Texas Standard » Stories from TexasStories from Texas are written for and recorded for the Texas Standard radio program. They're written by W.F Strong and edited for broadcast by Texas Standard producers.Texas Standard airs Monday through Friday on more than 20 public radio stations across Texas. Visit texasstandard.org/listen to find when it airs where you are. Texas Standard is hosted by David Brown, and infrequently by Laura Rice from KUT Radio in Austin, and Lauren Silverman from KERA Radio in Dallas.
Stories from Texas are written for and recorded for the Texas Standard radio program. They're written by W.F Strong and edited for broadcast by Texas Standard producers.Texas Standard airs Monday through Friday on more than 20 public radio stations across Texas. Visit texasstandard.org/listen to find when it airs where you are. Texas Standard is hosted by David Brown, and infrequently by Laura Rice from KUT Radio in Austin, and Lauren Silverman from KERA Radio in Dallas.
I showed a friend of mine a picture of me sitting at the edge of a thin ridge jutting out, about 300 feet above the Pecos River. He said, "I can't look at that, it gives me the willies." Oh, yes, the willies, goosebumps and shiverings triggered by our phobias. As an amateur linguist, I'm always wondering where certain expressions come from. How did the words end up as common words in English? The willies, for instance, has a fascinating derivation. Frontiersmen, you see, used to wear wool undergarments, but as they were made of wool, they often got itchy causing "the woolies," which evolved into "the willies," and was then used to name all circumstances of discomfort that make your flesh crawl. I love words that have interesting origins like that. There are many words we use daily that we might believe are native to English or even Texas, but are foreign. Here's a few that fit the bill. Honcho. Seems like a word of that would have come from the old West. "Who's the head honcho around here?" It's actually Japanese. It means, as you know, "boss" or "group leader." It was brought back by U.S. soldiers who served in Japan after WWII. Savvy is another word that migrated here. Again, it sounds like, and was, a word used in Western movies. "That boy's got a lot of savvy about horses." It comes from the Portuguese verb saber. Sabe – to know. Within a trade language it became sabi, with an 'i" and in that pidgin language, traveled to the Caribbean where sabi became savvy. Ever been stuck in the boonies? I hear that word often. A text comes in – "I'm stuck out here in the boonies – truck won't start. Can you come get me?" The boonies is derived from bundók, a Tagalog expression U.S. soldiers brought back from the Philippine-American War in 1899. It means: in the remote areas of the interior, in the mountains. Similarly, there's a common expression in Spanish I often hear in Texas: "en el monte," meaning remote areas that are unpopulated and perhaps backward. Metroplex is both Greek and Latin. The metro is derived from the Greek Metropolis (mother city), which gives birth to smaller towns and cities. Plex is Latin to weave. And so it means that the mother cities of Fort Worth and Dallas have weaved an enormous network of interconnected cities and towns and suburbs. A few more for you. Ketchup is, one would think, American as apple pie. But it is Chinese. Lemon is Arabic. Wanderlust is German. And we get a lot of good slang terms from Yiddish. Your IT specialist often explains the trouble you were having with your computer as "a glitch." That's Yiddish. So is schmooze. And so it klutz. You might think that the word chocolate, a virtually vital condiment here in America, would have its roots in English, or in a European language, but no, it comes from the native American language found in Mexico, Nahuatl. It's xocolatl in its original form. It migrated to Spanish as chocolate. And we Anglicize it as chocolate. Last, we come to words so common, especially in Texas, that we forget they're Spanish. Rodeo, patio, corral and desperado, which evolved from desesperado. Actually, if not for Spanish words that have become staples in English, we couldn't eat our favorite meals: avocado, guacamole, chili, chili pepper, and tomato. But sometimes we don't bother to use a translation or even use the cognate pronunciation. We just say, "Otra cerveza por favor, amigo." Hungry? Let's go to lunch.
The Olympics — as we were all just reminded — are a fantastic display of athleticism of all sorts. For many of us, watching the games is a reminder of just how we could never do that thing that we're watching other people do. But watching got commentator W-F Strong thinking there's quite a lot Texans seem to be pretty good at. And he thinks maybe there should be a competition that would be open to all while taking advantage of our state's unique geography.
One way I know a book is special is if I keep thinking about it years after I first read it. Miles and Miles of Texas, 100 years of the Texas Highway Department, by Carol Dawson and Roger Allen Polson, is such a book. I first read it several years ago, and even recommended it on air back then, but ever so briefly. I was unable to do it justice in the ten seconds I had to devote to it that day. So, let me give it the time it deserves right now. One reason I have a particular fondness for the book is because my father drove me and my brothers all over Texas when we were kids and bragged about our great road system. This book makes my father's case, and also, quite honestly, lays out just how early Texas political corruption (can you say Ferguson?) raided the highway funds and delayed the quality work that eventually became routine, thanks to meticulously ethical overseers who finally took charge. This book is about how the Texas highway system got built, the story of how the state, as the authors say, "got the farmer out of the mud." Farm to Market roads and Ranch to Market roads, FM and RM, were pioneered in Texas. The wildflowers being seeded along the highways was started long before Lady Bird Johnson took on the promotion of the practice as her special project, and enhanced it. That story is here. Miles and Miles of Texas points out that "throughout recorded history, roads have provided opportunities for criminals." Bonnie and Clyde used the good roads for fast getaways. Serial killers stalked the interstates. Smugglers of all kinds took advantage of the anonymity offered by crowded, fast-moving expressway traffic. Roads do not always mean universal progress. Roads connect, but they also divide and circumvent. They unite some and isolate others. Eminent domain is often invoked for the public good, but it's generally the poor that pay the biggest price for the "public good." What I most love about the book is that it is overflowing with marvelous anecdotes that are sometimes shocking, sometimes inspiring and sometimes just hilarious. One I found particularly amusing was how inmates working road construction during WWII got tired of people doing drive-bys with their kids just to gawk at them in their prison stripes. The inmates would pick the scariest looking among them and chain him to a tree with a forty-foot chain. Then, when cars would come by, he'd run after them until the chain grew taught and then he'd strain at the end like a zombie. The car would speed off with the kids staring out the back window, wide-eyed in horror. I imagine those petrified kids kept their parents up late into the night. Some poetic justice in that perhaps. Another aspect of the book that is noteworthy is the photographs. They were chosen in close cooperation with the Texas Highway Department, which has phenomenal archives. The book contains dozens of these rare photographs of Texas roads and bridges in all phases of construction. The photographs were often taken by engineers and others uniquely involved in the building of roads so you feel privileged to see perspectives few have seen. This is a book that truly animates history because of the unique relationships between the photos and those who took them. Impressive, intricate research went into compiling this book. I enjoy it as an extraordinary read, cover to cover, and as a coffee-table book to be perused at leisure. Compared to other states, we have some impressive achievements in our road system. We have, as mentioned, the pioneering of FM roads, the landscaping of the highways for beauty and safety, the invention of the Texas turnaround (where you don't have to go through the light to reverse direction on a freeway), and truly exceptional, even beautiful, roadside rest areas. Miles and Miles of Texas is an entertaining collection of Texana. It's worth a look.
Long Before Elon Musk, A Different Man Had A Plan To Develop Boca Chica
One hundred years ago, Col. Sam Robertson stood on the same Boca Chica Beach in South Texas that Elon Musk owns today and dreamed a different dream. Instead of Musk's spaceport, Robertson dreamed of seaports and an oceanside highway. Robertson owned 800 acres at Boca Chica, about 20 miles northeast of Brownsville and it was likely some of the same thousand acres now managed by Musk's companies. Back then, Robertson built the railroad that connected the Rio Grande Valley to the wider world. He had founded the town of San Benito, serving as sheriff and helping to run the Ku Klux Klan out of the region. He had repurposed the old channels known as resacas to irrigate the lower valley. In 1926, he gathered RGV leaders in Brownsville's El Jardin Hotel to make his pitch for an oceanside highway that would run from Boca Chica all the way up Padre Island to Corpus Christi. It would become, in his words, "the most beautiful 150 miles of highway in the world." Robertson laid out his vision before the Rio Grande Valley Commercial Club. "I have traveled somewhat extensively in this world," he said, "and have never seen any scenery wilder or more beautiful than this stretch of beach." Robertson was not only an entrepreneur; he was a decorated soldier and noted engineer. In 1915, he served as a scout for General Jack Pershing in the pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico. During World War I, he served in Europe as a commander of the 22nd Engineers, building railroads and bridges for Allied troops in France. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for bravery under fire. The business leaders of the Valley trusted his vision because they believed his claims. He wasn't pitching a blacktop road. "The beach is as smooth as a billiard table," Robertson said. "No road can be constructed by man as good for autoing as the beach, and the Gulf of Mexico maintains it." All you would need is maintenance crews to move driftwood out of the way, he said, telling those assembled that he had explored the beach from Corpus Christi to the mouth of the Rio Grande River and that a highway was quite possible and would bring in enormous numbers of tourists. Just "throw across" some bay bridges at either end, he suggested, and you'd be open for business. Such a development would be good for the Rio Grande Valley, too, he argued. With good roads to Boca Chica Beach, Valleyites could have a Sunday lunch at home, then drive to the beach for a Sunday afternoon swim at the beach and still be home by 10 p.m. Robertson's oceanside highway was never developed. But looking at South Padre and North Padre today, just north of Boca Chica with their causeway bridges, carefully maintained beaches, opulent hotels and verdant landscaping, you can see that his dream for the island has been partially realized. Robertson opened his Del Mar Resort on Boca Chica Beach in 1931, but the resort was virtually wiped out by a hurricane two years later. He rebuilt within six months and constructed an asphalt road from Brownsville to Boca Chica Beach because his personal mantra was: "Civilization follows transportation." Musk would like that, too.
Long Before Elon Musk, A Different Man Had A Plan To Develop Boca Chica
Tex is an incredibly popular nickname. It is so fitting for some... that it pushes their given first name entirely out of use. I thought it would be interesting to look at a few famous folks known mostly as just Tex. Tex Ritter is probably the most famous person named Tex. I doubt more than one in hundred Texans could tell you that Tex Ritter's first name was Woodward. Full name: Woodward Maurice Ritter. More people likely know that he was the father of actor John Ritter of "Three's Company" fame. The elder Ritter was an incredibly popular recording artist, television and movie star from the 1930s to the 1960s. Here's his most famous song: "You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often." Everyone knows that you're untrue, Honey you and me are through, You two timed me one time too often, I'm so tired of your abuse, Guess I'd better turn you loose, You two timed me one time too often. Then there's another famous recording star, Tex Williams But he wasn't really from Texas. He was born Sollie Paul Williams, in Ramsey, Illinois. He just got the Tex nickname because early in his career he played Western Swing in California, a musical genre that had a lot of Texas fans there at the time, and so he was given the nickname to connect him to his audience, and it stuck. His most famous song was "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)," which you may remember from the 2006 film: "Thank You for Smoking." Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette Puff puff puff And if you smoke yourself to death Tell St Peter at the Golden Gate That you hate to make him wait But you just gotta have another cigarette Tex Brashear, born in Kerrville, Texas, is a voice actor, narrator and movie trailer announcer with a deep bass voice. You've probably never seen him, but you've likely heard him. Known as the man of a thousand voices, he's won 102 Addy awards. Here's a promo he recorded for NBC for Lethal Weapon: https://soundcloud.com/tex-brashear (first one, NBC – 33-40?) According to the babynamescience website, Tex is a unique modern baby name for boys. Only 1 in 335-thousand babies were given that name in recent years. And it's even rarer for girls, which brings us to our last entry here – a famous woman who was nicknamed – not Tex, but Texas. Texas Guinan. She was a well-known actress and vaudeville singer, comedian, and speakeasy performer during prohibition. The life story she told about herself was that she was named Texas the day she was born in Waco in 1884. Not true. She was named Mary – not Texas – but she built her entire show-business persona around the Texas claim, and it served her well. She left us some memorable quotes. As hostess of speakeasies for the rich and famous she would often welcome customers from her place on stage, with this line: "Hello suckers! Come on in and leave your wallet on the bar." And her most famous line: "A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country." There are hundreds more. There's Tex Schramm, the first President of the Dallas Cowboys. Randall "Tex" Cobb, the Bridge City-born boxer, actor. Tex Avery, the cartoonist and Warner Brothers animator who was born in Taylor. It's a long list. Younger generations are picking it up, too. We have Tex Sands, the outube star. And the youngest, on-the-way-to-fame-"Tex", is voice actor Tex Hammond, 14, known for the two animated series, The Loud House and Vampirina. I say name your babies Tex, boys or girls. It's a rare given name and seems to lead to great things.
It's June. Watermelon season. All my life, June has meant watermelon season and I don't mean it's just the time of year to eat them. As a kid, it also meant a time to work, and work hard, from can't-see-in-the-morning to can't-see-at-night, for no more than a little over a dollar an hour to get the melons out of the fields. So every June, I can't help but drive by the fields and nostalgically marvel at the stamina we once enjoyed. Now in our sixties, my friends from those days often hypothetically wonder how long we think we could last in those fields today. The general belief is about thirty minutes... providing the ambulance got there on time. In my little town, as was true for many ag towns across Texas, we thought of watermelons as our fourth sport. The fall started with football and then we had basketball and baseball, and then, watermelons. We thought we should have been able to letter in watermelons. For those who played football, pitching melons half the summer was ideal conditioning. There were three kinds – grays, stripes and black diamonds. The grays were kind of like footballs – a little heavier of course. The stripes were enormous – and averaged 35 pounds or more. The black diamonds were the most despised because they were heavy and round like a medicine ball. Hard to pitch and hard to catch. The best thing about watermelon season was being able, when tired, to cut open a beautiful melon in the field and to eat just the cool, sweet heart of it, and move on. Nature's Gatorade. There was a hierarchy in the fields. You'd start out as a pitcher, making a dollar, twenty-five an hour, at least that was the going rate in the late 1960s. You would work with a crew of four or five and take a large trailer, generally pulled by a tractor, out into the fields to load with melons. The crew would fan out and then, like a bucket brigade, toss the cut melons in their path to the next guy in line and he'd pitch it to the next guy who'd throw it up to the man in the trailer. You didn't want to be the man working by the trailer because you had to handle every melon and lift it up over your head for the guy in the trailer to set it down with reasonable care so as not to break it open. The best job was to be either the man in the trailer or the outside man who handled the least number of melons, only those in his path. Yet it didn't matter which job was yours, it was still brutal work. You worked in the giant sauna of the Texas summer, often in 100 degrees with no wind and stifling humidity. But it was about the only work you could get at 13 or 14, so you gladly did it and when you got your 80 dollars at the end of the week, you felt rich if not sunburnt and tired. And you longed for the day you could move up to cutter or stacker. Being a cutter was a good job because you didn't pitch anymore. You went down the rows and identified, by sight, the melons that were ripe and ready to harvest and the proper weight for the store wanting them (H-E-B for instance – grays 18-to-24 pounds). You would cut them from the vine and stand on them on end for the pitchers to come along later and get them. The only downside was you were the first to come upon the rare rattler hidden in the vines. For this job you made $3.00 an hour. Double the pay. Knowledge is power. The final and best job in the field was stacker. You might get to be stacker by your third or fourth season, when you are 17 or so. You'd work inside the big 18-wheeler trailers and stack the melons "to ride." The little trailers, or pickup trucks would come in from the fields and the line would form to pitch the melons to you inside the trailer. Stacking was an art form. Taking into account the weight and shape of the melons you'd stack them into tiers about 8 or 9 rows high, nice and tight, so they wouldn't shift and break on the long ride north. The best stackers would start the season in the Rio Grande Valley and follow harvest north all the way up into the Panhandle where there would be a late summer and fall harvest. They'd make 25 dollars per 18 wheeler. Serious money, then. The greatest thing about those years and that work, at least for many men (and some women) who worked in those fields, is that they say it taught them a work ethic that has never deserted them.
Carl Hilmar Guenther left Germany for America when he was 22. The year was 1846. He left without telling his parents he was going for fear they'd try to stop him. Young Guenther sailed for America because he thought his future was limited in Germany. He wrote that he "felt hemmed in," that there was little freedom and nothing was happening. America, with it's promise of infinite opportunities called to him. "If I cannot see the world in my youth,"he told his parents, "then life won't mean much to me." Upon his arrival in New York, he worked briefly as a laborer and then went on to Wisconsin where he worked in farming and saw mills. The game changer came when he was able to buy a set of carpenter's tools for $30. With those tools he was no longer a laborer. He owned a business. Guenther then headed south to Mississippi, where he built houses and barns and cabinets, but he didn't much care for the plantation society he found there. After about four years in the U.S., he thought he might go back to Germany, but first, he wanted to see the place he'd heard so much about: Texas. In San Antonio, he learned about the German community of Fredericksburg and went there to discover they needed a mill to process the local grain into flour. He had learned the milling trade from his father back in Germany, so he set about building a mill on Live Oak Creek. After borrowing money from his father to buy 150 acres of land, Guenther hired local men on promissory notes guaranteeing future payment for their helping him build a dam, a water wheel and a mill. Guenther was so honest and reliable that his notes were used in the area as a trustworthy currency. He married, had children and, because of the success of his mill, they quickly became one of the wealthiest families in Fredericksburg. After a flood destroyed his dam and damaged his mill, he rebuilt it and thought he should build another one in San Antonio because the city would soon have a population of 10,000 people. It was 1859 and the little city was already a bustling, promising market. Also, the San Antonio River was a more reliable water source. With the help of Alsatian immigrants from nearby Castroville, Guenther built his new mill. He paid for their labor, in part, with flour futures – the guarantee of future product they'd need. Guenther wrote to his mother that San Antonio was about one third Mexican, one third German, and one third Anglo. His son, he noted, spoke Spanish, English, and German, sometimes all in the same sentence. The mill Guenther built in 1859 is still there in the same spot, much updated, of course. It is now a giant international corporation: Pioneer Flour Mills, doing business as C. H. Gunther & Son, is one of the oldest continuously operating businesses in Texas. You can go there today and tour Pioneer Mills and the original Guenther House, now an exquisite museum and restaurant In 1859, the only mechanical element was the water wheel turning the millstones. Today, the plant is computerized and has robots working collaboratively with people to make flour and flour-based products, like fine gravies, for restaurants and bakeries. Pioneer makes pancake mix for Whataburger and the Whataburger pancake mix is sold at H-E-B, alongside their own Pioneer pancake mix and Pioneer flour. You may also be familiar with the White Wings (La Paloma) tortilla mix. That's also made by Pioneer Flour. A subsidiary provides the McGriddle buns to McDonalds. If you're from Texas, you've certainly tasted their products. Their reach is impressive. A European subsidiary even sells its breads in Germany where Guenther came from several generations ago. How cool is that? That's the entrepreneurial cycle of life. From Saxony to San Antonio and back to Saxony.
My friend of many years, Tony Zavaleta, told me the following story: He said, "There was once a married couple who lived in Rio Grande City back in the late 1800s. They had tried for some time to have a baby, but had had no luck. They went to see doctors and followed their advice, but still, God had not seen fit to bless them with a baby. So they decided that they would go to see Don Pedrito the 'curandero' – a healer – who lived near Falfurrias. They had been told that he could work miracles. It was a three-day journey by wagon, but they knew it would be worth going because Don Pedrito would certainly give them a 'receta,' a ritual to follow that would give them a baby. When the couple was a half a mile of Don Pedrito's home, a boy came running to them and stopped their wagon. He said, 'Don Pedrito said to turn around and go home. She is already pregnant.' The young couple was shocked, but they did as Don Pedrito commanded. They turned around and went home, never doubting his word. Eight months later they had a gorgeous and healthy baby boy." My friend Tony paused for a moment and said, "And that baby boy was my grandfather." I'm connected to Don Pedrito as well, but not through my ancestry. I grew up only a few miles from his shrine, which still exists to this day. I walked by it many times in my teenage years and went into the shrine's little room, hot from dozens of prayer candles that always burned there. At 15, I was astounded that there were faded and glossy new photographs from all over the United States and Mexico, leaning against the candles, asking for cures. Don Pedrito had died fifty years before, in 1907, and yet his fame as a healer not only endured, it thrived. People from far away made "promesas" and asked for his blessings because they had faith in his potential to still deliver cures. He was a much loved folk saint, and remains so to this day. Right now you can walk into any H-E-B store in much of Texas and buy a Don Pedro prayer candle. (In fact, you can even order it from H-E-B online.) Don Pedrito never took credit for cures. He always said that he didn't cure anybody. He was only God's intermediary. He rejected worship. If someone tried to kneel he would tell them to get up. Don Pedrito insisted that God was the one doing the healing. Don Pedrito only provided the "receta," the prescription, which he said was provided by divine inspiration. Lest you think he was a con man, using Jesus to rob people, quite the opposite was true. He was Christ-like in that he never charged for his healing. People would give him money, and he would often refuse it, saying "you need that to get back home," or "you should give that back to the man who loaned it to you." If he did accept money, he would often use it to buy food for the many people who camped, sometimes by the hundreds, at Los Olmos Creek, waiting to see him. As one man said of him, "What he accepted with one hand, he gave with the other." Proof of Don Pedro's enormous popularity is provided by author Jennifer Seman, who published a map of that era showing that all roads and trails of the region led to Don Pedro. He was Rome. It is an incredible map provided by the General Land Office for 1892 and shows clearly that the most heavily trafficked roads and paths of the time in that general region led to Don Pedro on Los Olmos Creek. Ruth Dodson wrote the first significant book on Don Pedro, in Spanish, in 1934: Don Pedrito Jaramillo, Curandero. At the encouragement of J. Frank Dobie, she collected the Don Pedrito folk tales. After collecting the tales about him for two decades, Dodson concluded "There has never been another so honored and appreciated among the Mexican-American people of South Texas as this curandero, this folk healer, Don Jaramillo. It can also be said that no one else in this part of the country, of whatever nationality, religion, economic or social standing, has done, through a lifetime, as much to try to relieve human suffering as this man did through 25 years of living in South Texas."
Of the thousands of mourners who posted their goodbyes and gratitudes to Texas writer Larry McMurtry across last month, there was one stand-out theme. It was to thank McMurtry for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Lonesome Dove." Most considered it his premiere gift to them personally, a gift that had immeasurably enriched their lives, as culturally vital as Homer's Iliad was to the Greeks. To many, "Lonesome Dove" is a book of proverbs, with advice such as: "The best way to handle death is to ride on away from it." Or "Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back." In fact, "Lonesome Dove," the day after McMurtry died, rocketed up into the top 100 best selling books on Amazon, and became the #1 bestseller in Westerns. Without a doubt, many who thanked Larry for "Lonesome Dove," have read the other three books in the quadrilogy. Yet, I also know, from long experience, that some fans of the book and film, are unaware that there are three other books. There's a great deal more trail to ride with Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call. The first is "Dead Man's Walk." Call and Gus are young men, in their early twenties. I've always thought of Gus and Call as part of the "buddy cops" genre. Here, we meet them for the first time as Texas Rangers on guard duty, west of the Pecos in pursuit of Comanches. McMurtry writes: "Gus took guard duty a good deal more lightly than his companion, Woodrow Call." Gus annoys Call when he brings out a jug of mescal and takes a swig in front of him. Call remarks, "If the major caught you drinking on guard he'd shoot you." There you see already the contrast that will define their friendship throughout the next two books. Gus the free-spirited, fun-loving sociable rule-breaker and Call the disciplined loner. "Comanche Moon" is the second book in the series. Gus and Woodrow are both now Ranger captains, but that comes later in the book. It opens as Gus and Woodrow are part of a troop of 13 Rangers trying to run down Comanche Chief Kicking Wolf. They are pursuing him along the edge of the Palo Duro Canyon. Out on the Llano Estacado, Gus feels disoriented. McMurtry steps in to provide one of his iconic descriptions of the Texas landscape: "There was not a feature to stop the eye on the long plain: no tree, ridge, rise, hill, dip, animal or bird. Augustus could see nothing at all, and he was well known to have the best vision in the troop. The plain was so wide it seemed you could see to the rim of forever, and yet, in all that distance, there was nothing." "Lonesome Dove" comes next in the story's chronology. I won't say much here as this book is the best known of the four. I will say only that it was the first "Game of Thrones" in the sense that McMurtry killed off a great number of characters we came to love. As McMurtry himself wrote in "Lonesome Dove," "Death and worse happened on the plains." The final book is "Streets of Laredo." It was the original name for "Lonesome Dove" when it was just a screenplay. In this last book, Captain Call is hired to pursue a violent, psychopathic killer named Joey Garza who is a thinly-disguised Billy the Kid. In this book, we get a better look at Call and what he's made of. For instance, here are his thoughts about loyalty: "It seemed to him the highest principle was loyalty. He preferred it to honor. He was never quite sure what men meant when they spoke of their honor, though it had been a popular word during the War. He was sure though, about what he meant when he spoke of loyalty. A man didn't desert his comrades, his troop, his leader. If he did, he was in Call's book, useless." I envy those who have not read the quadrilogy. I would love to be able to have the singular joy of reading them all again for the first time. But a second or third read is mighty enjoyable, too.
By W. F. Strong Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of neighborhood cultures in Texas: high security and low security. My wife is high security and I'm low security, by tradition. She was raised in Mexico, in a compound surrounded by the classic 12 foot walls with shards of glass embedded on top. I was raised in rural Texas, in a house, with an acre of yard and no walls or fences. We locked our doors at night, if we remembered. These childhood influences carry over. My wife loves these new, inexpensive security cameras. She has six that cover the outer perimeter and four pointing inward. I told her it feels strange having four cameras watching me in the house. She said, with a smile, "Four that you know of." She says, "It's not about watching you or the kids; it's about knowing where everybody is. It's a mama thing." This is an interesting contrast to my life as a boy in small town Texas. There, nobody I knew locked their doors, except maybe at night. My mom's idea of locking up for the night was to latch the screen door. You know, put the metal hook through the eyelet. She liked leaving the heavy inner door open so the night breeze could flow through the house. "Air vitamins," she called it. Everybody in my neighborhood would lock all their doors when they went on vacation. Yet we all knew that the key to the front door was under the doormat. And any number of neighbors would use that key to put the gathered newspapers or mail into their foyer so passing strangers wouldn't know they weren't home. One neighbor down the block, Mr. Jones, kept his key near the back door, third pot to the right, pushed into the dirt. You'd have to dig a bit to find it. Some around there thought that was excessive, said, "Mr. Jones was a bit paranoid." People also kept their car keys conveniently stored above the driver's visor or in the unused ash tray or glove compartment. I remember a farmer, who lived nearby, calling me once and asking if I'd go over to house and drive his 3500 GMC out to the farm for him. He needed some tools that were in it. I asked if the keys were in the truck and he said, "Of course. Right there above the visor. Where else would they be? That's how come I never lose 'em." That was true. People never much lost their keys then. They were always where they ought to be, under the mat, above the visor. I can remember my mom saying, "One of you boys didn't put the key back under the mat. Find it and put it back." It did seem odd to go to the trouble to have a lock on a door and leave the key in such an accessible place. Might as well tape it on the door. After all these years, I've drifted into a more high-security life, myself. Everything is locked and double-locked. Even if I go outside during the day for more than five minutes, I'll find my wife has locked me out and I'll have to knock to get back in. Wouldn't be surprised if she soon asks for the password-of-the-day for re-entry.