pulpwood poetry and redneck review

This site is set up to promote the creative muse of pulpwood haulers and rednecks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bulldog's Baptism

  I first met Bulldog while I was a food buyer at William George Co. I was in my late twenties and was, well I was ignorant of the food business. Bulldog was in his sixties and was a salesman for a large food broker in Houston, and Bulldog had knowledge.
Bulldog’s given name was James Bullard, and I believe that is where the nick name originated, but it fit Bulldog like a glove. He was short, (he claimed he was 5' 6",) but built broad and stocky, with a large round face. He looked like the cartoon bulldog, and people knew by looking at him that he was tough. Bulldog was a happy puppy however, and always had a smile on his face and a joke on the ready. Bulldog was also loud. One usually heard Bulldog coming long before you saw him.
  Eventually Bulldog got me a job with the company he worked with. He became my teacher and mentor, and was always my friend. I rode all over Texas in Bulldog’s mini van, listening and laughing at his stories. Sometimes I would beg him to stop, just so that I could catch my breath. His stories were funny but never mean, and he was the butt of most of his jokes. My favorite Bulldog story was that of his baptism.
  Bulldog grew up in Walker County, and as a 13 year old boy attended a Baptist Church in Riverside, between Trinity and Huntsville. He remembered the sermon on the day of his baptism because it was a fire and brimestone sermon given by the new preacher in that church. That week Bulldog had been caught by the local police driving home from buying cigarettes in town in the family car. He did not know if his parents were mad because he borrowed the car without telling them, or if it was because he drove off without a license or if it was because he was smoking at such a young age. It was probably a combination. They took him to church to see if God could straighten him out.
  At the end of the service the preacher announced, " I hear we are going to baptize us a sinner today." The way he said it puzzled Bulldog, it was not a statement of joy of salvation, it was more like saying, " we are going to butcher us a pig for dinner." As the congregation stood to sing a hymn, Bulldog’s father stepped out into the main isle, bringing Bulldog with him. His mother followed, and with his parents holding him by the arm they walked to the front of the church. Bulldog now knew the sinner to be baptized was him! He brother Jules was grinning as he looked down from the choir. Jules was not a good singer, but was very interested in a young lady in the choir.
  As Bulldog looked out at the congregation he saw the ushers were blocking the exits. He looked at the preacher, and could see his dark black eyes digging into Bulldog’s very soul. He noticed his bushy gray eyebrows, and thought it strange the preacher had gray eyebrows but jet black hair. As his mother helped him off with his jacket he knew there was no escape, he decided to take his baptism like a man.
  The preacher began to ask Bulldog questions. "Do you reject Satan and evil? The answer is ‘I will’, and do you accept Jesus I promise to live according to his teachings? If so answer in the same way." Bulldog thought it was loading the deck to ask a question and then tell the guy what to answer, but he was in no position to argue. "I will," he said.
The preacher put on a white robe and lead him into the baptistry. The congregation sang another song as the preacher told Bulldog what he was about to do. He told him to relax. That the preacher would hold him as he lay he back into the water and would submerge Bulldog to wash away all his sins. Bulldog had seen other people baptized by other preachers so he knew the drill.
  What Bulldog did not know was that this preacher would immerse for each part of the Trinity. It would go, in the name of the Father,(dunk,) Son, (dunk,) and Holy Ghost, (dunk.) After he lay Bulldog back for the first dunk, Bulldog thought he was done. As the preacher pushed him back for the "Son" dunk, Bulldog panicked. As he panicked he lost his balance and reached up to grab the preacher, pulling both under water. As he resurfaced he understood why the preacher had gray eyebrows but black hair. It was because of the wet, black toupee that was in Bulldogs right hand.
  The entire congregation was startled. Bulldog did not know if it was because of the botched baptism or the fact their new pastor wore a wig, but he did see the preacher coming towards him. He threw the wig at him and tried to climb out the back of the baptistry, but the preacher caught him and was pulling him back. Bulldog was genuinely frightened and cried for help, and it came. Brother Jules vaulted out of the choir loft and came to his little brother’s rescue. Jules was a scrapper. He dove onto the preacher and began to land right crosses on the man of God.
  Bulldog climbed out and made his escape down the isle. The lady who played the piano started to play a song. Bulldog thought it was "take me out to the ball game," but deep down knew it must have been some other hymn. He did not care who would try to stop him. He knew his father would be mad and would discipline his wayward son, and Bulldog did not want to be beat in front of God and the congregation. Bulldog made it outside, and by the time he got to the family car he was out of breath, confused, and dripping wet. The preacher was rescued from Jules. He was also wet, and was bald and had a bloody lip.
The next week the sermon was the sin of vanity. It was given by the preacher who was no longer wearing his toupee. That is what the Bullards were told. Bulldogs parents were too embarrassed to ever go back to that church and Jules was thrown out of the choir and rebuffed by the young lady. The family worshiped in Huntsville from them on, but not often.
  The incident made an impression on the young Bulldog. He never stole another car or smoked another cigarette. He grew up and graduated from Huntsville Highschool, went into the navy, got out and played football at Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Christi and at Trinity University in San Antonio. After getting married he and his wife were looking for a church home. As they were interviewing as prospective church, the pastor asked Bulldog if his was baptized. "Mostly," he replied, " and I would rather not try that again!"
  I know God has a since of humor. I have faith that He was looking down on that incident sixty odd years ago with a smile on His face. Possibly, He was even laughing. Bulldog has gone on now, and I do miss him. He still makes me laugh when I remember his walk, his smile, and his baptism.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ghost Story

Do haunted houses scare you? They scare me! Haunted houses, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, spooks and other mystical creatures have always scared me. Growing up I heard lots of stories about ghosts and haunted places and they always scared me. Most of these stories were told around a campfire, but some were told on the schoolyard or at a lunch table. I always listened, they may have scared me, but they were some of the most entertaining stories told, and I have always liked good stories. Knowing most of these tales were just that, tales, I was able to allow myself to get scared but not become frightened. We as a people love to scare ourselves. We ride frightening rides, go to scary movies and read scary books; sometimes I think we can’t be scared enough. I can, and I was.
I worked at a local tire store during the last part of my senior year in high school and while I attended Angelina College. One of my co-workers there was a man about my age who was from the northern part of the county. We became good friends and would hang around together after work. He knew as lots of people, and was always willing to visit with friends. The rules of the store were somewhat relaxed then, and lots of customers and visitors would come out to the shop and talk to us while we worked on the cars. If the insurance people ever knew how many people were in the shop, they would freak. This did make our jobs more fun, and I got to hear a lot of stories, and I enjoyed that.
One day a fellow was in talking to my co-worker, and they were talking about a house in the Clawson area that was supposed to be haunted. I got to hear all about the legend behind the house. A man had murdered his wife and kids while they slept. Now, so the legend went, the wife would walk around the house looking for her children, and for the man that had murdered her. I heard about how various people, all friends of friends, that had witnessed these mysterious happenings first hand. I ate it up; this was a folk story at it’s best. Both my friend and the people he talked to swore that these things really happened, and that house was haunted. Every community has a haunted house, but few are real.
One fall evening, my friend and I were driving around the country after work, as was our custom. We were off our usual path, but that happened often. My friend was driving, so we went where he wanted to go. As we passed a dirt road that cut off the county road we were on my friend told me that was the road to the haunted house that the people had been talking about earlier, and he wanted to know if I wanted to see it. It was nighttime, and I wasn’t in the mood to check out a haunted house at night. He eased down the road, but kept trying to get me to agree to go back to that place. " If you want to check the place out with me around, we will have to go during day time," I told him.
"If we go during the day, we won’t see any ghosts," he replied, "they only come out at night. Usually late night, the time of the murder, is when you will see them." "Why do I want to see a ghost, especially one with a chip on her shoulder?" I asked. "She may mistake me for her husband and things could really get ugly." That answer was not good enough, and my friend continued to put peer pressure on me. "Are you chicken?" he asked. "No, I am not chicken, just cautious." Finally, he started to wear me down. "I will only go under these conditions," I was now bargaining for conditions. "First, we go back to my car a get a good flashlight." My friend carried a little light in his truck that could barely light itself; I had a powerful light back at my car. I had "borrowed" this light from my father, and it could light up a whole house. "Second, we leave when I say we leave. If things start to get wild I am gone." My friend agreed to both conditions and we went back to town to get Dad’s flashlight.
The drive to town and back only added to the excitement. I got to hear all the gory details of the murder once more, and heard the legends of the woman’s ghost. I need to explain that I am not a courageous person by nature. In fact I can be quite timid. I do not like to purposely put myself in dangerous situations, I do that enough by accident. For me to go ghost hunting at night was a huge departure from my normal behavior. I don’t know if it was the excitement, the curiosity, or the peer pressure, but this was not something I did often.
We arrived at the dirt road and drove toward the house. There was a full moon that night and the entire area was illuminated. The thrill was getting greater, and soon I could see the outline of an old farmstead in the moonlight. There was a locked gate and a "no trespassing" sign on a fence surrounding the old place, but it would take more than that to keep us from checking the place out. As I approached the old house I began to examine the area. The place had been abandoned for some time, the bushes around the house were wild and untrimmed, there were no lights around the place and the grass had turned to weeds. The house itself was an old wood frame house, and like many other country houses at the time had a long porch that covered the entire front of the structure. As we climbed up the steps to the porch I noticed that several of the floorboards of the porch had rotted away, and the ones that remained seemed very unsteady under our feet. We noticed that the front windows had been boarded up and then we saw that the front door was padlocked shut.
"Let’s go check the backdoor," my friend whispered. "Let’s not," I thought, "let’s go back to the truck and leave." I thought it, but I didn’t say it. I don’t know if I was too scared to talk or if I was afraid that my friend would not live up to the conditions I had negotiated, but whatever the reason I simply followed him around to the back. The back of the house didn’t have a porch, and it didn’t have a back door that we could see. It did have un-boarded windows that seemed to stretch from the floor to the ceiling, like other houses built before air-conditioning. We came to one that had most of the windowpanes broken out and decided to enter the house there. The glass had been knocked out from the house onto the ground, but I did not think that was odd at the time. He found an old wash tub and set it below the window to help us step into the house.
I was not about to go in first, for obvious reasons, so my friend took my big flashlight and climbed in first, and I followed. The room must have been a boy’s bedroom; the walls were covered with posters of Roy Rogers and B movie cowboy heroes. It had not been decorated for sometime. There was no furniture in the room, only some old papers and trash. There was a smell in the air, not just mold and mildew, but a rancid, sick smell. I followed my friend to the door. It was slightly opened when he got to it, but because of the settling of the house, we had to really struggle to get it open much further. We finally opened it enough for us to fit through and entered a hall. The bedroom had an odor, the hall stunk. The smell was sickening, and both of us had to hold hands over our noses to continue.
My friend pointed the light down left end of the hall. There were no windows in this part of the house so it was totally dark except for the beam of the flashlight. As we crept slowly down the hall the floorboards made an eery squeak each time we moved our feet. We could make out a large box at the end of the hall, and the entire end of the hall was covered in old clothes and refuse. We tip toed closer and closer to the box to see what was in it. Then a flash of white shot up from the box with a loud shriek. I fled. I ran through the door (literally,) into the bedroom and dove out the window in a mater of seconds. While flying in the air I remembered that here was glass on the ground and tried to hit with my legs and arms covered so that I would not get cut too bad. I hit and rolled away, which was a good thing because my friend was flying though the air behind me. We were speechless, we immediately sprang to our feet and ran toward the truck, and we could not say a word or look behind us. We did not stop until we got to the gate. It was at the gate when I realized that my friend no longer was carrying Dad’s flashlight.
"Where is the light!" I shouted. " It’s back in the house! Let’s get out of here before whatever that was comes out to get us!" my friend exclaimed. I could not leave. I didn’t know what was in the house or what would happen if that thing caught me, but I did know what would happen if Dad found out that I had stolen his flashlight and then lost it. I had to go get it. I am not a brave person, but I respected my father and knew what he would do. It did not occur to me that there was a third option, go to the store and buy another light. I summoned all my courage and walked back towards the house. "Are you crazy?" my friend yelled, "We’re just lucky we are still alive!" I heard him but did not listen.
I climbed back through the window into the boy’s bedroom. I could see where I was going because of the moonlight. I heard a noise behind me; I turned around to see my friend climbing through the window behind me. We didn’t say a word; we just nodded at each other. I walked through the door into the hall. I could see the beam of the flashlight as it lay on the floor, pointed towards me. I calmly walked down the hall, my legs shaking and knees knocking. I bent over to pick up the light, and heard a noise in front of me. I slowly pointed the flashlight towards the big box at the end of the hall. Then I saw it. A big white feral house cat was sitting on the top of the box. It meowed at me and then I saw something else; she had kittens, lots of kittens. I took a huge sigh of relief, and the smell of cat feces almost knocked me out. I turned to leave and saw my friend; he also was starring in disbelief. We calmly walked away, climbed out the window and retreated to the truck, but with the flashlight gripped firmly in my hand.
We didn’t say much on the way back to town, which was odd. Both of us loved to talk. When we got to my car my friend said goodbye and drove away. The next day neither of us brought up our adventure from the night before, and still haven’t discussed it much today. I don’t know if we were ashamed of being so frightened, or if we aren’t really sure what we saw that night. The first time I saw the big white shape it seemed to be at least ten feet tall, and the shriek that I heard was not the call of a house cat. Could there have really been a ghost in that house that night? Something in that haunted house sure scared me. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, or spooks, they all scare me more than ever now. I don’t have to ride a roller coaster or watch a scary movie to get my blood pumping; all I have to do is to remember.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Too Popular For Me

I was sad to see the band Green Day win so many VMA’s (Video Music Awards) recently. Don’t get me wrong, I used to like Green Day very much. However, now that they are pop music icons, I can’t listen or enjoy their music anymore. That is why I am sad.
I have listened to this band for almost ten years now. They were a great punk band, and I like punk rock. Their early work was a prime example of the raw energy and passion that epitomizes this genre of music. "I Wanna Be a Dominated Love Slave" pretty well say’s it all in it’s title. It is a song of anger and rage,("put a belt sander against my skin.") That song came out over twelve years ago, and the band themselves admits to being together for seventeen years now, and no one can keep that intensity for that long. Now they are a pop band, they make tons of money and play concerts before tens of thousands of fans. In other words-they sold out.
I do not blame or condemn them for taking the money, for grabbing the fame, and for finally growing out of their adolescent ways, (yea-right.) Artist are always stuck in a dangerous dilemma. When they are young, hungry, and angry at the "establishment" their art shows their passion and rage. This gets them noticed and is what people, usually young people, grab on to and start to appreciate. Then they get successful, and loose the hunger, the rage, and begin to try to make their art more"mainstream" so that more people can appreciate and buy it. Soon, in an attempt to share their art they instead leave their art, and turn to the sterile world that gives them money.
Let’s look at the options; stay hungry, stay angry, and stay unknown, wallowing in self destructive behaviors until you either die or get a real job at the post office, or sell out, get money for what you love to do, gain fame, glory, and have more women and drugs than you could ever imagine. It’s really not that hard a choice.
Green Day is not the first band to leave me this way. I used to really like The Police, now they have dis-banded, and their leader "Sting" is singing jazz and trying to save the world. Another world savior-Bono, was the leader of another good rock band, U2. Bono, Slash , and the boys haven’t had an album I would listen to in years. Elton John is now Sir Elton, and is more famous now for his Disney songs than his former on-stage antics. The Rolling Stones? Oh please, Mic Jagger and the band are still touring even though they now get AARP rates at the same hotels that they used to destroy forty years ago. The ‘Stones are a band that knows corporate sponsorship, and have made this a new art form.
Even my beloved Beatles are a favorite on elevators all over America, and it doesn’t get more sterile than that. It seems that when you finally get the fame and attention your genius deserves, you loose the muse that made you into a genius to begin with.
One of the only art forms that doesn’t have to be that way is writing. I can continue to write biting, satirical articles even after I become famous and rich. I don’t need to be hungry to write well, and anger just makes me sleepy. So, I will make everybody a deal. Get the word out, make me famous. Make me so rich that I can hire Bill Gates from Microsoft to come set up my computer, and I won’t sell out my art. Goodbye Green Day, hello pay day!

Monday, April 10, 2006


There are times I wonder why things happen the way they do. I wonder what causes similar people from similar situations to behave drastically different. I look at outside stimuli and other factors that shape human behavior. After intense study and thought, I am still in the dark. What makes a person turn into a criminal and another become a respected member of society? Perhaps a have a good idea.
I have a friend who took the wrong path. Actually, Jamie was more a friend of a friend. Bobby Glen had known Jamie most of his life, and they had been friends since elementary school. One of Bobby Glen’s first memories of their relationship was when he would pay Jamie cigarettes to let him ride Jamie’s father’s big white horse. They were still in elementary school, but Jamie was always a little more streetwise than the rest of us. Jamie was the baby of his family, the seventh child to his parents. His father was, as Jamie described him, part time preacher, part time painter, and part time drunk. He could never really do anything full-time. I had met him on several occasions and he was always nice to me, but Jamie had horrible stories of the abuse his father put him through, usually when he was off the wagon.
Jamie’s mother was a little Pentecostal lady, with a tall bun of hair on her head and thick wire rim glasses. She was small and stern, and the glue that held the family together. She worked as a janitor, a housekeeper, and as a lunch room lady. She was the main breadwinner of the home. She always looked much older than she was; she was only in her mid twenties when Jamie was born. She had lived a hard life, and her faith prevented her from wearing makeup, even if she could afford it.
Jamie lived in an old board and batten wood frame house out in the country. His older siblings were always around when I visited and usually had spouses and kids with them. The house was always busy. Jamie had attended several of the smaller country schools in Angelina County, and had been kicked out of all of them. When he turned sixteen he got his drivers license and quit school for good. His first full time job was as a carpenter’s assistant for a local builder. One of his original responsibilities was to take the carpenter he worked for to the beer store and drive him home after he got drunk. Soon Jamie would get as drunk as his boss would, so he had to find another job. He worked at various tire stores, filling stations and construction jobs. Jamie was a good worker, but had a problem with responsibility. He had a bad habit of not showing up for work, especially after a night drinking. He employers would usually give him several warnings before they would have to let him go.
Jamie was a good-looking guy, and he knew it. He was thin and blonde, with light blue eyes and a devilish smile that drove women wild. He looked like a young Paul Newman, and acted like James Dean. He was a tormented youth, and he played the part perfectly. He was also a smooth talker, and he practiced his art often. He was the kind of guy that as a seventeen-year-old could always buy beer. He didn’t look eighteen, but he could talk it. He also would pay the clerks a little extra to buy the beer, but never used his money. He would buy beer for his buddies with their money and them help the drink it. He had a variety of cars while I knew him, most of which he had junked out. He thought that he was a great mechanic, but all he usually was able to do was tear a car up and then leave it that way. The car he owned I remember most was an old Dodge charger. When Jamie was working the car always looked good, but when he was between jobs, the charger suffered.
He liked the ladies, and they liked him. He got a girlfriend pregnant and did the right thing and married her. The marriage lasted almost as long as the pregnancy, and then Jamie was back in circulation. He treated women badly, but he treated everyone badly. Jamie was sorry, he was sorry white trash. He would sell you out for almost nothing, and would lie, cheat, or steal to save his own skin. He liked to smoke grass, and that got him in some tight spots. An uncle of his was busted for growing marijuana behind his garage, and everybody knew that Jamie had been the one who planted the plants. He never came forward to confess, but he had told several of his friends what he had done. That’s the way he was if you got caught, you were on your own. We all understood this, and most of us were constantly checking around our homes to make sure Jamie wasn’t trying to grow dope on our places.
For all his bad habits, Jamie always had people around him. He was fun to be around. He was a ladies man and could set a friend up with girls that would show them a good time. He had a lot of stories and told them well. He was always willing to party and would never quit, until the beer or money ran out. He was crazy, and his tales were thing legends were made of. He was always in trouble with the law. He had at least one DWI, and probably more. He had a few possession arrests and even a burglary charge. He had stolen his landlords riding lawnmower once. He rationalized the incident by claiming that the man had several riding lawn mowers and that wasn’t fair. Of course, what Jamie didn’t always tell about the incident is that he tore off the cutting deck and raced the mower around his neighborhood, running into trees and bushes. By the time the police arrived the mower was a wreck. That’s the way Jamie was, but people still liked him.
It was the pot that finally got him in serious trouble. He was arrested after trying to sell a lid to an undercover officer, and was sentenced to nine months in jail. The county jail was badly overcrowded, so he spent time in TDC. When he got out he was a changed man. I only saw him once after his stay with the state, and that was enough. His blonde hair was long and stringy. His light blue eyes had sunken into his now gaunt face. Jamie had always had a couple of homemade tattoos, his initials on his right arm and a cross on his left shoulder. After his incarceration he had lots of tattoos. His arms were covered with snakes and swastikas, and he even had what appeared to be a grapevine painted up his neck to his ear. He looked spooky, and he had lost a few teeth while in prison. His attitude had changed as well. Being poor white trash, he had always been a racist. Now he was a full-fledged white supremacist. Bobby Glen took me to where Jamie was staying, and even he was uncomfortable around him. We didn’t hang around long.
After we left, Bobby Glen and I discussed our shock at what Jamie had become. Bobby Glen had even heard that Jamie was messing with crack cocaine after be released and we both knew that it would not be long until his was back in the penitentiary. We were shocked at what Jamie did next. In East Texas there are still wet counties and dry counties, wet counties sell beer and liquor in stores and dry counties don’t. At the county lines of wet counties that are by dry counties, small areas of commerce pop up. These are usually a few liquor store and beer stores and maybe a gas station or two. Jamie visited one about sixty miles from his home. What he was doing way up there no one knows. He picked up two cases of Bud and wanted a carton of smokes. After the clerk rang the total up, instead of pulling out a wallet, Jamie pulled a gun. He shot the clerk between her eyes, and then bent over the check out stand and pumped two more shoots into her body. He must have realized later that he wasn’t alone in the store and panicked. He started to shoot wildly and picked up the cigarettes and a twelve pack. He ran out of the beer store and as people watched in amazement, climbed into the passenger side of an old Dodge charger and speed away.
It did not take the law long to find him. They arrested him at a sister’s home, with his seventeen-year-old companion. The police didn’t even have her out the door before she was ready to turn states evidence. The jury didn’t give Jamie the death sentence, but did give him life.
I sometimes wonder why did Jamie go to prison for life and I live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, with a wonderful family. We both grew up in a rural home with lots of siblings and religious parents. My parents were much better educated and I took advantage of the opportunities for education in my life. I did not grow up an abused child, and for that I am grateful. Most of Jamie’s friends blame his problems on drugs, but Jamie started his slide into drugs long before people considered it a problem. I blame society. Jamie always wanted attention and fame. He craved acceptance in everything he did, which is why people always surrounded him. Society usually doesn’t give fame and attention to good people who go about their lives taking care of their families and doing their jobs. They talk about the outlaw, the scoundrel, and the hoodlum. We make robbers and murderers folk heroes and surround them with legend, when was the last time you saw a book written about an accountant and loving father? Jamie wanted to be remembered by people, he wanted folks to talk about him and to glorify him, and to a small extent, that's what he got.
Jamie will probably die in prison, but that’s the price he will pay for fame. After all, he is the topic of this essay, when did someone write about a small-time writer?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ugly Old Trucks

It has been said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, that what one person may find to be the most beautiful thing in the world may make another persons stomach churn. Every culture, every civilization, every generation, has there own standards for beauty. I generally get the long end of the stick on this, I am not a striking physical specimen, but my wife thinks I am beautiful, (usually.) I am a little different. There are a lot of things in this world I find beautiful that other people wouldn’t even think about. I really like ugly, old, trucks.
Sure, I like new trucks as well. Trucks these days are just passenger cars with a bed. They have every comfort of home. They have slick paint jobs, fancy wheels, and trick sound systems. What I look for are character dents, mangled mirrors, and lots of dirt. These are the things that show that these trucks are tools for work, and that’s what a truck should do.
My grandfather, (I called him Papa,) had some great old, ugly, work trucks when I was growing up. The one I remember most was an old International Harvester. He bought it brand new in the early seventies. It was light blue, (even the color said "ugly truck,") a long wheel base, ¾ ton truck. It looked like a tank, squared off with sharp, strong lines. They don’t even make Internationals anymore, too bad. In a world where Hummers and Land Rovers are status symbols, an International Scout or Travel-all could definitely fit in. It did not take Papa long to scratch up and give his new truck character. It was a work truck, and Papa worked hard. He hauled a lot of firewood to people in town. He expected his truck to go where he wanted to go. If a bush or small tree was in his way, he ran over them. If a large tree was in his way, he still ran over them. If he couldn’t run over the tree, he would cut it down, saw it up and haul it for firewood. He was always trying to squeeze through tight fits in the woods, so rearview mirrors were his first casualties. Bumpers were there to bump things, (hence the name,) so they quickly gathered dents and small scratches. The longer he drove it, the larger dents he acquired.
The hood had a large dent in the middle where a calf jumped on it. I know that sounds strange, so I will attempt to explain the situation. Papa hauled cows or calves whenever he felt the time was right, and he used the bed of his pick-up with tall sideboards to haul them. Sideboards were like panels, and when you placed them on the sides, the front, and a gate on the back they created a whole pen to carry animals. You don’t see them much anymore, but pick-up beds still have the holes on the top of the beds to put sideboards in. If Papa had several head of cattle to haul, he contracted someone with a stock trailer to haul them. If he was going to just haul one or two cows, or maybe some hogs, he used his truck.
The heifer in question was a large, yearling calf, which for some reason had fallen out of favor with Papa. He put the sideboards on the sides, and put his gate piece over the tailgate, but not one in the front of the bed. He figured that the cab of the pick-up was tall enough to keep the calf inside. My grandmother told him he was making a mistake, this calf was big enough to jump over the cab. That settled the issue, no woman was going to tell him how to run his business. The animal loaded without any problems, and Papa was on his way to the sale-barn. After he had gone a few miles up the road it happened. Papa heard a noise on the top of the cab and before he could stop, the heifer calf landed on top of his hood and bailed out. Papa was astonished to look over and see the calf bounce off the moving truck and land in the ditch. He slammed on the brakes and feared the worst. The calf wasn’t dead, far from it. She sprang to her feet and ran into the woods like a deer, startled but not stunned. Papa turned and headed home, dreading two things. He figured he would never see that calf again and have to mark her down as a loss. Worse was that he would have to explain what had happened to his wife, admit that she was right and he was wrong, and listen to her chastise him. Only one of those things happened. The calf showed up at the farm the next morning, he loaded her and hauled her to the sale barn the next week, with sideboards on the front. His wife never forgave or forgot, and she reminded him of this incident for years to come.
While living in Austin, Texas during the mid 1980’s, I always went to the "ugly truck" contest sponsored by the local paper. This contest was held for my kind of trucks. The one I remember the most was an old, white Dodge. It was a mid sixties model, and those were some ugly trucks. It was a long wheel base stepside, a rarity, and had a little rust. It had so much rust that one of the rear fenders was held together with Lone Star Beer bumper stickers. The interior may have been worse. The bench seats were torn and tattered, the driver sat on a piece of plywood he put over the springs. They had replaced the original standard transmission with an automatic, and used vice grips attached to the side of the transmission to shift gears. The owners had cut a hole in the floorboard for this purpose. This truck was so ugly that it was beautiful.
I really wanted to have an entry in the contest. The opportunity came when my friend John, who lived close by in Taylor, Texas, and I attended a farm equipment auction and bought a 1952 Ford 1 ½ ton work truck. The truck was very bare; it had no motor, no transmission, no bed, and no seat. We found a working six cylinder motor and "granny"four speed transmission that would fit. I worked on the brakes, and after several trips to the junkyard for parts, got the front brakes to work. John found an old wicker love seat, and after sawing off part of the legs, it worked as a seat. Since the truck had no bed, we used some old plywood that a friend of John’s had used that board up an old hotel in downtown Taylor. We put the grafitti side up, and it added a special touch. Any really great old work truck needs a name, so we named her "the beast."
I drove out to Taylor one Friday evening to visit John and do some work on "the beast," but it wasn’t in its usual parking spot. I couldn’t see it anywhere, so I went to John’s house to find out where he had moved her. After I asked him where "the beast" was he couldn’t make eye contact with me. He looked down at the ground and shoved some bills in my hand. He had driven "the beast" in a parade earlier that day and a spectator had fallen in love with the truck, and made John an offer he couldn’t refuse. I looked at the money he had handed me, it was blood money. It was a lot of blood money however, so John and I went out for a night on the town instead of staying at his house working on some old truck. Old trucks are just things, and things can be bought, sold or traded. I know I sound fickle, how can you sell something that you find beautiful? It’s because I think it’s beautiful that I can sell it, beauty is something I can put a value on. By some other sap paying me a lot of cash, he re-enforced my belief in that truck’s beauty.
I don’t expect everyone to see old work trucks the same way I do. For most they are old, ugly eyesores. To me they show character and strength. They show that we Texans are tough and we want out trucks to be tough too. I don’t particularly like Picasso’s paintings, but some people will pay a lot of money to acquire them. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Happy V-Day Baby!!!

How do I love thee? A bunch of different ways. More importantly is why? I love you because you don't yell at me when I come home covered in blood, mud and manure. You yell at me because I come inside the house covered in blood, mud and manure.

I love you because you don't need me to buy you flowers, candy, or jewelry. You are more than capable of buying these things yourself, plus you understand that if I did buy these things, I would not get the correct ones.

I love you because you like Mexican food as much as I do, if not more. The family that eats enchiladas together, stays together. It's in the Bible-look it up.

I love you because no matter how wrong I can be about something, you always back me up in public. That's all I ask.

I love you because when I am wrong, you tell me when we get home. Sometimes I need a rational brain to look through the drama.

I love you because you are the best Mama in the world. You have raised wonderful children, despite my contributions.

I love you because you have a great sense of humor, and I exercise it all the time.

Most of all, I love you because you are so hot you make my teeth sweat!!
Happy Valentines Day!!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Preperation Deer Camp

After the first break of the summer heat, many people start to prepare for the big events of the fall. Young men start football practice. Parents begin the back to school shopping that will decimate bank accounts for the next few months, and then holiday shopping will take the rest of the years funds. For a lot of East Texans, it also signals the beginning of deer camp preparations. To insure a successful and meaningful deer season, hunters know they need to start early. Hard work in August and September could mean success in November and December.

Getting ready for deer season has changed for me through the years. Most of the people I grew up with didn't even know there was a deer season, sure they shot deer, but they did it year around. Preparing for deer hunting meant changing the batteries in their spotlights and feeding their deer dogs. For those reasons, there weren't a lot of deer on the farm while I grew up. There are only a few passing does spotted on the farm today, but that is a lot more than I ever saw growing up. Of course there were hunting clubs down on the Neches, but my family did not make deer hunting a priority, (we were squirrel hunters.) In order for my brother Bil and me to hunt deer, we had to scout out places on the national forests. We preferred the Davy Crockett Forest, as did half of the then free world.

We would look for a place that was accessible by truck, which had water near by and had clear shooting lanes. There are more places that fit these criteria than you would think, so we looked for a new place every year, hoping to get lucky one day. Bil hunted for deer more than I did, but I don't think he ever had success on the National Forest. I know I didn't.

I became a full-fledged deer hunter while living in Austin, Texas. I had a good friend there that lived to hunt. I was somewhat familiar with the process, with my agrarian background, and soon we became hunting buddies. During the months between the close of one deer season and the beginning of another we would hunt deer leases. We traveled all over South and West Texas looking for the perfect lease. We wanted one that was easy to get to, cheap, and had game. This became an obsession for us, and we literally spent at least one weekend per month looking at leases. The ironic part is that we had the perfect deer lease all along. Dan, (my friend,) was a gifted musician. He was aquatinted through his musical connections with the son of a wealthy Houston Lawyer who had a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas. Dripping Springs is just west of Austin, less than a half-hour drive from Dan's house. The lawyer let Dan and his friends hunt on that ranch for free, so the location and price were right. It was also teaming with deer, and no one in the area hunted them. It was perfect.

To prepare for deer season Dan and I would start to build stands in trees and put out our feeders in the summer. Dan only bow hunted, and that was how we got this prime property to begin with. The owner felt that since we only hunted with bow and arrows, we would be less likely to destroy things and cause problems with neighbors. He was right, we never had a run in with people in the area, and most were glad to have us around, the deer there were becoming a nuisance. We had to clear shooting lanes through the brush as well, since we used arrows and not bullets. I am by nature a little lax when it comes to safety, and why I never seriously got hurt clearing shooting paths proves God's presence. The worst example of not using common sense was when another man was helping us prepare for deer season.

This man was on disability from the Houston Police Department because of injuries sustained while on "the job." He could still climb trees and work, and went bow hunting with us occasionally. I happened to glance up at the tree stand he was working on. He was clearing shooting lanes by trimming the branches of a large Live Oak tree. He had a bow saw and was cutting a branch while straddling the branch. I yelled up at him and told him that he was literally sawing the branch out from under his feet. He yelled back that he knew that and that he wasn�t an idiot, and he showed me that he had tied a safety line to a large branch to keep him from accidentally falling. As I looked up I couldn't believe my eyes; he had tied his safety line to the branch he was cutting. If I had not wandered by and brought this to his attention the limb would have certainly jerked him out of the tree. I now knew why this man was on disability.

Deer camps are usually a different place. The accommodations can run from very nice lodges and cabins to tents or even a plastic tarp stretched over a large tree trunk. My friend John Thannisch had an old army MASH tent as headquarters on his Central Texas deer lease. I never got to see it in person, but I have seen pictures. Since we never spent the night at the Dripping Springs place, we didn't have a camp.

The other things that need to be serviced and brought to working order in the summer before deer season are the hunting vehicles. I have seen some outstanding hunting trucks in my life, and since I like ugly trucks, these are very special to me. One vehicle stands above the others though. I had another friend in Austin that spent more money deer hunting than I. He was part of a large lease near Llano, Texas. He had a four-wheel drive Chevy pick-up when I first met him, and that was he used to go deer hunting in. He traded his truck for a brand new Jeep Wagoner one spring, and it was nice. It was way too nice to drive around the deer lease in. He knew of my fondness for ugly trucks and wanted to know if I had one or knew where he could get his hands on one. I didn't have one at the time, but had noticed an ad in the Sunday paper advertising a sheriff's sale for confiscated and abandoned vehicles. I suggested that that might be a good place to find a deer camp truck.

We went to the auction. We were looking for a small import four wheel drive or at least a good truck for cheap. We had seen the ads where a person could buy a good vehicle for "pennies on the dollar." Maybe you can, but not there. There was a reason those cars had been abandoned. We did find one possible purchase however, and we bought a 1973 Caprice Classic station wagon for two hundred dollars. It had lots of rust on the body, a cracked windshield, torn upholstery, and the engine smoked. It was a perfect deer camp car. We got it home and started to work on it. The engine smoked a lot, it was not a casual smoker, it was more the four pack a day chain smoker. I decided that Tom needed to carry a lot of re-refined motor oil with him and let it smoke. That would be cheaper than a new motor. The paint was a dark maroon color and the car had lots of rust. We decided to work with this and paint the car a special camouflaged color of maroon, rust and bondo brown. It really didn't look like a paint job; it looked more like graffiti covered rail car. It actually worked; the brown colors blended with the Autumn Hill Country foliage. We ripped out the third seat and lay the second seat down and installed a piece of plywood as a truck bed to haul things on .It was starting to take shape as a classic camp vehicle.

The worst thing we did was with the windshield. Sometimes I get too creative, and when people don't stop me I do stupid things. I decided that the best thing to do with the windshield was to remove it. I removed it; I did not just smash it out. I did not replace it however. Since there was no front windshield, I thought it only fair to remove the back window to make it more aerodynamic. There are reasons I am not an engineer, I that was one. Since the car had no windshield, it had no inspection sticker. My friend did not want to take the car to the lease on a trailer but was scarred to drive it. I was not as opposed to driving a car that was not street legal, so I volunteered to drive the car to his lease.

We left late at night, to miss traffic and to lessen the likelihood of meeting a DPS trooper. I had never driven a motorcycle before, but with no windshield driving that car was like hitting the road on a very large Harley. I had to wear goggles to keep the bugs out of my eyes and had to keep my mouth shut or be prepared to swallow some bugs. The hour and a half drive to the deer camp was exhilarating. The car ran fine and we made it there only stopping to refill the oil once. As far as I know, the wagon is still there.

I have heard other people tell stories of favorite deer camp trucks. I have heard hair-raising tales of wasps, raccoons, snakes and skunks in camp houses. Every deer hunter has their favorite deer stand story, and other yarns about things that have happened getting ready for deer season. I think that sometimes the preparation can be as much fun as the hunting, and that is why so many of us do it. It is not what you kill during the season; it's how you set the year up that is fun. Why else would we work so hard in the hot summer days? We look forward to the fellowship and camarade, of swapping stories and getting ready to spend weekends without women, and when the weather starts to turn, something inside of us starts to drive us to prepare. Women "nest" before they have babies and men "camp" before deer season. It is just part of nature.