forces with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the United Methodist Church to fight malaria around the world.

Rose posed the question: Why did Turner become a philanthropist?

THE ANSWER was short, sweet, and, some would say, surprising.

Ted Turner said he tries to live up to the Rotary International philosophy, “he profits most who serves the best.” He explained that his father was a dedicated Rotarian, and he raised his son with a continuing emphasis on the Rotary motto, “Service above self.”

Rose asked Turner if he missed being involved in CNN and the news of the day. He does, indeed. When CNN merged with Time Warner he expeccted to still have a role, Turner said. But when Time Warner merged with AOL, he said, he was squeezed out.

“It still hurts,” Turner commented.

THROUGH Turner Enterprises, he owns 15 ranches in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Dakota., totaling 1.91 million acres.

He has the world’s largest herd of bisons, and plans to re-popularize bison meat through his restaurant chain, Ted’s Montana Grills.Turner told Charlie Rose that it’s harder to make money in the restaurant rbusiness than in media.

According to the Ted’s Montana Grill website, “Turner Enterprises’ mission is to manage Turner lands in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner, while conserving native species.”

Sideglances in The Mirror

POINT-COUNTERPOINT in the 1970s was a “60 Minutes” television segment that pitted James J. Kilpatrick against Shana Alexander in a debate over some current issue from opposing vantage points. The fact that he was male and she wasn’t had less to do with their perspectives than their differing politics. He, then as now, was on the right.

At the recent Lubbock meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, mentioned in this space last week, a more gender-based point-counterpoint was offered by the novelist Robert Flynn and his wife. Jean, of San Antonio.

ROBERT FLYNN always introduces himself by noting that he grew up in the West Texas town of Chillicothe, which is so small that you have to go to Quanah to have a coincidence, and so small that it has only one Baptist Church.

Flynn is known for humor in his talks as well as his writing, but for the recent occasion he chose to speak through another voice, an editorial writer for a semi-weekly newspaper published in Fort Worth during the era more than 80 years ago when the question of women’s right to vote was being debated.

Under the title, “Why Women Should Not Have Suffrage,” the writer said it would be a “human abomination” for women to rule. After 6,800 years of human progress she “proposes to provoke God” when “men want them to remain our superior,” the anonymous writer asserted. He (for there could be no doubt it was a he) made these additional points:

WHY ARE WOMEN restless? Is it not enough that future presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention nurture at her breast?

Woman is the medium through which angels whisper their messages to mankind.

The Apostle Paul told her to shut up in church.

Man has given her his heart, his name and his money, so “take the earth and give us peace.”

Man has won his laurels through rescuing women from folly. And, though getting the 19th amendment to the Constitution passed had no apparent connection to women becoming Southern Baptist pastors, the editorial writer seemingly viewed it as a slippery slope.

“There is more power in her smile than in the pulpit,” he wrote, warning against “the lure of false logic.” “Does she not fear that the church will seek revenge? “Woman beware. Touch not the pulpit.”

JEAN FLYNN chose to speak about Annie Oakley, the fearless heroine of early Wild West shows. Annie is not on record as having worked for women’s right to vote, but she chose other ways of becoming an example for the sisterhood, in Mrs. Flynn’s analysis.

Annie was a tomboy who, after her father died when she was quite young, became a sharpshooter, hunting rabbits for meat. She shot a squirrel on her first hunt and later made money shooting rabbits when she lived with the superintendent of an orphanage — the start of her career as an astute businesswoman.

At 15, she made a trip to Cincinnatti where she met Frank Butler, then 25. They were married in 1876, and when she was invited to join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, he became her manager. Though she later romanticized her life, she never let fame go to her head during 17 years with the show or later. in a life that lasted until 1926.

Always competitive, she became know as the world’s greatest sharpshooter. She defied many conventions and had equality in her marriage.

ANNIE OFFERED to raise a regiment for home defense in World War I, but President Wilson turned her down. That same war brought an end to the popularity of the Wild West show, but by then Annie’s legend had become a gift to show business and her life a gift to the women of the world, Mrs. Flynn said.

Even in death she had an influence as the model for the heroine of the Broadway musical and later the movie, Annie Get Your Gun.

During World War II women had taken over many men's roles on the domestic front, Mrs, Flynn pointed out, and in the 1950s musical Annie let her man outshoot her.

This demonstrated women’s willingness to let men resume their roles, Mrs. Flynn inferred. “A stubborn woman,” she said Annie was.


Sideglances in The Mirror

AS I HAVE BEEN doing nearly every Easter week for the last 40 years, I attended the annual meeting of the Texas Folklore Society — its 92nd. The pilgrimage this year brought Texans from all parts of the state to Lubbock, where from Thursday to Saturday I was reminded about the striking differences between our East and West.

Reading material iin my Holiday Inn Park Plaza room described the city’s many attractions, including the American Wind Power Center, a museum with 120 rare and restored windmills. One story touted Lubbock as a retirement center that’s attracting more and more people looking for a better climate and escape from the “humid and toxic” air in eastern parts.

Also touted was the Buddy Holly Center in the Depot District, both a cultural arts facility and a museum that attraacts many fans of Lubbock’s musical favorite son. WHAT I HADN’T realized before was how many other musicians Lubbock lays claim to. Two of the papers presented to the TFS gathering enlightened me.

Paul Carlson of Lubbock spoke on “Buddy Holly, Beethoven, and Lubbock in the 1950s” and Larry Willoughby of Austin had the topic, “Tornadoes, Tumbleweeds and Troubadours: Lubbock’s Musical Legacy.”

Carlson asserted that both Buddy Holly and Beethoven were composers who celebrated hard working, plain folks. “Buddy and Beethoven do not play well at the Country Club,” he said.

When Buddy Holly bore down on “That’ll Be the Day” and Roy Orbison tuned up his rich voice it could give you goose bumps, like Beethoven, he said in describing the “cultural milieu” that contributed much to the American musical cannon.

BUDDY HOLLY had been influenced by Bob Wills’ western swing from the 1930s and gospel music early on, but when Elvis Presley burst on the scene, music on the South Plains was changed, Carlson explained.

Holly joined the trend to rhythm and blues race music mixed with jazz that led to modern rock and roll. That change was just putting down roots when Buddy Holly formed The Crickets as a high school student, Carlson recalled.

Asserting that few regions can claim so much musical talent as Lubbock’s South Plains. he listed, among others, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely, collectively known as The Flatlanders; Waylon Jennings, Mac Davis, Tanya Tucker, Terry Allen, Lloyd Maines and his daughter, Natalie Manes of the Dixie Chicks.

AS TO THE culture this musical explosion came from, Carlson mentioned a book I happen to be familiar with, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America.

These included the Puritans from East Anglia who established a religious community in Massachusetts in 1629; the royalist cavaliers and their indentured servants from the south and west of England who built a farming way of life in Virginia starting in 1640; the Quakers from the North Midlands who settled the Delaware Valley in that same era; and the fourth, largest migration, 1717-75; “poor borderland families of English, Scots and Irish [who] fled a violent environment to seek a better life in a similarly uncertain American backcountry.”

Clearly, as cultural biographers have established, it was that fourth group that made its way through the deep South over the years and began filling up the South plains after the Comanches were subdued.

Larry Willoughby, expanding on the idea of where Lubbock’s musical legacy came from, said that West Texas rhythm came by way of West Africa, citing Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” as an example.

AT ITS Friday night banquet the Folklore Society installed Lou Halsell Rodenberger as a Fellow of the society, a high honor. Dr. Rodenberger is retired from her work as an English professor at McMurry University in Abilene, and is an authority on Texas women writers.

She has edited Her Work: Stories by Texas Women; co-edited Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own, and Let’s Hear It: Stories by Texas Women. Stuck in between copies of these on my bookshelf is a clipping from the May 7, 2006 Dallas Morning News book page in which Judy Alter of the TCU Press writes about Lou Rodenberger’s interest in Texas women writers.

Lou Rodenberger “doesn’t bellieve that Texas llterature has historically been masculine, in spite of J. Frank Dobie’s insistence that large ranches, cowmen and vaqueros characterized Texas,” Ms. Alter wrote, and, “Ms. Rodenberger insists that superior female writers in our state are not being recognized.”

The column concluded:

“As long as Ms. Rodenberger is mining the field of Texas lliterature, our women have a spokesperson and an advocate.” Dr. Rodenberger is a past president of both the Folklore Society and the West Texas Historical Association and has been a regent of Texas Woman’s University, in addition to many other offices and honors.

THE MEETING concluded, as always, before noon on the day before Easter so those attending could get back home in time for Easter Sunday.

We signed off with the traditional singing of “Beautiful, Beautiful Texas,” perhaps the greatest work of the late flour salesman, Texas governor and U. S. senator, W. Lee (Pappy) O’Daniel.

The lunch I had at the Lubbock airport while waiting for my Southwest Airlines flight back to Dallas seemed liked a metaphor for today’s West Texas.

I got a Burger King hamburger for $1.29, but a small bottle of water cost $2.50.

Sideglances in The Mirror

WHEN Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood first aired on public TV in 1968, my children were already past the age of Fred Rogers’ target audience; we had been a Captain Kangaroo household in their pre-school years. And since I never had cause to be his regular fan, it may seem strange that I will be wearing a sweater in his honor on what would have been Mr. Rogers’ 80th birthday Thursday. The city of Pittsburgh, Pa., is celebrating its 250th birthday and honoring the life of hometown boy Fred Rogers during March 15-20 with “Won't You Be My Neighbor Days.”

On March 20, designated as Sweater Day, kids and adults around the world are invited to don their favorite sweaters as an homage to Mister Rogers, who always donned a zip-up cardigan and blue boating shoes before he invited friends into his TV world.

THANKS TO Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Tim Madigan, I have become a dedicated fan — poor timing on my part, but at least reruns of the program are still an early morning feature of KERA-Channel 13.

Madigan spoke to the Texas Press Association convention in Dallas a couple of months ago, telling about the unusual friendship that led him to write a book, I’m Proud of You: Life Lessons from My Friend Fred Rogers.

It was in 1995 that the Star-Telegram sent Madigan to Pittsburgh to write an in-depth profile of the TV personality. The friendship that developed surprised and amazed the writer.

MISTER ROGERS, he became convinced, was in real life “as he appeared on television, the gentle embodiment of goodness and grace.” But he was not, Madigan learned, a man so innocent and naive that he might be little acquainted with “the grittier realities of life.” Instead, he was also “a man fully of this world, deeply aware of and engaged in its difficulties, speaking often of death, disease, divorce, addiction and cruelty and the agonies those things wrought on the people he loved.” Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist and sometime guest on Neighborhood, commented at Mister Rogers’ death in 2003, "Through music and stories, his caring and wisdom transcended every barrier; his advocacy for children was truly an advocacy for the human race.”

MADIGAN was nearly 40 when he met Mister Rogers, in the darkest period of his life, beset by “the Furies.” He finally poured out all his troubles in a letter to his friend. In response he got what his family came to know as the “IPOY” letter. Tim thought he had sunk so low that Fred Rogers could no longer express the love and pride in friendship he had previously given.

Instead, the answer came back:

“YES, a resounding YES. . . I will be proud of you. I am proud of you. I have been proud of you since we first met.” For the next seven years, in all the letters and e-mails he responded to, Mister Rogers signed off with the “I’m Proud of You” initials, IPOY, “an acronym forever stamped on my heart,” Madigan wrote.

THE REST OF the book is a narrative of a relationship developed through personal visits and phone calls as well as letters and e-mail. A chapter at the end lists the books that the two men had discussed, these being an immportant part of their friendship.

Most important were The Little Prince by Antoine deSaint-Exupery and works of the Catholic writer Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest.

Some critics have compared I’m Proud of You favorably to Mitch Albom’s longtime best-seller, Tuesdays with Morrie, a book Fred had sent to Tim.

Madigan had looked forward to entertaining Mister Rogers in his own Fort Worth home when he and his wife were to be in Dallas for the premiere of a symphony inspired by the songs of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred’s final illness intervened.

When Tim wrote a memorial essay for the Star-Telegram he received condolences as if he had lost a member of his family which, in a way, he had.

Madigan attributes the rescue of his failing marriage — one effect of his Furies —to the love and peace-making qualities of his friend. He also eloquently relates the spiritual help he got from Mister Rogers during the illness and death of his brother.

A YEAR AFTER Fred Rogers’ death, Madigan traveled to Pennsylvania and visited with one of Mister Rogers’ closest friends, Father Douglas Nowicki, archabbbot at St. Vincent’s Benedictine Monastery near where Fred grew up.

The two men spoke of their friend’s greatness, “agreeing that it was on the order of spiritual icons like Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama.”

That’s pretty fast company, but after reading Tim’s book I am convinced that Mister Rogers is at least a Presbyterian saint.

When Madigan finished the talk that clearly moved a room full of hard-to-impress newspaper types, I found myself in a long line waiting to buy I’m Proud of You and have it autoraphed.

It’s a book I highly recommend.

Sideglances in The Mirror

FRIDAY’S SNOWFALL, almost enough to qualify as a blizzard in these climes, came and went so fast it almost seems a dream. But I have some photos that will remind me that it was a bird-watching event. My resident flock of American goldfinches departed on Feb. 14. Since then I’ve seen only the occasional visitor at my sock thistle feeder. Only the goldfinches feed there, song sparrows and other small birds preferring the nearby seed feeder.

But at the height of the snow flurries a flock of goldfiches appeared, busy feasting at both feeders. They disappeared as the snow ended, no doubt resuming their migration to summer quarters in the north.

THE WHITE PELICANS that have been hanging out at Lake Gilmer were not so moved by the snow, according to Ann Irwin. Ann’s husband John provided the excellent photo of white pelicans and double-crested cormorants feeding near the shoreline (it appeared on page 14 of the Saturday, March 8 Mirror.)

As residents of the south shore of Lake Gilmer, Ann and John have enjoyed watching these huge white birds with black wing tips. Ann said John doesn’t even mind the number of small fish that have fallen prey to the pelican-cormorant strategy of encircling them.

Knowing that the brown pelicans, now abundant on the Texas Gulf coast, have made a comeback since nearly being wiped out by DDT, I was curious about the white pelicans’ current status.

I LEARNED from the National Audobon Society’s web page that the continental population of American White Pelicans declined throughout the first half of the 20th century. It said:

“The species was considered threatened until the early 1960s, but has since made a substantial recovery. Christmas Bird Counts show increases, as do Breeding Bird Survey data, which indicate steadily and rapidly rising continental populations, which have increased at a rate of nearly four percent per year over the last 25 years.”

THE AUDOBON page also reported:

“The future of the American White Pelican was in jeopardy until the early 1960s, due to the combined effects of changing water levels, contaminants, and human disturbance — including shooting the birds for sport or to ‘protect’ fishing. Since the 1960s, protective legislation, improved conservation efforts, and greater public awareness have all contributed to reversing population declines.

“However, protection remains inadequate in some areas.

Shooting remains the greatest single source of mortality reported from band returns. Conflicts with catfish farms in the southeastern United States are a more recent concern.”

Though some white pelicans stay in South Texas and Mexico to breed, any that have traveled as far north as Upshur County must be headed for breeding grounds north from Minnesota into Canada. Airborne, this third largest American bird is a striking sight.

THE GREAT BIRD artist, John James Audobon himself, took special interest in the white pelican, and his painitng of the bird to this day is one of his more popular prints. He wrote about wanting to change the species name from Pelecanus erythrorhynchos to Pelecanus Americanus. He explained:

“I feel great pleasure, good reader, in assuring you, that our White Pelican, which has hitherto been considered the same as that found in Europe, is quite different. In consequence of this discovery, I have honoured it with the name of my beloved country, over the mighty streams of which, may this splendid bird wander free and unmolested to the most distant times, as it has already done from the misty ages of unknown antiquity.”

THE EARLIER name stuck, however, and is used today.

Audobon, who began his bird observations in 1808 and died in 1851, waxed eloquent about his experiences with the white pelican. Recalling his years in Kentucky, he wrote:

“Pelicans of this species were frequently seen by me on the sand-bars of the Ohio, and on the rock-bound waters of the rapids of that majestic river . . . Nay when, a few years afterwards, I established myself at Henderson, the White Pelicans were so abundant that I often killed several at a shot, on a well known sand-bar, which protects Canoe Creek Island. During those delightful days of my early manhood, how often have I watched them with delight!”

No doubt Audobon shot them to be models for his drawings, for these birds are not fit to eat unless one is starving. ON TEXAS, he commented:

“How strange it is, reader, that birds of this species should be found breeding in the Fur Countries, at about the same period when they are to be found on the waters of the inland bays of the Mexican Gulf! On the 2nd of April, 1837, I met with these birds in abundance at the south-west entrance or mouth of the Mississippi, and afterwards saw them in the course of the same season, in almost every inlet, bay, or river, as I advanced toward Texas, where I found some of them in the Bay of Galveston, on the 1st of May. Nay, while on the Island of Grande Terre, I was assured by Mr. Andry, a sugar-planter, who has resided there for some years, that he had observed White Pelicans along the shores every month of the year.”

Apparently this still holds true today.

Sideglances in The Mirror

JOE R. LANSDALE, prolific writer of novels and short stories and champion martial artist, is one of East Texas’ most interesting characters. He grew up in Gladewater and is kin to the Upshur County Lansdales. So when he turned up twice on the program of the East Texas Historical Association meeting in Tyler last month, I made sure I was there.

“East Texas Made Me Do It: How I Became a Writer” was the Lansdale topic in a session on Literary East Texas. The author of 30 novels and 200 short stories as well as editor of several anthologies in the horror, mystery, science fiction and westerns genres said that he had no choice but to become a writer.

“I came from a family of story tellers,” he explained. He said his dad, a mechanic, couldn’t read or write, but his mother made up stories. A series of small events “ruined” him, he thinks, looking back.

THE FAMILY lived in “genteel poverty” in a house overlooking a drive-in movie theater and a honky-tonk, he recalled. He got to watch cartoons and the movies free, and the honky-tonk produced a fist fight or knifing every Saturday night.

Also vivid in his memory is a tornado that sent the family to a storm cellar occupied by a water moccasin. The sky turned green just like in the Wizard of Oz, he remembers. No doubt because of his early experiences, weather has always been important in Lansdale’s fiction. His dad bought him a puppy when he was a child, and this also shows up in his work.

“People were closer to dogs then,” he remarked.

Joe Lansdale has tried living in other places — Austin was too dry and dusty, Berlin was too weird — but now he is back in East Texas as writer in residence at Stephen F. Austin State University and operator of a martial arts studio in Nacogdoches.

HE WAS accompanied by his beautiful blonde daughter, Kelly, at 21 a singer-songerwriter who has already toured Europe, and was selling her CD while her dad sold autographed copies of his most recent novels.

When I asked which one he recommended for me, he handed me The Bottoms, a Texas Gothic suspense novel set in the Sabine bottoms between Greggton and Big Sandy.

The story is told by Harry Crane who, at 80, remembers 1934 when he discovered the mutilated body of a black woman bound to a tree next to the Sabine with barbed wire.

A key role is played by the “swinging bridge” which those of us who were in high school in the 1930s and ‘40s well remember. (And maybe later generations do as well. I don’t know when it disappeared or even if it may still be there.) It was a daring adventure to make a nighttime visit to that bridge which, if I recall correctly, was located between Gladewater and Greggton.

THE BOTTOMS was a fascinating read for this Upshur County native, but Joe Lansdale is such a gifted story teller, with “a folklorist’s eye for telling detail and a front-porch raconteur’s sense of pace,” according to a New York Times reviewer, that it would hold the attention of any English-speaking person.

Nature/weather metaphors abound, as in these paragraphs, describing the aftermath of a rain that flooded the Sabine and left “mud heaped up in hard crust, like scabs healing all over the earth”:

“At night the dark sack that held the skies was burst open and the stars fled from it and glowed like frightened animal eyes all across the black velvet heavens. “The river ceased to roar, murmured instead, like a man sleeping contentedly, his belly full of cornbread and beans.”

The suspense builds and the climax is suitably surprising. Racial tension is entwined through the novel, and, according to interviews Joe Lansdale has given, this is an inseparable part of his view of East Texas.

In an interview carried on the website, one question includes this statement: “Racial attitudes in the South are better than in the North. How do you approach your stories so that you are telling the truth about the South, with all of its shortcomings, without just fueling more negative stereotypes about southerners?” Lansdale replied:

“No matter how much you show a full rounded South, readers latch on one aspect. It’s so deeply ingrained in history but more so in films and books and comics. It’s the same way with the look of the region. I try and describe East Texas, which is wooded and full of water, and is humid and then the publishers put a West Texas cover on the book and talk about the barren wastelands. It’s nothing like that. Some stereotypes are bigger than Texas, no matter what you do.”

IN A SECOND session, Lansdale took part in a roundtable discussion about “The World Gone to Hell in a Handbasket, or Tyler Junior College, Civil Liberties, and the Federal Courts: Dr. Harry Jenkins and the Infamous Hair Case of 1970, Lansdale vs TJC.”

Along with Cassie Bayliss and Jason Walter of Tyler, Lansdale recalled the time when he was an 18-year-old TJC freshman, a long-haired late ‘60s hippy who was told in the registration line, “go get a haircut.”

College authorities saw it as a social issue, Lansdale recalled, and he might have capitulated, but he found a flyer under his car windshield wiper that said, “Don’t cut your hair.” So he went to a lawyer’s office and explained that he was a married adult and wanted to take his case to court.

TESTIMONY brought out the college’s view: long hair made you dumber and distracted other students. The administration was uncomfortable with change, and had to be in control, as Lansdale remembers those days. People hated him and he felt ostracized because of his hair, he said.

”They thought they knew what you thought.”

The American Civil Liberties Union became involved and defended Lansdale in the U. S. District Court presided over by Judge Wiilliam Wayne Justice. The federal court ruled in Lansdale’s favor and the college appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court.

Using as precedent an earlier case that upheld the right of a San Jacinto ColleGe (Pasadena) student to wear long hair, the Fifth Circuit upheld Judge Justice. The U. S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so Joe Lansdale’s civil liberties were preserved but he emerged “a wounded optimist,” he said.

Sideglances in The Mirror

ALONG WITH a billion or so viewers around the world, I checked out the annual Academy Awards show Sunday night. I expect the total audience had dropped off considerably before the long evening ended, but I persisted.

I wanted to see if the two dark, Texas-made films did as well as predicted. It would have been an enormous upset if anyone other than Daniel Day-Lewis had won best actor for his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. He did win and, as also expected, No Country for Old Men won best picture and best director for the Coen brothers.

No Country has been described as “a bone-chilling tale of violence, stupidity and revenge, with a relentless, amoral killer at its center, coolly dispatching anyone in his way with a cattle gun.”

BOTH There Will Be Blood and No Country were filmed in the West Texas area around Marfa, as reported in the Saturday, Jan. 26 Mirror story about Gilmer’s Jenny Nolan being a part of the There Will Be Blood production team, filling the role of second second assistant director.

Filming of the two movies overlapped by about a week, according to Jenny, who said the West Texas locale was chosen because the novel on which it was based was set in Bakersfield, Calif. And that part of California is totally built up compared to the farming region it was in the early 20th century, when Upton Sinclair wrote the novel Oil.

A MONDAY Washington Post column by Patrick Goldstein noted that film historian David Thomson was surprised when he heard the Coens said they made the film around Marfa because they had spent time there.

Thompson reportedly thought, “Wait a minute. I've spent a lot of time there myself and the movie isn't remotely like the real West Texas.

“It's a friendly place where people are hospitable and kind. There aren't murderous zombies running around."

I’d say Marfa is as much “real West Texas” as Jefferson is “real” East Texas.

Marfa is about the same size as Jefferson, and, like that Marion County seat, attracts a lot of outsiders who have bought property for occasional or permanent use. While Jefferson’s appeal is based largely on history, Marfa has become an artists’ colony.

NO COUNTRY could hardly have been made anywhere else, though, since the far West Texas-Mexico borderland is where Cormac McCarthy set his 2005 novel, as well as his earlier Borderland Trilogy, which marked a turning point in his career as a writer and made him famous.

I have long been a fan of Texas novelists, but I have rather deliberately never read any of McCarthy’s works.

Though born in Rhode Island and a longtime resident of Tennessee, McCarthy moved to El Paso and now lives near Santa Fe, N. M.; he is a notably “private person.” Now 74, he was seated with the No Country for Old Men group at the Academy Awards.

MY FRIEND Dr. James Ward Lee, University of North Texas English professor emeritus and one of the state’s recognized literary critics, recently told me that he also has stayed away from McCarthy’s work. He said he has noted that Cormac’s most ardent fans are young men.

Tommy Lee Jones, who played the role of sheriff in No Country for Old Men, must have been quite at home making this film. Not only does he live on a ranch in San Saba County, near where he was born, but he starred in and directed a 2005 movie, The Three Burials of Malquiades.Estrada, which was set in the same Big Bend area.

The Cannes Film Festival gave him a best actor award for Three Burials.

I got to see There Will Be Blood when it was shown in Kilgore several weeks ago, and thought it one of the most powerful movies ever. No Country for Old Men is finally in general release and playing in Longview.

I FOUND SOME of the Oscar presenters as interesting as the recipients.

I am one of Helen Mirren’s many fans, and was amused to see Daniel Day-Lewis (who lives in Ireland) kneel when she presented him his best actor Oscar. No doubt this referred to Ms. Mirren’s having played both Queens Elizabeth, I and II; he was quoted later as saying this was the closest he would ever get to a knighthood.

Denzel Washington presented the best film Oscar, having shaved his head and grown a beard since he was in Marshall Dec. 13 for a premiere of his film about the Wiley College Debate Team of the 1930s, The Great Debaters. It was just one of the good 2007 movies that Oscar failed to notice.

Sideglances in The Mirror

I TRY to keep up, but sometimes I find I have fallen completely behind the curve. I didn’t know playing bridge has fallen out of favor, to the extent it has become mainly an old person’s game.

We get regular reports from our Ore City correspondent, Katie Breazeale, about duplicate bridge matches played there, and I have friends who belong to clubs and play regularly. Admittedly, they are all of “a certain age.”

So I really cannot argue with the report on CBS Sunday Morning that the two richest people in the world, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are trying to bring young people into the fold.

Gates and Buffett were interviewed, cards in hand. Gates described bridge as deliciously simple in the rules, deliciously complex in the playing.

BUFFETT SAID he gets so absorbed in the game that a naked woman could walk by and he wouldn’t even notice her. Buffett the business genius said he has never met anyone who learned bridge who didn’t regard it as one of the most delicious things in his life.

Gee, Mr. Buffett, I am surely not the only person who finds bridge more defeating than delicious, even knowing the rules or, at least, the old rules Mr. Goren propounded years ago, now much changed by various new conventions.

According to the Sunday Morning segment, bridge reached a peak of popularity in the 1920s. A woman famously killed her husband in 1929 because she disagreed with his playing of a hand. It continued to be all the rage for several more decades, but its decline in recent years has been steady. HOPING TO reverse the trend, Gates and Buffett have resolved to use some of their riches — a million dollars, small change for them — to teach elementary school students to play bridge. Sunday Morning showed the pilot project being carried out in a classroom.

Why has bridge lost favor with younger generations? Video games? Television? So many other distractions of modern life? All the daily newspapers I see still run a bridge column. I guess that’s what fooled me into thinking the challenging game was still going strong.

If Gates and Buffett are looking for another good cause, along with their worthy efforts to wipe out AIDS in Africa and other such huge philanthropies, I would suggest they set up a project to interest the young in big band music of the 1940s, the sound of bridge’s heyday.


SOME TIME beteween 1850 and 1875, house sparrows were imported to the eastern United States from England to become a form of pest control. Of course, within the next century these little birds, actually a form of finch, thenselves became a pest.

Now we’ve paid England back. Grey squirrels, the very kind that you see darting across the streets of Gilmer and roaming in yards, have proliferated in England to the extent that the native, smaller red squirrels are endangered.

Sciurus carolinensis, the gray squirrel’s species name, originally was found only in the eastern part of North America. A specimen was released accidentally from a London zoo around a hundred or more years ago. It has now become established in England, Ireland and Italy, having quickly adapted to the native forests.

ACCORDING TO a Columbia University website, the adaptable gray feeds on nuts, flowers, fruits, seeds, tree bark, fungi, bird eggs, nestlings and frogs. And, in my backyard experience, just about anything else that comes to hand, such as herbs in pots. It’s no wonder that the grey is crowding out the much smaller native red squirrel.

The grey squirrel appears on the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union’s list of 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species. And it has been called second in impact only to the Norway rat. Something to think about when I think they look cute chasing each other around my deck.

According to the BBC News website, a massive “cull” of grey squirrels has taken place in England to try to halt the decline in native red squirrels, which are now outnumbered by 66 to one.

UNLIKE THE little English red squirrel, our native Fox squirrels are larger than the grays, and they used to be plentiful around here. I seldom see one now. So I was interested to learn that the University of Illlionois-Chicago has undertaken a Project Squirrel to understand how these two species interact.

I was quite taken with the project’s invitation to become a Citizen Scientist, one who would join thousands of others to show patterns that help usbetter understand nature.

In addition to being interesting animals to watch, squirrels can tell us a lot about our local environment and how it is changing, according to the Project Squirrel website.

Wanting to be a helpful Citizen Scientist, I filled out the posted form. But then I learned that the website is being reconstructed, and I will need to keep in touch until it’s finished.

I can hardly wait.

Sideglances in The Mirror

JUST IN TIME for Black History Month is release of the 8-volume African American National Biography, edited by Harvard RProf. Henry Louis Gates Jr., well-known TV persoality, and his colleague Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. According to the listing, this work is intended to illuminate “the abiding influence of persons of African descent on the life of this nation from the arrival of Esteban in Spanish Florida in 1529 through to notable black citizens of the present . . .” with “over 4,000 entries written and signed by distinguished scholars.”

One of those entries describes the life of Meshak Roberts, who was a slave in Upshur County at the start of the Civil War, and went on to become a member of the Texas House of Representatives during Reconstruction and as a founder of Wiley College in Marshall.

THE AUTHOR is my daughter, Sally Greene, an independent scholar in Chapel Hill, N. C., among other roles. When she learned on a visit to Gilmer that highway construction had caused the loss of the official Texas Historical Marker to Roberts, which had stood on Hwy. 154 about a quarter mile east of the courthouse since the 1960s, had gone missing, she began researching Roberts’ life.

In her blog entry for Feb. 5 ( she told of the new reference work (a joint project of the Oxford University Press and the W. E. B.. Dubois Institute at Harvard), and provided a link to her blog entry on the subject written on March 6, 2006.

IT STARTS WITH a photograph of the temporary marker now iin place, and it reads, in part, as follows:

Missing the Marker, Missing the Mark It’s no great mystery what happened to this historical marker outside of Gilmer, Texas. The original was damaged or destroyed during a highway improvement project, and it hasn’t been properly replaced. It reads:

Meshack Roberts

Meshack, a faithful slave, came to Gilmer with his master, O.E. Roberts before 1850. While Mr. Roberts was away in the Civil War, Meshack ran the farm and looked after the family. To get money to finance farm costs, Meshack shod horses for soldiers and others and sold ginger cakes. Meshack was an example of the sincere loyalty found all over the South. At war’s end, his master gave him freedom, land and material to build a home. Meshack later moved to Marshall where he served in the Texas legislature. In 1882 [1872], Meshack helped establish Wiley College for negroes.

The state appears in no hurry to replace the temporary marker with a new one. Since they’re taking their time, I would like to suggest some modest changes in the text. Meshack Roberts did not just up and move to Marshall. In 1867, he was beaten by the KKK and left for dead on a road outside of Gilmer, whereupon his former master, O.E. Roberts, did help him relocate in Marshall where he would have federal protection.

ACCORDING TO James Smallwood in Time of Hope, Time of Despair: Black Texans During Reconstruction (1981), 1867 was a period of racial turmoil: during that year “[v]iolence occurred in more than one-half of the organized counties.” The reason? The jig was up.

President Andrew Johnson’s anemic Reconstruction, under which a status quo Texas legislature had gotten away with refusing to ratify the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments and had enacted “black codes” to keep the formerly enslaved under tight control, was over.

Congressional Reconstruction had begun under military occupation. In order to be readmitted to the Union, the state had to draft a new constitution that would grant universal male suffrage. During the interim, violence and intimidation ruled.

The Cincinnati Commercial reported that “hell has transferred its capital from pandemonium to Jefferson, and the devil is holding high carnival in Gilmer, Tyler, Canton, Quitman, Boston, Marshall, and other places in Texas” (Smallwood 143).

IN JANUARY 1870, after a deeply contested election the prior November, the new constitution was declared ratified. In March, President Grant readmitted Texas into the Union, and in April, civil authority was returned to newly-elected Republican governor, Richard J. Davis. Congressional Reconstruction was over.

Even under the new government the Democrats quickly gained control. (Davis was defeated by the “redeemer” candidate Richard Coke in 1873.) But not so in Marshall and Harrison County, with its strong Freedmen’s Bureau and large black population. (See Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County, Texas, 1850-1880 (1983).)

In 1873, “Shack” Roberts, now established in Marshall as a blacksmith and Methodist minister, was elected to the Thirteenth Legislature, representing Harrison and Rusk Counties. Roberts, who was illiterate, was an advocate for black education. Even before his election he was working to establish Wiley College in Marshall, the first black college west of the Mississippi. (Civil rights leader James Farmer graduated from Wiley, where his father, one of the few African American Ph.D.s of his time, had a distinguished career.)

Roberts went on to serve in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Legislatures. His service came to an end in 1878, however, when “redemption” finally claimed Harrison County.


WILEY COLLEGE is on the upswing these days, thanks in no small measure to the boost given by the movie, The Great Debaters, which premiered in Marshall in December; it was preceded by a gala reception for star Denzel Washington. As you’ve no doubt heard, the film is based on the highly successful Wiley debate team coached by Prof. Melvin Tolson in the early 1930s.

Author Lucy King Perez, whose visit to Gilmer last week and talk at the First United Metodist Church is reported elsewhere in this edition, said she visited with faculty of the English Depatment at Wiley College and was impressed by the gracious reception she received.

As a resident of Dayton, Ohio, she is interested in the nearby Wilberforce University, founded by Methodists in 1856 and acquired in 1863 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which still operates it today. Wilberforce is the oldest historically black college or university in the nation — a distinction Wiley holds among those west of the Mississippi. Wiley is one of 11 historically black colleges supported by the United Methodist Church.

Sideglances in The Mirror

WHEN SHOPPING at a Whole Foods Market in Dallas or some other city (but not in East Texas, which has none) I like being given a choice of paper or plastic bags when I check out. Being from a tree farming family, I always take paper. This doesn’t make me a warrior for enviornmental causes. reusablebags.comAdvocates of reusable shopping bags will tell you that paper grocery bags take even more resources to manufacture than plastic, and though they don’t take 1,000 years to decay in a landfull, their manufacture and transportation release more greenhuse gases than does the making of plastic bags, according to some studies.

But at least you don’t see paper bags hanging from trees or caught on barbed wire fences in the way plastic bags despoil the landscape. And it’s not paper bags that are eaten, with fatal effect, by hundreds of thousands of whales, sea turtles and other marine animals.

ACCORDING TO the website, turtles think plastic bags are jelllyfish, their main food source. And on land, many cows, goats and other animals meet a similar death when they accidentally ingest plastic bags while foraging for food.

Beautiful green Ireland is one country where you will never see a plastic bag rolling down a roaed like a tumbleweed, or anywhere else. For it seems that since 2002 the government has placed a 33-cent a bag tax on each plastic bag at the cash register.

A Feb. 2 New York Times story says that plastic bag usage dropped by 94 percent within weeks, and within a year nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable, according to the Times story.

IN JANUARY nearly 42 billion plastic bags were used worldwide, reports, and some other countries were adopting rules and regulations similar to Ireland’s, with mixed success. China and Australia were two mentioned in the story, which also said that in the past few months, several countries have announced plans to eliminate the bags.

There were no plastic bag makers in Ireland to oppose taxing them, but such efforts have failed in many places because of heated opposition from manufacturers as well as from merchants, who have said a tax would be bad for business. SOME COUNTRIES, like Italy, have settled for voluntary participation.

Whole Foods Market announced last month that its stores would no longer offer disposable plastic bags, using recycled paper or cloth instead. And I’ve noticed on trips there that a lot of regular customers at the store on Lower Greenville Ave. — the first one opened in Dallas, and soon to be moved — already are bringing their own cloth bags.

On Jan. 29, Jacquielynn Floyd wrote in her Dallas Morning News column that she had quit plastic bags, cold turkey. She decided to use some of the many canvas bags she had accumulated over the years at conventions, in comes-with-purchase giveaways and from other such sources. And she found that “they might give you a beaming round of applause for bringing your own bags to the Whole Foods, but at Kroger, you’re just holding up the line.”

Mrs. Floyd wrote in the Friday News that she had received more than 100 e-mails from people who wanted to discuss plastic grocery bags. She had no idea “people cared so deeply, so passionately, so intensely” about the subject. SHE FELT as if she had “joined the Christians in the catacombs, a secret society whose members recognize one another by the tote bags they bring to the grocery store so they won’t end up with another dozen or so flimsy plastic bags in the house,” her follow-up column said.

The founder of, Vincent Cobb, hopes to change the image of cloth bags, as Ireland has done. He wants it seen as something a smart, progressive person would carry, and not “the extreme act of a crazed environmentalist.”

Untill that day, I will go on carrying my local purchases in plastic bags, use a few of them around the house, and take the surplus back to Wal-Mart, where bins are placed in the entrance. I’m told they are hauled off, baled with cardboard and put into some kind of process that at least keeps them out of the waterways and pastures.

Sideglances in The Mirror

WHEN THE MIRROR became one of the first newspapers to sign up for the new American Profile in 2000, it was billed as the first national weekly newspaper magazine to be inserted exclusively in the community newspapers of America’s small (and smaller) It became a huge success in a very short time, and now has a circulation of 30 We have recently added Relish magazine, a monthly supplement from the same Tennessee-based Publishing Company of America. Relish already has reached a circulation of 9 million — proving the obvious fact that even though many women now say they don’t cook, most everybody is interested in good food.

Relish also has an excellent website, accessible at

I FOUND special interest in a recent commentary on chicken spaghetti, which i think of as a quintessential Gilmer recipe, used not only to feed hungry families, but in many a fund-raiser over the last hundred years (no, I’m not quite that old, but it was a well-established tradition by the time I got here).

The Relish website reported:

“When Craig Claiborne, the late New York Times food editor, published his mother’s Chicken Spaghetti in the Times, he popularized a dish that embodied America’s family table at the middle of the 20th century.

“Like so many supper table classics of its day, however, Chicken Spaghetti was more an idea than actual recipe. No two cooks appear to have made this luscious melange of spaghetti, sauce and shredded chicken the same way. Each brought his or her own touch to it, and not even its three principle ingredients were absolute.

“Take the sauce: some cooks used a meatless tomato sauce flavored with chicken broth; others added ground meat or Italian sausage. . .

“Many a pan of Chicken Spaghetti was generously blanketed with Cheddar, but just as many were topped with Parmesan and mozzarella, or had no cheese at all, topped instead with buttered crumbs or slivered almonds.”

MY TATTERED copy of the pre-World War II third edition of the Twentieth Century Club cookbook, which was thoughtfully reprinted as the front section of the club’s 1982 cookbook, bears out the diversity of local spaghetti recipes.

In the oldest book neither Margaret Buie’s recipe (using ground round steak) nor Virginia Marshall’s meatless Lumberjack Spaghetti featured chicken.

This was corrected in the 1972 edition, which offered chicken spaghetti recipes from Mrs. J. I. Cartlidge, Mrs. J. M. Reardon and Mrs. Jim Barrett. Oddly, the most classic recipe, using no soup or other extraneous ingredients (Mrs. Barrett added green peas) was not attributed to any cook.

A similarly classic recipe comes from Bettye Smith in the current Twentieth Century cookbook, and variations are contributed by Leta Buie and Barbara Reuther.

All sound like they would hit the spot for supper on a cold winter night.

LOOKING FOR my oldest Twentieth Century cookbook, I ran across a stack of leaflet-style recipe books that provided another trip down memory lane.

For example: A Merry Christmas at your house 16-page book of holiday recipes sent many years ago as a greeting by Nip and Ed Gooch, Jim and Martha.

Recipes from Mrs. Ben Barnes that she enjoyed serving when she and her husband lived in the lieutenant governor’s apartment in the state capitol in 1969-1973.

Texas Electric Service Co. holiday recipes (dating back to Fort Worth in the 1950s).

Pork on a Budget (without a single Spam recipe).

Cheese in Family Meals, a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture booklet passed on by Mrs. Evelyn L. SImpson, Upshur County Home Demonstration Agent.

4-H Prize Winning Recipes from the Upshur County 4-H Food Show at the Gilmer High cafeteria in February, 1977.

Southern Belles HEC Christmas Cookbook for 1993, filled with familliar names starting with Lou Davis’ Brunch Casserole recipe submitted by Jewell Richards.

Vegetable pickle and relishes from County HD Agent Cynthia Shattles

And many more . . . so unlikely to be used, but so hard to throw out.


BIRD WATCHING notes from a rainy, freezing January afternoon.

It takes a lot to scare off the squirrels that gather around my deck looking for bird seed. As many as six at a time show up when I’ve scattered sunflower seeds. Last Friday afternoon they went underground, or somewhere.

But the birds showed up for a feeding frenzy, as many as 50 or more. Goldfinches and song sparrows predominated around the feeders, the goldfinches fighting each other for spots at the thistle seed sock, others lining up at the feeder with high-priced seed combinations guaranteed to hold no “junk.”

Singly come the white-breasted nuthatch, the tufted titmouse, the chickadees and a wren or two. The resident mom and pop cardinal pairs prefer to scrounge around on the deck.

Most amazing, this particular gloomy day, were more than a dozen robins scratching around the leaves in my back yard, eschewing the treats on the deck. Surely it was too cold for worms to be near the surface, but as to what they were after, I have no clue.

Sideglances in The Mirror

I WRITE THIS as a former fan of Chuck Norris, AKA Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger.

Many are the hours I have spent with my TV tuned to Walker, Texas Ranger on the USA network or as it appears in syndication. It might not always have had my full attention — I have tended to stray from the viiolent action that ends each episode — but I enjoy seeing the Fort Worth Tarrant County courthouse that houses Walker’s office,and all the other scenes around the Metroplex and its environs where most of the show takes place.

But Chuck Norris’ entry into presidential politics has left me cold. As you’ve no doubt noticed, he came out some time back for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to be the Republican nominee for president.

He made more news over the weekend when he argued that Sen. John McCain is too old to be president.

IN A TV appearance, Norris said that he believes serving as president accelerates the aging process by a 3-to-1 ratio. He cited President George W. Bush as an example.

With Huckabee looking on, Norris told CNN, "If John takes over the presidency at 72 and he ages 3-to-1, how old will he be in four years? Eighty-four years old — and can he handle that kind of pressure in that job?"

Norris went on to say that he didn’t pick McCain to support because he was afraid the vice president would have to take over the job before his first term ended.

SHOWING that he is up-to-date on technology, even if his Walker character is based on the legendary tough Ranger of frontier fame, Norris invited voters across the country to “attend” a fund-raising barbecue Sunday at his Lone Wolf ranch near Navasota. It was all done on the Internet. All you had to do was log in to the Chuck 4 Huck website, follow a link to the Huckabee campaign site, give a donation and receive a password for live online access.

Highlights included a performance of Huckabee's rock band, Capitol Offense, as well as a martial arts demonstration. WRITING IN England’s Manchester Guardian Sunday, Paul Harris found the political emergence of Chuck Morris to be one of the strangest manifestations yet of U.S. pop culture.

“Of course, as many TV villains can testify, no one ever sees Chuck Norris coming,” Harris wrote. “Or at least not until it's too late. Then he kicks you in the face. Yet to the amazement of pundits everywhere, Norris has transformed the Republican race. The actor and martial arts expert helped bring conservative candidate Mike Huckabee to a wider audience. It also marked Norris's arrival as a political force.”

Referring to the “kitsch factor” of Norris's public image, Harris said it masked someone who has taken conservative politics very seriously.

HE QUOTED Prof. Bob Thompson, popular culture expert at Syracuse University in New York, as saying that Chuck Norris is “kind of the perfect iconic representative of this campaign.”

The professor pointed out that many conservatives and older people see shows like Walker as good examples of old-fashioned values; the good guys always win. And he cited a long history in America of pop culture figures making the leap to high political office.

Not only President Ronald Reagan, onetime star of Bedtime for Bonzo, or bodybuilder and action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, now governor of California, but even odder examples: Ben Jones, who played the mechanic Cooter in Dukes of Hazzard before becoming a congressman from Georgia, and Fred Grandy, also a congressman, whose first claim to fame was as Gopher on The Love Boat.

THE ENGLISH writer didn’t mention another notable, Sonny Bono of the Sonny and Cher singing duo, who was serving as a congressman from California when he died in a skiing accident in 1998.

One who tried unsuccessfully was Noble Willingham, Mineola native, who ran for U.S. Representative from this district against Max Sandlin of Marshall. On TV Willlingham plays Walker’s best friend, retired Ranger C.D. Parker.

In a TV appearance after the Iowa caucuses, Norris stood beaming behind Huckabee’s left shoulder, next to the young blonde Mrs. Norris, former model Gena O’Kelley. For some reason, she caused them to change places; the public had a good close-up view of both.

“There is no one saying anything negative about this guy,” the New York professor said of Norris. Let me be the first.

It’s been suggested that Chuck Norris is only just starting his political career. If so, I’ll say that’s one too many show business celebrities.

Whether it’s Oprah Winfrey for Barack Obama or Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett for Hillary Clinton I say the same.

Enough already.

Sideglances in The Mirror

MAYBE YOU’VE read about the dramatic changes in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office since Craig Watkins, a Democrat who happens to be a black man, was sworn in a year ago.

He took over an office that had a reputation for being “tough on crime.” A bit too tough, it turns out. According to a story in the Jan. 3 Dallas Morning News, a man who has served nearly 27 years in prison for rape, Charles Allen Chatman, has been found innocent by DNA testing.

The victim picked him out of a lineup. And now he is the 15th person convicted from Dallas County to be exonerated since a new testing law took effect in 2001.

Watkins has teamed with the nonprofit Innocence Project of Texas to review about 80 cases, and tsting has been recommended in eight of them, according to The News. He is committed to reviewing about 300 more cases in which inmates have requested DNA testing and been denied.

IN A RECENT op-ed piece in The News, Watkins explained his philosophy of being “snart on crime” instead of just tough. He intends to find ways to keep repeat offenders off the street, and to seek “the necessary resources to represent and protect citizens.”

Watkikns notes he has taken office in the county that has the highest number of wrongfully convicted people in the nation.

Many of these can be laid at the doorstep of Henry Wade, who served as Dallas County District Attorney from 1951 until he retired voluntarily in1987, five years before he died. He is famous for several important cases, including the prosecution of Jack Ruby for fatally shooting Lee Harvey Oswald before he could be tried for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

MY MOST vivid Henry Wade memory dates back to President Kennedy’s inauguration in January, 1961. Ray and I were privileged to attend major inaugural events including the swearing-in, various parties and the inaugural ball, which was spread out over several sites. The Texas delegation was assigned to the ballroom of the Shoreham Hotel on Rock Creek.

The presidential party was very late arriving at the Shoreham. Jackie Kennedy, whose son John Jr. was not quite two months old, had already retired to the White House. By the time the dignitaries left, well after midnight, there was a mass exodus to the taxi line outside. It had snowed the day before the inauguration, and it was still very cold. I saw Henry Wade and his wife waiting, but he soon waved a bill and secured a taxi.

At that point I was pretty sure that dawn would find us either still waiting, or trudging the many blocks back to our downtown hotel. No big bills would be waved by the Greenes. But then a tall man with a blond wife held out money and an empty cab pulled up. He graciously invited us to join them, a most happy salvation.

IT TURNED OUT he was a junk dealer from up north, which caused me to reflect that his wife did look a little like Judy Holliday in the role of a junk tycoon’s wife in the movie Born Yesterday.

Henry Wade’s long run as a prosecutor ended before the DNA era began. He and other holders of the political DA’s office around Texas knew they dare not err on the side of being “soft on crime.” In all those years I wondered about the statistical probability that Texas had, or would, execute some innocent person.

Some people evidently thought that was the price you had to pay to achieve justice in the most heinous cases. I always saw this as a failure of empathy; they obviously could not imagine being convicted though innocent. And, of course, it is said that white male millionaires somehow never end up on death row.

I find it interesting and hopeful that in the most recent polls, the percentage of Texans who say they would accept life without parole in place of death sentences has been rising.

******** I AM AMONG the residents of far north Gilmer who are glad the Smith St. overpass rebuilding is complete, since that enables us to get to town without having to wait on the long Union Pacific freight trains that travel south through Gilmer at regular daily intervals.

When driving through the underpass while a train is moving over it, I have had a reflex urge to speed up in case the thing started falling. Now we can feel more secure.

Of course, waiting at the other intersections for a train to clear isn’t a complete waste of time.

YOU CAN always count the number of Hanjin, China, and other boxcar labels and wonder whether they are going back to China empty. Or you can either admire or deplore the elaborate graffiti on many of the cars.

The other day I saw an unusual train, pulling 57 apparently new and empty gondola cars, painted dark red and each labelled Herzog.

According to the Herzog website, these cars constitute “the most revolutionary ballast spreading system available to the rail industry worldwide.”

Ballast is the name for those grey rocks you see on railroad train beds, which provide track stability, drainage and support of loads. Not to mention keeping grass from growing aroung the rails.The rocks spray out of portholes on the sides of the cars, which no doubt beats spreading them by hand.

Sideglances in The Mirror

FOR SOME YEARS I’ve enjoyed a subscription to RE, the national Rural Electric magazine, and I’m frequently amazed at the different challenges electric co-ops are faced with around our vast nation.

The January edition notes in its Flashbacks column that the federal Rural Electriciation Administration announced in 1952, 17 years after it was founded, that the job of lighting up the countryside was 88.1 percent complete.

But that wasn’t the item that grabbed my attention in a very personal way. The cover story, Cabin Fever, described how electric co-ops serving recreational or vacation hot spots face challenges in delivering reliable, and financially fair, power to seasonal accounts.

TWO OF THE co-ops chosen as examples are places I have visited and hope to visit again: Ocracoke Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and Lake Winnipesauke in New Hampshire.

Ocracoke Island is south of Cape Hateras, which has large vacation homes rented out by absentee owners for up to $10,000 a week in season. Ocracoke, by contrast, has 14 miles of protected national seashore and little development. Its 800 year-round residents are joined in the summer by up to 10,000 visitors a day.

Some of them are my daughter Sally, her husband Paul Jones and their son Tucker, with whom I’ve enjoyed the island in the warm season. North Carolina native Paul remembers his childhood vacations on Ocracoke, and spending the Thanksgiving holiday there is their new family tradition. A spokesman for the Tideland Electric Membership Corp., which serves Ocracoke, told the magazine that they used to have a problem with seasonal consumers disconnecting their cottages from the electric system in the winter. So now, to ease the burden on the year-round residents, the co-op imposes a minimum monthly bill and a tough reconnect policy.

IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, 30 percent of all co-op members are seasonal consumers — highest proportion in the nation. The cover of the magazine pictures New Hampshire Electric Cooperative President Fred Anderson on a classic power boat on beautiful Lake Winnipesauke, which is lined with “generations-old summer residences — single-family island paradises fed by submerged cable . . “

To share the burden of costs, the New Hampshire co-op raised its minimum charge from $9.20 to $20 a month, which is still well short of the $34 per member the backbone system costs, according to the article. To make up the difference, the co-op offers technologies such as freezer alarms that report when temperatures at a seasonal residence fall below a certain level; water-in-the-basement monitors and remote-control thermostats that let owners heat up their camps before they arrive.

Lake Winnipesauke is next door to the smaller Squam Lake, scene of the movie On Golden Pond.

MY FORMER Stephens College roommate, Betty Baldridge Hall, and her husband Phil are owners of one of those generations-old Winnipesauke residences. Like most of their neighbors, they enjoy a 2-story, brown-stained spacious old frane house on a waterfront near a boathouse where they store a classic old power boat and a newer motor boat, both of which spend the winter lifted out of the water.

As this is written, presidential candidates were in Nashua, where Betty and Phil live, and elsewhere around the small state that’s playing such a big role in presidential politics.

Several years ago I attended a National Newspaper Association convention in Boston. When it ended, Betty and Phil picked me up and we went to their Nashua home on the way to their lake house. This was late September, and the Halls were getting ready to shut the house down for the season.

AS WE LEFT the lake we stopped by a recycling station where bottles, cans, paper and plastic were placed in separate bins. And this was not optional, I was told.

I was impressed, and not for the first time, with how advanced other places are, compared to Gilmer, in the whole area of recycling. And not all those places are in the distant north.

According to the Dec. 27 issue of the White Oak Independent, the White Oak City Council has approved a resolution to put a recycling bin on city property. This would be done in conjunction with a grant from the East Texas Council of Governments, according to a story by Rachel Cockrell Stallard.

She quoted Ralph Weaver, city coordinator, as saying that people had called the city and asked it to take a more active role in recycling.

I’m sure that Jim Eitel, who was long a key cog in the Gilmer Rotary Club’s sponsorship of recycling under a previous Gilmer garbage collection contractor, would attest that a similar demand exists here.

Sideglances in The Mirror

FEELING A little left out, fellow Texas voters? Candidates running all over themselves to get face time with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire make you wonder why they count so much more than we do?

Candidates once actually came to Texas to campaign, not just for fund-raising among the rich, mainly in Dallas and Houston but also wherever deep pockets can be found. As recently as 1992 Bill Clinton actually campaigned in his neighboring state.

I remember one memorable day in Tyler when his bus caravan was wending its way from Waco, making stops in every little town along the way.

Characteristically, he was two hours late getting to Tyler. Jimmy Carter didn’t make it to Gilmer but a delegation of his friends from Plains, Ga., full of enthusiasm, stopped here on his first run for the presidency.

When did it all go wrong? My cursory research indicates that New Hampshire has held the first presidential primary in the nation since 1952, having to move it ever earlier to beat competing states. And the Iowa caucuses, scheduled tomorrow night, since 1972 have been the first major electoral event of the nominating process.

Jimmy Carter came in second to “undecided” in the 1976 Iowa Democratic caucus, which helped him win the New Hampshire primary and subsequently the nomination. Since that year the Iowa caucus has gained importance.

I HAVE A FRIEND in New Hampshire who probably will be relieved to get the Jan. 8 primary behind her. In early December I talked to Betty Baldridge Hall, my roommate at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., many decades ago, and she asked my advice on how to vote. I declined, since in all likelihood I won’t be called on to make a meaningful choice before November.

Betty is a Louisiana native who married a Nashua, N.H. man whose family owns a small business. No question which primary she would pick,so it was no surprise when she told me she was leaning toward Gov. Romney or Sen. McCain.

She seemed a little irritated that she had been getting calls from the Ron Paul campaign “every day.”

WRITING IN THE Los Angeles Times recently, Gregory Rodriguez told of traveling around New Hampshire recently.

He found that “it’s hard to ignore the fact that New Hampshire, whose population is 96 percent white, does not look like a lot of the country when it comes to race and ethnicity. But it isn’t some pristine, untouched New England of your imagination, full of hidebound Protestant Yankees, those mythic descdnants of the early colonists from the British Isles.”

In fact, he noted, the state “has been reinventing itself for generations,” and due to migration in and out may have rendered old-line Yankees a minority by World War II.

Mark Shields commented on the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Friday that the Iowa caucuses don’t name the winners but they do pick the losers — and influence New Hampshire and other early-primary states.

Shields’ colleague David Brooks opined that if Hillary Clinton wins in Iowa, it’s all over for the others. Just one politico’s opinion, of course, But the pundit class is pretty united in predicting the game will be over before Texas has its primaries on March 3.

John Harwood of the New York Times, speaking on C-SPAN Sunday, said the country has reached a “tipping point” at which so many are fed up with the Iowa-New Hampshire drive to be first and most important that a change may be in the wind.

Others are increasingly vocal about the need to do away with the electoral college, which gives inordinate weight to small states and is another obstacle to the ideal of one person, one vote.

Count me in with those critics.


ON CHRISTMAS EVE the first goldfinches of the season finally showed up at my bird feeders and, as advertised on the tube of thistle seed I hung from my wheel-topped pole, they relish them.. Better still, these are the only seeds I’ve found that have no attraction for gray squirrels. A tall feeder full of other finch-favored seeds has “doors” that close when a squirrel pulls on one of the perches. This so frustrates them that last week they chewed through the wire and toppled it to the deck to try to solve that problem.

As this is being written I am watching three squirrels attracted to sunflower seeds I spread on my deck to keep them distracted.. Two are chowing down as if at their last meal and the third is scratching what I presume are fleas.

A recent story in the aforementioned LA Times reports that squirrels have overpopulated Santa Monica’s Palisades Park and the city has used squirrel birth control to try to control them.

To avert any outcry from animal rights activists, the city used the contraceptive GonaCon, financed by the Department of Agriculture.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

THE STORY explains that Santa Monica was trying to meet Los Angeles County and state of California standards that are based on the idea that squirrels are rodents like rats and gophers that can destroy vegetaion and carry fleas with diseases such as the plague.

I know for sure they can destroy vegetation — I’ve seen them eating everything from pine twigs to potted basil and mint — and I can only hope their fleas are not carrying plague or any other dread diseases.

For, as reported in this space before, my house has in the past been invaded by more than one squirrel, presumably the more lost and confused among my neighborhood’s large population.

And another thing I have against them is that these grey squirrels have outbred and otherwise replaced the handsomer, and less rat-like, fox squirrels I seldom see anymore.

Sideglances in The Mirror

A SOUTHERN Christmas is, in my mind, unthinkable without the state nut of Texas, the pecan.

My mother’s family came here from Alabama, a place no more Southern than Upshur County in the years before World War II.

The late author Truman Capote wandered far from his Southern birthplace, but he is still remembered for A Christmas Memory, his tale of being left with a sixty-ish woman cousin in rural Alabama one Christmas when he was 7.

He and the cousin prepare several dozen fruitcakes and mail them to people they admire. They laboriously gather pecans from those left behind in the harvest, buy illegally made whiskey for soaking the cakes, get a little tipsy on the leftovers, cut their own tree and share other adventures illuminating the holiday in that place and time —the early 1930s.

THE FAMOUS Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana has been making fruit cakes since 1896 according to a recipe brought from Wiesbaden, Germany. Forget about fruitcake jokes — Collin Street ships them all over the world and now has a second outlet on I-45.

A tourist attraction on I-30 at Greenville is the headquarters of Mary of Puddin Hill, which sells fruitcakes that are mostly pecans and dates with a few pieces of pineapple and cherries, held together with a minimum of batter.

AND THEN THERE is pecan pie, not exclusively a holiday treat, but an eminently southern tradition.

Dallas Morning News writer Waltrina Stovall struck a memory chord with me when she expounded on pecan pie in a food section story on Dec. 5. “Give Karo a rest” was the headline on a story advocating molasses in combination with light corn syrup as preferable to either light or dark Karo, alone or with sugar, for pecan pie filling. (You can find many variations on the basic formula calling for eggs, sweetener, butter, vanilla and lots of pecans, whole or in pieces.)

She told of being exiled to New York in the 1970s, when she made a pecan pie using molasses for a potluck supper at her daughter’s public school. The pies were a hit with the New Yorkers who, as she recalled, pronounced it either PEEK-in or PEE-can pie.

ON HER RETURN to Texas she looked for the pecan pie recipe used by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived in northeast Florida when she wrote her prize-winning book, The Yearling, as well as a cookbook called Cross Creek Cookery.

It turned out to have used Southern cane syrup rather than the molasses of Ms. Stovall’s memory. She found copies of the 1942 vintage cookbook out-of-print but selling for $40 on, so settled for a soft cover reprint.

Mrs. Rawling’s described her recipe for “Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie” as a sweet she has only nibbled at, adding that she had “served it to those in whose welfare I took no interest, but being inclined to plumpness, and having as well a desire to see out my days on earth, I have never eaten a full portion.”

Instead, she offered a recipe for “My Reasonable Pecan Pie,” which is simply a cream pie using brown sugar and a scattering of pecans. “Dear knows, this is deadly enough,” she wrote.

MS. STOVALL’S reminiscence sent me to my cookbook shelf to drag out my first edition of Cross Creek Cookery, which I inherited from my mother. I’m pretty sure I am responsible for the food stains in the pages close to the deadly pecan pie recipe.

So many of Mrs. Rawling’s recipes call for heavy cream (which she got from a cow named Dora) and other unhealthy ingredients that it stays on the shelf these days. as of last week offered the first edition for prices up to $100, but that was in mint condition with dust jacket, far from how I could describe my copy.

Pecans are everywhere in holiday menus as this is written — in cookies, fudge and divinity, molded salad, vegetable cassesroles and cakes as well as pies. One who has been given medical advice not to eat nuts, as I have been, is acutely aware of this.

But I had all those good years, so I’m not complaining. And I wish a very happy remainder of the holiday season, feasting and all, for Mirror readers everywhere.

Sideglances in The Mirror

AIR TRAVEL at this season can be exciting, trying, tedious or many other adjectives I can think of up to and including agonizing. But I returned last week from a trip to North Carolina last week that was darned near worry-free. Instead of flying direct from Longview or Tyler through D/FW to Raleigh-Durham, as I have done so many times since my daughter Sally moved to North Carolina 20 years ago, I opted for a cheap Southwest Airlines ticket. I flew from Dallas Love Field to St. Louis, where we landed before going on to Chicago and Raleigh-Durham.

This meant flying two long sides of a triangle instead of the direct route American Eagle and American Airlines offer. Instead of the 2-hour layover I have usually experienced at D/FW, I had just 45 minutes to change planes at Chicago, but it worked out fine.

CHICAGO WAS blanketed in white and the skyline looked frigid indeed with Lake Michigan grey in the background. I was glad my transfer did not involve going outside of Midway Airport. Recall that the Wright Amendment (for former Fort Worth U.S. Rep. Jim Wright) was passed in 1979 to protect D/FW Airport. Under it, nonstop flights from Dallas were restricted to Texas and the four adjoining states. A modification in 2005 added Missouri, and Southwest started nonstop flights to St. Louis and Kansas City.

On my return trip on Dec. 10 my ticket called for changing planes in St. Louis. The massive ice storm that eventually took 27 lives and wreaked havoc with a large part of the country’s midsection was under way. The first thing I heard on getting off the plane was an announcement that anyone holding a Southwest ticket for Oklahoma would need to spend the night in St. Louis. Airports were shut in.

NOT ONLY WAS the weather clear heading in to Dallas, we arrived five minutes early. Kind of felt like I had beaten the odds.

I had bought a St. Louis Post-Dispatch at a newsstand where the attendant, a middle-aged man, asked if I didn’t need some candy to go with my newspaper. ‘Fraid not, I responded. Whereupon the man said I reminded him of his grandmother. He went on to volunteer that he has a great-grandmother who is 113. Relieved to know that at least he didn’t think I looked that old, I asked him where she lived. In Iran, he said.

I remarked that she must be one of the oldest women anywhere. No, he said, one woman in her area was 134! SOMETHING TO ponder as I completed an interesting journey, made memorable by the general helpfulness of Southwest Airlines people. It’s not hard to understand why it rates high on every survey of customer satisfaction in its industry.

Having gotten a good look at the severe weather north of us, I’m puzzled why my usual migratory bird visitors still haven’t shown up. Have gold finches, juncoes, assorted sparrows, or other winter visitors been spotted in Upshur County? Is it just my yard they’re avoiding? Won’t seem much like Christmas without the feathered friends around my bird feeders.

I am in what is probably a small minority of Ducks Unlimited members who have never shot at a duck. But I do have memories of paddling the boat for my father many years ago when he would hunt ducks at Barton’s Lake at Indian Rock. And I still enjoy seeing them on our lakes and ponds.

Sideglances in The Mirror

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—It’s a small world, after all. Being 1,100 miles away from home didn’t keep me from hearing Matt Camp’s and Todd Robison’s broadcast of the Gilmer-Abilene Wylie game Saturday night, though I was late getting in on it.

Daughter Sally, Paul, Tucker and I had been to dinner at one of Chapel Hill’s many excellent restaurants, and by the time we got home and I logged on to, the game was in the third quarter and the Buckeyes were behind.

AN ARMY of Buckeyes is dispersed around this shrinking planet, and many of us got to share the game’s wild and suspenseful ending. Among the more than 300 listeners listed as joining the worldwide web audio were Stan Stokes in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia; Kim Austin in Hawaii, Lesa Jones Campbell and her husband Hugh in Marietta, Ga.; former GISD Supt. Larry Bennett in Green Forest, Ark., and other listeners in Beijing, China; Jakarta, Indonesia, Iraq and Iran.

Hearing how the Buckeyes pulled out one more victory over tough opposition was a perfect ending to an interesting day. WE SPENT the afternoon on the 2007 annual Holiday House Tour sponsored by the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. The chosen buildings “allow us to experience a century’s worth of lives lived on Chapel Hill’s most famous street,” the souvenir brochure commented.

The houses ranged from the 1925 Cobb-McVeigh-Rich and Rubenstein House, filled with exquisite antiques and a basement full of Coca-Cola memorabilia from owner Stephen Rich’s career at the company, to the 18th-century Widow Puckett house, one of the oldest residences in Chapel Hill.

One that attracted special attention from the tourists, including me, was the Hooper-Kyser house, longtime home of 1940s dance band leader Kay Kyser of the “Kollege of Musical Knowledge,” and his wife, Dallas-born fashion model turned vocalist, Georgia Carroll Kyser.

A 2-STORY Federal style structure, the house was built in 1814 for William Hooper, descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his bride. Kay Kyser had often visited the house in his childhood, and in 1951 he bought to be the home where he and his wife would raise their three daughters. The beautiful blonde Georgia continued to live there until she moved to a retirement center.

SUNDAY morning we attended services at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in nearby Hillsborough, where Tucker was acolyte for the 11 a.m. service. I had a chace to visit afterwards with Sally Graves Jackson of Durham, also a communicant at the historic church (founded before the American Revolution). Sally is the daughter of the great Texas writer, John Graves, author of Goodbye to a River, and I had enjoyed meeting her on a previous visit when her husband, an environmental professor at Duke University, presented a program for a church group.

I VISITED too with the rector, Brooks Graebner, he urged me to bring Sunday’s weather (near 70 degrees and sunny) the next time I come to Carolina. What they need more is rain, however, since this part of the southeast has been in the grip of a drought that has left lakes low and the countryside parched. Flying into Chicago Thursday on Southwest Airlines, I saw a world covered in white. Perhaps that’s one city immune to global warming.

Sideglances in The Mirror

West Texas — land of myth and legend — is a lot of things. It’s the part of the state that raises the question, is Texas South or West? (Actually, it’s both and neither.)

BUT REGARDLESS of what else you may think about West Texas, it IS wind. As far back as the 1920s Dorothy Scarborough famously wrote a novel, The Wind, that told of an eastern woman who married a rancher and was driven crazy by what, to her, were unending gales.

If Scarborough wrote of a wind so relentless as to be a malevolent force, my former college roommate, the late Frances Hagaman Markham, raised on a ranch near Ranger, felt lulled to sleep when her bedroom windows rattled. And missed the wind when she lived in other parts of Texas.

So it’s nice to hear that West Texas wind is bringing economic benefits to an area where small towns have been dying.

IN THE NEWS lately has been Roscoe in Nolan County, a farm town of about 1,300 population west of Abilene. According to a recent National Public Radio program, Roscoe is about to become “Wind City, U.S.A.”

Airtricity, a company based in Dublin, Ireland, is spending more than $1 billion installing as many as 640 huge windmills around Roscoe. Tall towers with spinning white carbon-fiber blades are sprouting up on 80,000 acres leased by the company in the cotton-growing “Big Country” area.

When completed, the 400-foot towers and their turbines will generate 800 megawatts, enough to power 265,000 homes. Royalties ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 per windmill per year may be paid to 400 property owners.

NPR All Things Considered reporter John Burnett gave ex-farmer Cliff Etheredge, 65, credit for Roscoe’s developing boom.

THREE YEARS AGO, Roscoe was such a dying town that even the Dairy Queen had closed, according to Burnet. And when that happens, your town is really in trouble, Etheredge told NPR. Well duh.

But Etheredge organized property owners, researched the Roscoe area wind levels, and attracted the Irish company. From hating and cussing the wind for killing crops and drying out the land, the farmers have totally changed. “Now, we love the wind,” he said.

The new Roscoe Wind Council earlier this year held the first annual West Texas Wind Harvest Festival. I-30 bypasses the town, but eventually they hope to have a Wind Visitors Center to attract travelers.

WEST TEXAS is the nation’s wind energy sweet spot with a near-constant wind speed of 17 mph, underused transmission lines, wide-open spaces and friendly landowners, according to Burnet. Texas legislators created a law eight years ago that requires utilities to buy renewable power, and a federal tax credit encourages investors to put money into wind power.

Most of the Texas wind power development recently has been in the Abilene-Sweetwater area but other wind farms are in the Texas Panhandle, along the Gulf Coast south of Galveston, and in the mountain passes and ridge tops of the Trans-Pecos.

IN SOUTH TEXAS, Two proposed Kenedy County wind energy projects will cost more than $1billion, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

An Australian-based company planning a $700 million wind farm is moving forward with construction plans after state officials agreed to allow American Electric Power Texas (sister company to Swepco) to build a 21.6-mile transmission line. It would connect the two wind farm projects to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ power grid, which carries 85 percent of the state’s load (But not including Upshur and some other counties in Northeast Texas).

Experts say projects like these Texas wind farms could be essential to slowing climate change. The electricity generated by an 800-megawatt wind farm is essentially pollution-free. Using a coal-fired plant to produce that same power would annually create two million tons of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

THE EIA REPORTS Texas has been the top wind producer in the United States, with over 3,953 wind-generated megawatts installed. Wind power is the fastest-growing renewable energy technology, increasing by 45 percent in 2006 due to strong demand, investment of private capital, and the support of federal and state governments.

Producing no pollution or greenhouse gases, wind power displaces approximately 23 million tons of carbon dioxide (the leading greenhouse gas) each year.

The wind industry is creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in royalty income for landowners, for communities and for the Texas Permanent School Fund, according to Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s office.

TEXAS IS FAR from the only wind energy producer in the U.S. Many others exist or are planned in the Midwest and Western states. On the East Coast, resistance has emerged from landowners who don’t want their ocean views polluted.

Cape Wind proposed to generate renewable energy by erecting 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound — a pocket of federal water three miles offshore that is viewed by Massachusetts homeowners on Cape Cod as their back yard.

The Washington Post reported that critics of Cape Wind, including Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), have said that the proposed turbines would hurt views, tourism and migratory birds.

SOME NEIGHBORS of Midwestern projects have opposed them on similar grounds. Opponents of the Forward Wind Energy Center near Bloomington, Ill., say it could harm wildlife, including sandhill cranes and bats that nest in a nearby mine.

About eight years ago I traveled in Europe with a group that toured the Bavaria area of Germany, which is where I saw my first wind farms. I thought then, surely they can’t call this wind; somebody should check out West Texas. I’m glad that now has happened.

Sideglances in The Mirror

THANKSGIVING WEEK finally did it. No more endless summer.

When I saw smoke rising from chimneys in my neighborhood as a gentle cold rain fell Saturday, I knew I could nno longer consider Christmas preparations premature.

The changing season has been slow in coming to the bird feeders on my deck, as well. A few migratory song sparrows have shown up, and slate-colored juncoes — commonly known as snowbirds — have fled the snows that finally reached the northlands.

But I’m still waiting for the first of the American goldfinches that Icount on feeding every winter.

But the squirrel population is omnipresent, and determined to scoop up every possible bird seed—never mind that we have a bumper acorn crop this year. Worse still, the squirrels have breached the top of my chimney and, a couple of times lately, ended up in the fire place.

Remarkably enough, though they may fall down, they’re able to climb back up and out.

RACCOONS AND possums have been scarce during the hot months with no bird seed out to attract them, but they’ll be back. Mariana Greene, Dallas Morning News gardening writer, has much more charitable views of the possum family than I do.

In Saturday’s edition she wrote about gladly hosting two possums that like to hang out in her back yard flower baskets. She has chickens that she feared the possums would threaten, but defenders ot the ancient marsupial breed point out that they eat mice, rats, carrion, snails, slugs, cockroaches and other insects.

She felt sorry for the baby of the two possums, and thought it lookedsad, lonely, with a resigned expression. And this evoked what may or may not be rather strange behavior: every night she leaves appleslices, cornbread, leftover hamburger and oatmeal or anything else her household eats. (Yes, possums, like humans, are omnivoers.)I call this reverence for life that almost reaches an Albert Schweitzer level.


ROBROY Industries’ excellent quarterly magazine, The Bagpiper, always carries news of local interest, and this is especially true of the new fall issue.

On the cover page is a message from Boared Chairman Peter McIlroy II expressing thanks to the Robroy teammates from the Gilmer and Avinger plants and from Belding, Mich. who volunteered to move to Odessa for 90 days to help solve a problem that arose at the Duoline plant there.

The chairman explained that the oil boom in Odessa had created a chronic shortage of available workers and Duoline was having trouble getting an order out on time. He called it “a stunning example” of Robroy’s team spirit. He expresssed special thanks to the 12 Gilmer and Avinger men and women and the six from Belding who made the sacrifice of disrupting their lives.

ALSO IN THIS issue was news of a signal honor that was accorded to Peter McIlroy last summer. He was awarded the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the category of manufacturing.

The award recognnizes outstanding entrepreneurs who are building and leading dynamic and growing businesses.

Mr.McIlroy was honored as the top manufacturing entrepreneur in the region covering Western Pennsylvania, Northern New York and West Virginia. (Robroy Industries’ corporate headquarters is in the Pittsburgh, Pa. area, where the company was founded.)

The award was presented at a banquet in Pittsburgh. In accepting the award, Mr. McIlroy gave full credit to the entire Robroy team with special thanks to Gilmer-based President David Marshall and the corporate operating committee. He said the award should have been for the “entrepreneurial company of the year” instead of giving all the credit to the CEO.

Congratulations to all involved, however the award was styled.


THOSE NOSTALGIC for the early days of TV, when it was all in black-and-white and a 17-inch screen was pretty standard, can look forward to those programs being carefully restored on high-tech DVDs.

The Dallas Morning News carried a story by Diane Werts of the Long Island Newsday newspaper, and illustrated it with photos of William Boyd, AKA as Hopalong Cassidy, and Spike Jones, he of the whacky band that could explode in all directions to comic effect.

I fondly recall both these stars of long ago — Spike Jones, because my father was regularly amused by the Jones band’s recordings, and Hopalong Cassidy, my favorite cowboy star in the childhood days when Saturday afternoon meant a matinee at the Strand Theater (where Gilmer Cable TV office is now located) with a cowboy feature and an installment of the Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers or some other suspenseful series.

AS I’VE NO doubt mentioned before in this space, a high point in my early newspaper career came more than 50 years ago when William Boyd walked into the Dallas Morning News city room in full Hopalong regalia and I had what was, to me, the plum assignment of interviewing him.

But I’m not quite ready to spring for the $80 Hopalong Cassidy 12-disc set. The story quotes Rick Beuehler of Infinity Entertainment, the producers of these DVDs and others, as saying that when you combine 75 million baby booners and 25 million born pre-1946, “you’ve got about a hundred million people looking for mashed potatoes and gravy — TV comfort food.”

And one thing comforting about Hoppy: he packed two guns, but his violence level was never on the scale of today’s movies and TV.

Sideglances in The Mirror

IT WAS EXCITING to be present for the press event Friday that announced the largest single gift in the history of the excellent Tyler Museum of Art.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, Dan and Laura Boeckman of Dallas will donate most of their large Latin American folk art collection to the Tyler museum, which earlier this year had announced plans to move from its present site on theTyler Junior College campus to a new and larger building to be constructed near UT Tyler.

Eighty-eight items from the collection that have been on display at the Tyler museum since May will remain in place through Jan. 6. I recommend it to anyone who already has an appreciation for the rich heritage of Mexican folk art, and especially to those who are unfamiliar with these vibrant, life-affirming works in paint, clay, carved wood and other materials. The artists are untutored, but not unskilled. AND STRANGE as it may sound, none of these objects are more lively than those created for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

The poet Willliam Butler Yeats wrote for his tombstone in Sligo, Ireland the inscription, “Cast a cold eye, on life, on death. Horseman, pass by.”

The Mexican folk are able to cast another kind of eye on death, as you realize in looking at the happy skeletons (of horse as well as rider) created for a joyful annual festival to celebrate those who have already passed on.

It is believed that on Dia de los Muertos the spirits return home to visit their families. This day of "rejoicing" has roots in the ancient cultures of the Druids, the Celts, the Mayans and the Aztecs.

Mexican folk art in general arises from a blend of ancient and modern cultures described by the Yale philosopher F.S.C. Northrop in his seminal 1946 work, The Meeting of East and West, as a blend of Aztec, Spanish Colonial, French 19th century, Anglo-American economic and contemporary Mexican. Such is the mixture, Northrop suggests, that Mexico is tied not only to all of America and Europe, but it provides “even a tie and a bridge to Asia.”

AT THE FRIDAY event, Dan Boeckman was introduced by the Tyler Museum of Art director, Kimberley Bush Tomio, who explained that the Boeckmans had assembled their collection on many trips to Mexico in the 1990s.

Mr. Boeckman said he considered the works “a good snapshot of a10-year period of Mexican folk art,” representing every Mexican state except Chiapas, where there has been more fighting than artistic endeavors in recent years.

He noted that the collection includes a host of forms and every material an artist could come up with. (One large image of the Virgin of Guadalupe is composed entirely of seeds.)

The donor said he has been impressed with Tyler’s growth and the proposed new museum building. And, as he comments in the news story, he took note of the large Hispanic community in and around Tyler, and hopes the museum’s folk art collection will inspire them to get

involved in moving the city ahead as a cultural center. BEFORE WE LEFT the museum Friday, Judy Avery and I had a chance to watch workers putting the finishing touches on a new show from the Boeckman Collection, Silent Night, Holy Night. It opened Sunday and will remain in place through Jan. 27.

The exhibit is made up of 16 nativity scenes that vary widely in style and materials. One of the most unusual is made up of 2-dimensional lead pieces, similar to, but flatter than, the toy soldiers children played with in my childhood.

Over a period of 25 years Mr. Boeckman commissioned one artist a year to make small nativities for his godchildren and nieces and newphews.. He also collected them for his mother, but then stopped giving them to her because he enjoyed them so much. The creches, a French term meaning “infant beds” but translating as “nativity scenes” in North America, are not included in the permanent gift to the Tyler Museum.


IT’S SUCH A pleasure to drive on the newly repaved portions of Trinity, Cass and Scott Sts. which, as reported in recent Mirrors, was a $150,000 project financed by the Texas Department of Transportation in return for the City of Gilmer agreeing to close the Taylor St. railroad crossing. Trinity St. from Cass St. north to its dead end at Walnut was arguably the worst of Gilmer’s deteriorating street system.

Now it is an example of what could be done when the city reduces its debt enough to take on street paving. As reported in a Nov. 10 Mirror story, the city has reduced its debt from about $27 million to about $23 million, but that is double what is normal for a city of Gilmer’s size.

Meanwhile, in my Madelaine St. neighborhood and elsewhere city employees have been busy using the city patch machine to fill potholes with a mixture of crushed rock and road oil. I know this is a pragmatic solution to a big problem, but the way the rock scatters around the street is in some ways worse than the potholes, for a time.

City Mgr. Jeff Ellington was quoted in the Nov. 10 story on how the city is struggling to maintain the streets as best it can until the debt can be dedced. The situation is getting better, but it’s a slow process, he said. Meanwhile, the word is patience.

Sideglances in The Mirror

FAIR WARNING: If you have no taste for proud parent prattle, stop reading right here. But those who have expressed, or may have, an interest in an update on my daughter Sally, I have a report.

On Nov. 6 she was elected to a second 4-year term on the town council of Chapel Hill, N.C., where she lives with her husband Paul Jones and their son Tucker, a high school freshman.

Seven people ran for four at-large seats. In unofficial returns Sally got 3,882 votes, just seven votes behind the leader, incumbent Jim Ward.

A joint mailing piece was sent out by Mayor Kevin Foy, who was reelected, and the four incumbents (including Sally) who promised “Continuing leadership for a green and progressive Chapel Hill.” Of the four, only Cam Hill was unsuccessful, and as of Monday he was seeking a recount in the race he lost by a slim margin to newcomer Matt Czajkowski.

SALLY WAS endorsed by the Sierra Club, two local newspapers and three other organizations that questioned all the candidates. The Chapel Hill News recommended:

“Sally Greene has taken lead roles and helped steer the town in the right direction on a number of important issues. She chaired a community task force on affordable housing and from the very start she has been one of the leaders of the effort to end homelessness. She has been an advocate for both environmental and historic preservation. Greene is well prepared, reasoned and persuasive, and we look forward to her continued leadership in the next four years.”

Home of the main campus of the University of North Carolina (oldest public higher education institution in the U.S., founded in 1795), Chapel Hill is facing a period of “enormous change,” the Chapel Hill News commented in a post-election editorial.

WITH THE election behind her, Sally this week will co-host an academic conference at the UNC Law School on the subject, The Perils of Public Memory: State v. Mann and Thomas Ruffin in History and Memory.

The conference website explains:

“In 1829, Judge Thomas Ruffin of the North Carolina Supreme Court wrote what is undoubtedly the coldest and starkest defense of the brutality of slavery ever to appear in an American judicial opinion. The notorious decision in State v. Mann provided fodder for Harriet Beecher Stowe; more recently, it has been the touchstone for outstanding scholarship in legal history, law and literature, cultural studies, southern studies, and other fields.”

Questions have been raised about whether deep respect should be shown for a man at the same time one despises the system he serves.

CONTINUING FROM the website:

“These are especially poignant questions here at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, just a few miles south of Ruffin's Hillsborough gravesite and a few miles west of his imposing statue in the foyer of the state's Court of Appeals. Here at UNC, a portrait of Judge Ruffin, who served as Chief Justice for the state court for almost twenty years, has graced the walls of the law school, and a dormitory proudly bears his name.”

The Center for the Study of the American South and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities are co-sponsors with the UNC Law School of the Friday conference “to consider questions about Judge Ruffin, State v. Mann, and the difficulties of public homage.”

Listed as conference organizers are Sally Greene, an independent scholar who has taught in the English departments and law schools at UNC and the University of Virginia, and Eric Muller, the George R. Ward Professor at the UNC Law School. Ten scholars, including the two organizers, will contribute essays on the questions about Ruffin.

ON ANOTHER, totally unrelated, Southern subject, I note that the current issue of the AARP Bulletin has an obesity chart provided by the Trust for American Health and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why is it that I’m not surprised to learn that nine of the 17 most obese states were members of the Confederacy? And two others, Kentucky and Missouri, were border states. That good Southern cooking is hard to mesh with a low-calorie regimen.

TEXAS TIES with Missouri at No. 12. The top five, in order, are Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, and a tie between South Carolina and Tennessee. Georgia ranks 14th . Two former Confederate states lower on the list, Virginia (tied with Pennsylvania at No. 25) and Florida (No. 34) arguably have a larger percentgage of newcomers than the others.

And which states have the lowest percentage of obese residents? They’re all from the West or the Northeast. Colorado is the least obese. Better diets, or is it all those mountains?

Sideglances in The Mirror

EVER SO OFTEN you see a newspaper story about a poor soul who has lost $85,000 (or some such large amount) by falling for the kind of scam that every person with an e-mail address is subject to.

You may be among the millions who get these regularly, and marvel at how anyone could buy these simple-minded, really outrageous stories. An example is this one I got from a “London barrister:”

“We are hereby happy to inform you that you emerge as one of the winners in the lucky pick of email address on the web. The cheque won is used as compensation to the numerous internet users, and gotten from the non-claims of winning check of last years lotto winners in the UK lottery international promotions.

“To that effect, we had to organize a lucky dip of all e-mail addresses on the web and sectioned them into zones such as the Europe, Asia, America, Africa and the rest. Under these zones are the regions. . . So to that effect, your winning fell under the African zone and West African region.

“So therefore, your winning had been sent down to the compensation agent in charge of that region in the person of Mr. Frank David. You will have to make contact with him, and follow due procedures to effect the claims of your package which contains a winning check of $500,000.00 (Five hundred thousand U. S. Dollars) for your prompt claims.”

SHOULD I contact, Mr. David, of course, I would be asked to send my own sizeable “cheque”, and then another, and another . . . And by the time I saw through it, my correspondents would have flown the coop.

Another recent one came from a Mrs. Mary Parker, said to be a U. S. citizen living in Russia where her husband had worked for Chevron/Texaco for 20 years before he died in 2003. She claimed he had deposited 7.5 million pounds with a bank in Europe and now she, dying of cancer, had been notified the account was DORMANT; if she does not reactivate the account the funds will be CONFISCATED (her capitals).

“Because relatives and friends have plundered so much of my wealth since my illness, I cannot live with the agony of entrusting this huge responsibility to any of them. Please, I beg you in the name of God to help me. Stand-in as the beneficiary and collect the Funds from the Bank. I want a person that is God-fearing who will use this money to fund churches,orphanages and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained.”

Since Mrs. Parker believes I am her Sister in Christ I feel bad about not being able to help her out, but I think I’ll beg off.

AFTER YEARS of these fraudulent e-mailings, action is being taken. You may have seen the commercials.

A dirty and poorly dressed man approaches a woman on a commuter train and explains that he is a wealthy foreign dignitary and is recovering a large sum of money from his country. The camera focuses on his scuffed, dirty shoes as he pulls a crumpled old check out of his pocket and explains that she can keep a large sum of money from this check if she cashes it and wires most of it back.

“Whatever,” the young woman exclaims brightly as she makes a fast exit. This kind of scam doesn’t work so well in person, the ad concludes.

The commercials, like the website, were created by the National Consumers League (NCL), which, according to its website, is the nation's oldest nonprofit consumer organization. is billed as a central source of information and advice about fake checkscams.

NCL CREATED the site in collaboration with the Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness, a coalition of consumer and business organizations, government agencies, and companies that are committed to fighting these scams.

FakeChecks divides their warnings into six categories, defined as

1. Foreign business offer schemes 2. Love losses 3. Overpayments 4. Rental schemes 5. Sudden riches (usually by sweepstakes or lotteries) 6. Work-at-home offers.

My most recent offer, under category 5, came from the trustees of “an International charity organization branched in the Netherlands” that had randomly picked me for a $2 million grant for my educational pursuits, health care, personal business development and uplift of the environment. “The idea of this donation is that within ten years from now, there will be notable richness amongst many unusual people around the world,” I was told. Then came the clincher: “George Soros is chairman of the foundation/association” making the bequest.

SOROS, of course, is a well-known financier and philanthropist whose network of foundations promote, among other things, the creation of open, democratic societies based upon the rule of law, market economies, transparent and accountable governance, freedom of the press, and respect for human rights. What a worthy use of his millions. But all that wealth can’t keep his name from being used fraudulently.

Many of the scamming e-mails I’ve received have come from Nigeria or some other third world country. Whether such con artists like us or not, they’ve figured out this is where the money is.

No doubt they think that a certain percentage of Americans are not quite as smart as the average bear. Or that they’re as greedy as they are for money that falls from the sky, kind of like lottery jackpots do.

Sideglances in The Mirror

CLAYTIE: The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter. By Mike Cochran. 435 pp. Texas A&M University Press. $24.95

In 1989, when he announced he would run for the Republican nomination for governor of Texas, Clayton W. Williams Jr. had lived an unusually colorful life, even for a Texas independent oilman.

He had made and lost fortunes drilling for oil and gas while also taking risks in real estate, ranching, banking and communications. But his name was still recognized by only four percent of Texans.

That all changed when he won the nomination and entered the race against Democrat Ann Richards as a solid favorite. Williams’ several gaffes all but handed the office over to Ms. Richards on a silver platter.

Readers interested in how it happened will be tempted to turn first to Part Four, where veteran Associated Press writer Mike Cochran tells the tale in 82 fascinating pages. As a dark horse candidate, Williams self--financed a TV blitz that attracted the attention of the national press and created in Great Britain an “obsession with the Lone Star potboiler.”

Cochran notes that Time magazine described Williams as a “folksy” candidate working a food line at a Tyler cafeteria in a “gravelly West Texas drawl.”

The campaign was tragically interrupted when five of Williams’ closest friends and associates were killed in the crash of his 2-motored plane east of Abilene. They were flying to a meeting of ClayDesta Bank directors in Dallas; only at the last minute had Claytie’s wife, Modesta, decided against making the trip.

Even though the now-legendary Bush troubleshooter Karl Rove was running the campaign of the GOP establishment candidate Kent Hance, Williams won going away. While Ann Richards and Jim Mattox “slugged it out in their runoff,” Claytie invited reporters to his Happy Cove Ranch near Alpine for the spring roundup.

Weather turned rainy, cold and foggy for the chuck wagon breakfast. Women reporters had returned to the ranch house but male reporters were still at the campsite when Williams made his now-famous remark about rape: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

Competitive reporters from the Houston Chronicle and Post and the Dallas Morning News’ Sam Attlesey agreed after some debate that they had to report the story. When asked for comment, Williams said it was just a joke and apologized. That was just the first of Claytie’s foot-shootings that eventually cost him the governorship. With support from GOP women, among others, he bounced back.

But early on a brouhaha developed over rumors that Williams had visited brothels while growing up in Fort Stockton and as a student at Texas A&M. Houston Post Reporter John Gravois traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz., where Williams was attending a convention, and the candidate was very open in his response — too open, as it turned out.

“It was different in those days,” Gravois quoted Williams. “The houses were the only place you got serviced then.”

Though his miscues were widely publicized, he still had a wide lead over Ann Richards going into the fall. But the non-handshake was the last straw.

Ms. Richards and Willliams agreed to apear jointly at a Greater Dallas Crime Commission Luncheon at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas. Cochran cites a newspaper story suggesting that Claytie’s Midland bank had laundered drug money and the Richards campaign wanted answers. He writes:

“Although the story was without merit, it deeply offended Claytie, even hurt him, because drugs were a personal concern as they related to his elder son. Additionally, the drug issue had served as both catalyst and cornerstone of his gubernatorial bid.”

His advisors huddled over strategy, and one remembered that the late Sen. John Tower had once refused to shake hands with Democrat Bob Krueger after being offended by a comment. Tower went on to win, so they advised Williams to try it. On the way to the hotel Claytie said he didn’t feel right about not shaking her hand, and Press Aide Todd Smith was relieved. But not for long.

Ms. Richard stretched her hand out as Williams approached, but he said, “I’m here to call you a liar today.” She said she was sorry but Claytie continnued: “You’ve lied about me, you’ve lied about Mark White, you’ve lied about Jim Mattox. I’m going to finish this deal today, and you can count on it.”

The rest is history, and historically significant. When Ann Richards won with 49.4 percent of the vote, her camp cited the (handshake-tilted) Dallas women’s vote as pivotal. From that time onward, the national press routinely referred to her as the “highly popular” governor of Texas. Half popular would have been more apt.

Four years later, when Barbara Bush’s oldest son ran against Gov. Richards, he had no trouble bringing the GOP women back home. If Clayton Williams had been governor in 1994 would George W. Bush have sought the office? Cochran quotes Claytie: “Most likely, George might not have ever entered politics. . . I think fate was involved . . . and well, you never know what fate holds.”

As an “authorized” biographer, Cochran spent four years and interviewed hundreds of people for this book. Unlike Biographer Robert Caro, who took everything bad he was told about Lyndon B. Johnson as gospel and everything good as suspect, Cochran gives Claytie a chance to comment when he disagrees with someone else’s version of a story, and leaves it up to the reader to decide who’s closer to the truth.

None of the stories detract from the picture Cochran paints of a quintessential Texas Aggie, a West Texan who values personal integrity and candor, who inspires loyalty in friends and employees and affection from his growing family.

Who but the truest Aggie would pledge a multi-million dollar “naming gift” to build a new alumnae center, then sell his beloved Clajon Gas company rather than stretch out payment because he was overextended iin the 1980s and unable to get a bank loan? Appropriately for a book published by the A&M Press, one chapter contains the entire speech Williams made at the 2005 Aggie Muster on the College Station campus.

Integrity and grit was what it took for Williams to refuse to take Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991 when he had ignored his finances because of the campaign to the point that he was $90 million in debt. Since then he has drilled wells in South Loisiana and elsewhere and is back in the chips. Today he and his soulmate, wife Modesta, enjoy regular safaris to Africa, Pakistan, and anywhere else where hunting is good for word record trophies like mountain sheep, lions and alligators.

Among the many photos that ilustrate the book, the prize goes to the one of Ann Richards’ hand outstretched to the man who would not forgive her then, but did, years later — reconciling as he had with many others who crossed him. Chapters on Claytie’s years as a young cowboy in a distinguished West Texas family, and on his adult business dealings make easy and entertaining reading. Overall a highly recommended biiography.


Anonymous said...

You should go out to Branson and see the show! There are plenty of different Branson attractions to do as well.

David said...

Hey! If you feel like going on vacation where it's nice and beautiful then check out Branson vacation.

ali ma'rifatullah said...

Dear author,

I like your article . . . . .

Please visit also to our website

Many thanks and best regards
Ali Fatul

ali ma'rifatullah said...

Thanks for your information.
May be an additional experience for us...

Please visit also to our website

Bazaar said...

Thanks for increasing my knowledge. In future I will try keep visiting.Sport Equipment For Sale in Ireland

Anonymous said...

Experts have talked about this before. How many times have you read about the importance of ‘adding value’ for your audience? How many times have you read about ‘building trust’ with your readers/prospects?
Many, many times. You know it well. Every marketing guru has spoken about this topic. I’m sick of hearing it. But it STILL bears repeating.

Anonymous said...

Experts have talked about this before. How many times have you read about the importance of ‘adding value’ for your audience? How many times have you read about ‘building trust’ with your readers/prospects?
Many, many times. You know it well. Every marketing guru has spoken about this topic. I’m sick of hearing it. But it STILL bears repeating.

Anonymous said...

Having been a part of the Online Universal Work Marketing team for 4 months now, I’m thankful for my fellow team members who have patiently shown me the ropes along the way and made me feel welcome

Anonymous said...

Affiliate Marketing is a performance based sales technique used by companies to expand their reach into the internet at low costs. This commission based program allows affiliate marketers to place ads on their websites or other advertising efforts such as email distribution in exchange for payment of a small commission when a sale results.

Anonymous said...

How To Make money with affiliate programs Today. Affiliate marketing is the easier and probably the most effective method to make money from the internet. It is basically, a kind of selling technique where potential buyers from your website are directed to the websites of sellers. For every click, the website owner gets a small commission.

ipcpack said...

Hi, nice blog & good post. You have beautifully maintained it,Its really helpful Thanks for sharing Keep Blogging!! thermal pallet covers

best dressedllc said...

Right,Good to see these useful info here..Thanks a lot for sharing them with us…

Consignment tulsa

Blogger said...

I have just installed iStripper, and now I enjoy having the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

Blogger said...

You might qualify for a new government solar rebate program.
Find out if you qualify now!

Blogger said...


Blogger said...

VistaVapors is the highest quality electronic cigarettes provider out there.