Posts Tagged ‘Friendship’

A Relaxing and Working Journalist’s Week

Out in the county © 1981, 2011, 2015 By Bob Litton

Wandering all over Dallas and Ward Counties

Some warnings to readers: This is another column from my much-diminished pile of ancient columns and feature articles. It dates from November 1981. Another interesting facet to this gem is that it illustrates how inflated one’s perception of his own stature and domain of authority can become if he lingers in any position or place too long. < Claiming that Dallas is Ward County’s north forty!!! Bosh!!! Presuming to exhibit how a lady’s coat needs cleaning!!! Pish!!! > Oh well, I was young then…and handsome and wise. I need to alert you to the fact that this column is about 1,300 words long, so don’t feel disloyal if you begin to yawn and want to wander off to your bed or couch. I tried to make the piece engrossing and exciting, but it’s not a cliff-hanger mystery tale, people. My genius can only accomplish so much. However, you won’t offend me at all if you don’t finish perusing. Just rest in your nightmares.

∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ 

The following column is rated R.  It is recommended for adult reading only.  It should be read only at night.
Well, I finally got off to Dallas for a brief vacation last weekend. I suppose you’re wondering why I’d include Dallas in an “Out in the county” column.  It’s this way.  I’ve begun to look at Dallas as sort of the “north forty” of Ward County.  That’s because every time I fly up there I see someone from Ward either going to or returning from Big D.  This time it was N.R. Bragg, a retired gentleman who lives out in Thorntonville.  Also, my traveling companion on the trip was Tom “Delegate” Murray, recently elected president of the Ward County Democrats. In Dallas, I gave Tom a whirlwind tour of the “cultural pubs” along Knox Street, and then he went on up to Denton while I visited family and friends in the Metroplex.

One strange new phenomenon I noticed along I-35 was a motel called the “Non-Smokers Inn”.  Later, my mother showed me a Bob Greene column explaining the innovative inn.  It has apparently just opened up, and the owner — who had recently lost some friends to emphysema — had sworn not to allow any smokers, either registrants or employees, to stay there if they smoked a single cigarette.  Even the construction workers, Greene noted, had had to be non-smokers, a requirement which no doubt slowed the construction schedule.

∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ 

During my brief sojourn in the big city I was just in time to attend the final reading at SMU’s annual literary festival.  At one of the entrances to McFarlin Auditorium, I encountered old friends, an English professor and his wife, who were greeting people at the door in their capacity as two of several departmental hosts for the week-long event.  I had wanted to sit in the back so I could make a quick exit if the mood struck me, but they insisted I sit with them and piloted me up to the fourth row. Featured reader for the evening was Donald Barthelme, a frequent contributor to New Yorker magazine, so you can imagine what the pieces he read to us were like — short, comical, sophisticated.  However, I must have molted off my cultural skin during two years in West Texas, because I sat there like a cigar store Indian bemusedly examining the brown tweed coat on an elderly lady directly in front of me.  Two long strands of detached hair were lying along the right shoulder of the garment, and I was mightily tempted to remove them for her.  But, I feared she might jump like Little Miss Muffet or turn about indignant at my officiousness if she happened to detect my action.  Then again, she might never know. The issue was resolved when Barthelme began his last reading.  The theme of it had something to do with chronometry, I believe, and each paragraph ended with an oft-used barnyard phrase “…and all that s—!”  The lady with the hair-littered coat and her male companion of an equally advanced age, after hearing Barthelme’s selection nearly to its conclusion, arose and left the auditorium. The author, it seemed, had wrenched my opportunity to do a good deed that night right out of my grasp.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Another event which I consider historic (although I missed it by three or four weeks) was the demise of Henry’s Café on Hillcrest across from SMU.  Saturday morning, I walked across the campus, fully relishing the prospect of a breakfast such as I had enjoyed with musician friends at Henry’s virtually every Saturday for many years.  I was shocked upon finding instead a remodeled building with a sign over it saying “Dixie’s Hamburgers”.  What Dixie’s called a breakfast was a scrambled egg and sausage pressed between the halves of an English muffin. Time occasionally marches with a rather abrupt tread.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Back at Midland-Odessa Airport, Tom and I spent a good while locating my dust-covered Pinto.  It was already dusk when we drove out onto the highway, and I said, “Sure glad you waited to come back with me, Tom.  It’s a long dull drive between here and Monahans, and having you to talk with will help me keep awake.” By the time we reached the caprock, Tom was slumped in the carseat — asleep.

*  *  *  *  *  *

A couple of days later, Sgt. Jim Vaughan of the MPD said to me, “Something really weird happened while you were gone, Bob. I got a call from the Homicide Bureau of the San Antonio Police Department. They had traced your license number on the NCIC and wanted to question you about a bunch of assaults in San Antonio. They asked me, if they described your car, could I find you. I told them they didn’t have to describe it. I knew what it was, I said, a brown Pinto and you were our editor.  Then they said, ‘That can’t be. The car we’re looking for is a Mustang!’”

*  *  *  *  *  *

In the more conventional mode of “Out in the county”, I ventured into Wickett Tuesday afternoon. There I was informed by City Secretary Sherry Adams that the building permit fee had been raised to $5 from 25 cents at the last council meeting. I asked Sherry why it had been raised so much.  “The fee should have been raised a long time ago,” she replied. “It costs us more than 25 cents just to get the information we need. The permit’s original purpose was to get people in here so we’d know what they were doing. Now there are several people in town who haven’t gotten a permit and they’re adding on or building a new building.”

*  *  *  *  *  *

At the Wickett Post Office, I met Postmaster Don Bowen, who has served in his present position ten and a half years, although he started with the post office in Monahans in 1965 and still resides there. Bowen is an out-going sort of fellow.  His favorite leisure time activity is bowling.  Several league trophies are prominently displayed in his post office.  “I enjoy the fellowship,” he told me. “I enjoy it when I win and I enjoy it when I lose.” The postmaster informed me he is putting mail into 330 rented boxes, about 100 more than when he came to Wickett ten years ago.  Twenty of those boxes belong to businesses.

 *  *  *  *  *  *

One of the businesses served by the post office is Luckie’s Grocery, a family-owned operation in Wickett for 36 years. (And that is the correct spelling!) In the grocery store, I met not only the present proprietor, Olaff Luckie, but his father and the store’s founder, W.B. “Barney” Luckie. “I moved here from Eola, Concho County, in 1944,” the elder Luckie recalled. “I worked for Wickett Refining Company until I got crossways with the boss one day and he fired me. Then I was talking to a salesman one day and he told me, ‘There’s a little grocery in Pyote and you could make a lot of money there if you run it right.’” So, Barney got his grocery business started in Pyote, and when son Olaff got out of the navy in 1946 they moved it to Wickett.  “In ’46 nearly everybody here was working for Gulf or Cabot,” said Olaff. “Nearly every account we had was with people who worked for those two companies. Now it’s practically all servicing companies here, about twelve of them.” “Yeah,” said Barney, “and they can’t find anybody to work or it would be even more of a boom town than it is.” Added Olaff: “If the work force in this country would put in a seven-hour day for eight-hours pay, commodities would go down in price ten percent — but they just won’t do it.”  — Monahans News, November 19, 1981



Of Errol Flynn…Friendships and Dreams

Adventures of Robin Hood(1938).docx

ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) Errol Flynn as Robin Hood takes aim at one of the king’s deer while Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles) looks on. Flynn was too well-suited to such swash-buckling roles to readily escape type-casting, although he did obtain other roles in several combat movies during WWII, as well as the part of 19th century boxer “Gentleman Jim” Corbett {1942) and Mike Campbell in the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” (1957), two years before his death at age 50.

PHOTOS CREDITS: Microsoft Word Clip Art

TEXT: © 1985, 2011, 2015 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

I saw the filmed autobiography of Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, on CBS a few weeks ago.  Although it had an abundance of true-life comedy and adventure, it was generally a sad story, as I think most biographies of interesting people are bound to be.

Other than Gene Autry, Errol Flynn is the only hero I can remember having as a child.  Well, actually my hero-worship of Flynn was a composite of him and Robin Hood, the part with which I most identified him.  But, Robin Hood was long ago and Flynn was of the present.

As years passed, I was vaguely aware of Flynn’s risky love affairs.  I wasn’t a reader of movie magazines, but such incidents were also reported elsewhere.  They tarnished his image a bit for me, but I silently rooted for him and hoped that all would turn out well.

And Robin Hood?  Robin Hood was printed forever (?) on celluloid and in Howard Pyle’s book of the legends.  I used to play the role in hours of transcendent imagination, which frequently overwhelm susceptible children.  With imaginary bow and arrow I would win the imaginary archery shoot and take the golden arrow.  Armed with a yard stick, which imagination miraculously transformed into a broadsword, I dealt Sir Guy of Gisborne a death blow.  (Never, however, did I let imagination carry me so far away as to jump on and off my mother’s furniture.)

But back to Flynn.  What struck me most about the television biography were two things: (1) the tenuousness and fragility of relationships and (2) the ease with which one can be deflected from even the simplest life goals.

If we are to believe the film, Flynn married his first wife, Lili Damita, because she threatened to throw herself off a window ledge if he didn’t.  And after they were married she couldn’t tolerate the adoration Flynn’s female fans showered upon him.  She apparently became ever more neurotically possessive and finally “took him to the cleaners” in divorce court.

Then there was Flynn’s own idol―John Barrymore.  Flynn practically made a rest home out of some rooms in his house for the aged, alcoholic actor.  Barrymore died, and another of Flynn’s closest friends, a stunt man, was killed while doing a stunt―both deaths occurring in the same week.  After spending an evening trying to drink his grief away, Flynn came home, turned on the light in his living room and screamed with horror at the sight of Barrymore, neatly groomed and dressed, sitting upright in a chair.

When Flynn started to run out of his house, three of his friends popped out of the shadowy foyer and stopped him, explaining that they had bribed the mortician to let them bring Barrymore home for a last round of drinks with his chums.  With a hand still shaking from the fright, Flynn filled some glasses, and they all raised them toward Barrymore in manner of a toast.

Friends!  I wondered which was the case: That they were good friends because they had gone to an extreme length to arrange a final drink between buddies; or that they were bad friends because, in their foolish desire to make it a surprise, they had scared a friend almost out of his wits?

The other point ― how easy it is to be deflected from even simple goals ― was exemplified by the hold Jack Warner and Hollywood generally had over Flynn.  Judging by the film, I gathered that all Flynn wanted to do was play in serious roles (such as Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind”) and earn enough money to buy a boat large enough to sail around the world.  Because of his various relationships, however, he couldn’t seem to break away from Hollywood or from his roles as a swashbuckler.  (Nice irony there!)

Given the contrast of Flynn’s personal situation (a $2,500 a week salary) with that of the American public as a whole when he was making his most memorable films ― between 1935 and 1940 ― one is perhaps justified in accusing him of being just a bit self-indulgent.  Moreover, it can reasonably be argued that by providing escapist films for a suffering world he was doing more good for his fellow humans than he ever could have done aboard a boat sailing the seas.

Apparently, there wasn’t much he could do about obtaining more serious roles; in those days, once you were a success at the box office in one particular part, you were type-cast.  Still, to sail to the Fijis and Malaysia in his own ship was Flynn’s personal dream―regardless of how simple or even simple-minded it was from our point of view―and perhaps he did himself great personal harm we cannot imagine by not carrying through with his dream.

Erroll Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways

“My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn” was the title of the 1985 CBS Television biography I watched in Monahans. The TV bio’s title was taken, in part, from the title of Flynn’s ghost-written autobiography published in 1959, the year he died.

— The Monahans News, February 7, 1985

By the way, yesterday Chris Ruggia and I discussed my January 19th blog post, “Bob’s Current Preferences”, and he explained his intent in the third panel of the comic there. Consequently, I added a few sentences to the end of the post; so any of you readers who have already read that post and are curious about the mysterious “brush” can click on the listing at the side of this page, under “Recent Posts”, and return to the cartoon and my “explication” of it.

NOTE TO NON-BLOGGER READERS: WordPress has its program set up where only WP bloggers can register “likes” and “comments” on this page. However, if you are a non-blogger, I would be glad to read any comments or helpful criticisms you might wish to share and, therefore, have left my email address in the “About” page above the title of this post. Please, no “snarky” comments, or I will have to delete it.
Thank you for reading.

In Memorium: Henry “Snake-Eyes” Fuller

Henry Fuller -Ol' Snake Eyes- Retired from employment as custodian in 1983

Ol’ ” Snake-Eyes”, as we used to call him around the newspaper office, where he came on Wednesday and Friday nights to pick up papers to sell, was one of my favorite denizens of Monahans. At the moment depicted above he was singing “Amazing Grace” with his admirable, bass voice; but you can’t hear him, of course.

Note To Readers:  The following feature article was originally published in the Monahans News in 1983. I am publishing it here for two reasons: (1) It reveals quite graphically the restraints and hardships borne by African-American citizens during the first half of the 20th century as well as the various tones racism could take from one section of Texas to another section of the same state, not to mention the rest of the nation; (2) I consider it now a memorial to one of my favorite people. Perhaps I should have said three reasons, for I hope any persons out in the world who read it will gain, through it, the most vivid perception of this good-natured man that the written word can portray.

Please be aware that I have not edited the flavor of Henry’s speech. My leaving his words as he spoke them in the Black patois of the Southern U.S. was not the result of condescension. I simply wanted to share Henry’s manner of delivery in the same way as I heard it, as closely as ink and a piece of white paper would allow.

Also, I should remark on Henry’s nickname. I never asked him how he acquired the moniker “Snake-Eyes” because I thought I could guess correctly: I thought it had something to do with his white irises and dark pupils and their resemblance to a toss of dice coming up as a deuce. However, it occurred to me years afterwards that the reference might be to a gambling habit, in which Henry frequently lost because all his tosses came up as “snake-eyes”. However, I doubt that Henry was ever so careless of his income as to gamble any of it away.

Henry had a penchant for nick-names. He even invented one for me: “Shirt-Tail”. He was commenting on the fact that, when I was bending over the long composing table and pasting up pages, the back bottom of my shirt frequently pulled loose from my pants and dangled.

* * * * * *

‘Snake-eyes’ retires

© 1983, 2014 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

“There wasn’t nothin’ but sandstorms when I came out here, wasn’t any rainstorms,” recalls retired Ward County custodian Henry Fuller of his journey from Tyler to Monahans in February 1948.

Henry, known to many of his friends as “Snake-eyes”, originally intended to return to East Texas after the six-month pipe-laying project he had contracted to work on was completed.  “I was a pipe-fitter for the City of Tyler,” he explains. “Jack Forga (city manager of Monahans) borrowed us from the City to lay water and sewer pipes in Monahans.  Two of us came out here first on the train — me and L.D. Ryder. Kelly came later and Tommy Hutchinson and Tommy Tucker.

“Claude Chance came a couple of months later, and my kids rode in his truck.  They slept in the truck.  Black folks didn’t stay in motels in those days.

“I didn’t know anybody here then. I came to stay six months, and I stayed forty years.”

* * * * * *

But our story is getting a little ahead of itself.

We ought to note that Henry was born Aug. 8, 1916, in Galilee, near Tyler in Van Zandt County.  His father, who farmed on ten acres of land, was married twice; so Henry ended up with five brothers, three sisters, seven step-brothers and five step-sisters.  “None of them are alive now,” he tells us.

“Back in them days you weren’t mean, ‘cause they’d whup you for anything like you’d stole somethin’.  My step-mama whupped me for dippin’ snuff.  One time she whupped me with a bullwhip.  I thought she was mean, but now I think she didn’t whup me enough.”

Besides strict discipline, Henry also believes that the simple diet of his early years was better than what kids eat nowadays.  “I’d eat a sweet potato as big as my arms, a piece of bread and some milk; and I was stronger than a bull.  You didn’t hear of people dyin’ then of heart attacks or cancer.  You might see someone with a skin cancer, but you didn’t see no one dyin’ of a heart attack or cancer.”

For entertainment, the best pastime was teasing a billy goat.  “In that red land country there was a billy goat, and we’d aggravate him and he’d chase us and eat us up if he caught us. We’d run up the steps of the (Masonic) lodge hall to get away from him.  That son-of-gun was bigger than a Shetland horse!”

* * * * * *

Henry says he left school after the seventh grade and took up the pipe-fitting trade, which is what eventually brought him out to Monahans.  However, he suffered a pelvic bone injury when a ditch on Doris Avenue caved in on him.  After that, he left the contractor to work for the City on a two-man trash truck crew.  “I was one of the first to work on a trash truck here,” he recalls. “We had fifty-gallon barrels back then.  Just had one trash truck. We’d go to work at 4 a.m. and work  until noon. The other crew would start at noon and work until about five.”

In 1956, he left City employment to work for the County.  “The pay was better; but they paid only once a month, while the City paid every two weeks. I didn’t think about that,” he says. “I worked for the County from 1956 until last month. They say I ‘dodged in twenty-seven years.’”

Besides his job at the County, Henry took care of the lawns of several locally prominent persons, including (former Ward County Judge) Toon Estes, Lillie Tatom and Hugh P. Cooper.  Occasionally, he even found himself baby-sitting for these people.  For instance, there was the time he caught Pearson Cooper, Allen Williams and Skipper Butler smoking grapevine.  “I rapped ‘em on the ass,” he recalls with a gleeful laugh.

* * * * * *

In his mature years, Henry “Snake-eyes” Fuller’s leisure moments are concentrated on drinking cold beer, listening to the radio (“News only, I’m too old for that music!”) and attending church every other week.  “I go to St. Matthew (AME); my wife goes to Mt. Zion Baptist.

“There’s only six of us in the Methodist Church, counting the preacher.  He comes from Crane, so we meet only twice a month; but we manage to pay the preacher and put a little in the bank, too.

“I sing in the church. Sing bass. We sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and all those kind of songs.”  You have to hear “Snake-eyes” sing “Amazing Grace” to appreciate the fact that he does have a good voice for singing.  Also, you have to hear him talk in his own special jargon to glimpse the character of the man.  You can’t really say his talk is “Black talk”, because he seems to make up his own vocabulary.  Words like “didybitecha” aren’t words with any particular meaning; they are nonsense syllables spoken for comic effect.

“Snake-eyes” has reached his own reconciliation with the White and Black worlds.  It’s a little bit dated: “I stay in my place and they stay in theirs.”  But, he’s too old to change, and for him West Texas was from the first — back when he was young and still seeking a fairer share of the social and economic pie — far ahead of East Texas in its attitude toward Blacks.

“Monahans has been good to me, That’s all I got to say. I got more friends than Carter’s got oats. I own my own home and I got money in the bank. White people treat you more better here. In Tyler they wouldn’t even sell me a pack of cigarettes.”

— Monahans News, May 5, 1983


NOTE TO NON-BLOGGER READERS: WordPress has its program set up where only WP bloggers can register “likes” and “comments” on this page. However, if you are a non-blogger, I would be glad to hear any helpful criticisms you might wish to share and, therefore, have left my email address in the “About” page (see button above the title of this post). Please, no “snarky” comments, or I will have to delete it.
Thank you for reading.

%d bloggers like this: