Riding the Katy

The first time was special, remembering the cold

funeral in Dallas, for someone not so old

Fresh from the round house, engines did race

Denison station, big scary place

Mounting wrought iron steps to find the right seat

train car so full strange rendezvous meet

Shiny steel sculpted with curtains and wood

ladies in hosiery swishing a lilac good

Hearts beat as one when the whistle blew loud

feeling the movement riding a steel cloud

Sherman came fast fields of black dirt

gentlemen in their newspapers starchy white shirts

Gathering speed across empty winter grounds

foxes dance in the sunlight scatter at the sound

So elegant a world on heavy round wheels

windows in the dinning car table cloth meals

McKinney came next and then Dallas station

husbands and wives foreign relations

Riding the Katy a distant recall

dead rusty cars behind a rotting wall

A sweet dream of Texas gone for the time

only in dreams can you ride the Katy line

Page nine – Old Photographs and Wild Dreams

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Homage to the Paper Boys and Girls of the Denison Herald

Denison Herald

When I was twelve, one of my class mates asked me if I wanted the throw the newspaper. On an impulse I said yes and accepted my first job. He told me to show up at his house with my bicycle about five am on Sunday. In the cold fall darkness in the Cotton Mill district of Denison, I learned to roll the largest size Herald of the week and how to wrap a rubber band around it into a growing pile. It was winter and freezing that morning but soon I was warm from squeezing fresh news print into a presentable round package. After he showed me how to load the one hundred and twenty papers into the dirty faded cloth paper saddlebags and then heft them onto my groaning handle bars, I had to quickly adjust to balance this heavy shifting load and still pedal fast enough to go down the early morning streets.

I was playing little league baseball at the time and even though I was not very good, I could still manage to throw out some heat behind each paper I slung into my customers’ yards. Sometimes I miscalculated and it flew on top of the roof. I had a few extra newspapers and on bad days, I used up all of them. For two years, I faithfully delivered the only news most people had access to on Coffin, Florence, Ford, Chase and Wilde streets. The Herald cost 40 cents per week back then and most of my customers worked long hours at the Cotton Mill. The mill paid them every two weeks and many of those mill workers had to pay me 80 cents right after payday as they could not afford it any other way. Even back then, some would try and dodge me when I came to collect what they owed. Soon I realized if I stopped giving them the home delivered paper, they would call the office, complain, and then pay after I resumed delivery.

Collecting the 40 cents each week took me out at night every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, to make the entire route. The Denison Herald wasn’t printed on Saturday, but all paper carriers were required to pay their  bill on that day. We owed the Herald 25 cents for each paper we received that week and got to keep the 15 cents. If enough customers weren’t home, or wouldn’t answer the door, there wasn’t much left, so a lot of Saturdays were spent going back to attempt collecting again. Since I lived in the Cotton Mill area, a man in a car dropped the bundles of papers in front of my house; others who lived near down town had to go to the plant on Woodard where it was printed and wait for it.

Those times are still burned in my memory. It was a daily adventure that included rain and sleet, hot summers, huge Sunday editions, dogs, and sketchy homes where things twelve year olds shouldn’t have seen was common. At Christmas time, a lot of elderly women presented me with home made candy. I always had money and often stopped at Coffey’s Store and bought an RC. They let me rummage through the bottle cap reservoir and take out enough Pepsi caps to go to the Rialto on Saturdays after I paid the paper bill.

I will never forget those two years. Much has changed now and most humans don’t read anything much less a local newspaper. The demise of the Denison Herald is one of the saddest events of my life. I know it is called the Herald Democrat and is merged with Sherman’s paper, but it is not the same.  I accept that times change and this bygone era will not return. This is definitely not a complaint but I just wanted to pay homage to US, the carriers by bicycle of the Old Denison Herald. I can not finish this with out taking my hat off to those who still carry on this thankless tradition of delivering the news. Cheers!

I remember Denison…in its hey day

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I remember Denison in its hey day,

and the intense excitement on cold Christmas mornings

Golden Rule School days 

and the fresh wax on its old wooden flooring

I remember Denison in its hey day

and waiting for endless Katy trains to pass

Burns Run summers 

and Miss Cook’s history class

I remember Denison in its hey day

when all the factories were running

Dragging Main on Friday nights

     with the chrome engines gunning

I remember Denison in its hey day

when eight tracks and mini skirts came along

My first time with the Beatles

and learning all their songs

I remember Denison in its hey day

when all the stores were open

And the barber shops 

were thronged with joking

I remember Watsons

     and McDaniel Junior High

Saturdays at the Rialto 

and the first time I got high

I remember the Safeway plant

where my daddy used to work

Driving down Armstrong Avenue 

and buying gas that was pumped by the clerk

I remember Sundays

and eating Ashburn’s Ice Cream

Bomb Shelter drills

and long summer dreams

I remember Sid Maples

and trading for my first good guitar

Fishing in the winter

and heading to Dallas when it seemed so very far

I remember Denison in its hey day

and the first time I fell in love

When smaller pants and shoes

fit me like a glove

I remember Denison in its hey day

and longing to be free

Looking backward brings fresh tears

filling the Denison memory sea

 

 

 

 

Compulsive Addictive Writing

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I have lived in the heart of old Hollywood for many years. It’s not like you think. I started writing long before I moved here, but I have learned some things about the craft through living here worth talking about. Over the years and in many different bars, coffee shops, and various everyday venues I have encountered a number of nice folks who tell me they are writers. Later they reveal not only have they not written anything in years, some openly admit having written at all. I have met some honest to God writers who are very good and a few who are highly successful.

What I would like to share is for those who love to write or want to begin. But, do not mistake this subject for social media or texting. That is not writing, but a gruesome vomit of mediocre (at best) words about thoughts popping into heads all over the planet from rice paddies to office dwellers who are constantly bored. I am not being critical of social media or phone thoughts, but just excluding that from writing.

I am addressing those who love to write, including those who have never sold a single word or those making a living from this art. We are an odd bunch of a wide variety who love to tell stories and entertain the listener. That is all writing is, really. Entertainment. All through history the stories that entertained were passed down and the others were forgotten.

I grew up listening to one of the greatest story tellers who over lived. My grandfather was born in Texas in 1888. He married my grandmother and together they crossed the Red River in a covered wagon into Indian Territory (as it was called then prior to Oklahoma getting statehood. As a child I spent hours at his knee in wonder as he recounted his adventurous life there. After various hard labor jobs in a burgeoning oil fields, he settled in the western region of the state and raised a large family there. He planted, watered and picked cotton on his farm as my grandmother fed them from a vast garden and canned most of it to last through the brutal Oklahoma winter and right on through the Great Depression.

He told me of Indians who lived nearby and how he learned their stories while sitting in their teepees. He loved and respected their culture and felt he came away a better man as he understood how abused and mistreated they were by his ancestors. My grandfather shared with me his love and fear of God. His daddy was a horseman that rode a circuit spreading a Methodist gospel all over the frontier. He made the trip to Fort Sill after Geronimo was jailed their and shed tears over how sad the man was. Frank James shook his hand outside the Lawton bank after the former outlaw was released from prison and was by then in his late sixties. Hundreds of stories poured from his head into mine and I seemed to be the only one marked for life him and his tales.

Story telling is all I am good at.

For those who have never written or would like to begin again, I suggest the following:

Buy a pen and paper. I prefer Moleskine notebooks and have carried one with me for over ten years. Many times the right words come at the most inopportune places and times. The creative process is like a conveyor belt. Thoughts drift by and then fade into air, lost forever.

Begin a journal. Most aspiring writers don’t know where to begin. A journal is a perfect way to acquire compulsive, addicting writing. Write down one sentence about what happened to you yesterday. There! You did it. You will have done something 95% of adults haven’t done in their busy lives. You can’t call yourself a writer of you don’t write. A year later you can go back in wonder and all the things that occurred now forgotten and how much you changed in the past twelve months.

Read. Most adults don’t read books any more. You never be very good at writing of you don’t read. Go to a book store. They are a dying breed but the those who are still standing are a delight to visit. You will love the people who are there and walking around books will energize your mind.

Come back next week and I will talk about how to write a crime story.

Remembering a Texas Thanksgiving

wild turkeyGrowing up in Denison, Texas, I remember a particular Thanksgiving when I was about 14. Our family had moved into the Cotton Mill District to be close to my grandparents on my mother’s side. They were life long farmers from Oklahoma, and raised chickens, pigs, hunting hounds, and even had a large garden. We celebrated many holidays inside their small house on DuBois Street, but to accommodate the many relatives, many of us were outside until it was meal time. This particular Thanksgiving had a large turn out that included several aunts, uncles, and cousins, on my mother’s side. My uncle on my father’s side also showed up. Uncle Reuben had served in the army for over 10 years at this point. He was a quiet, reserved, man with solemn German manners, who listened much more than he talked. Two of my other uncles (mother’s side) were the complete opposite, and one who was a non-drinker, mainly because his wife was Church Of Christ, loved to brag about his superior knowledge. He became the target of a cruel plot. My family lived next door to him, and after lunch, my father, his brother, and the other uncle who was fond of whiskey, decided to invite the pain-in-the-ass uncle to partake in Uncle Rueben’s Thanksgiving gift, a fifth of Wild Turkey.

Somehow, they talked to non-drinking uncle to walk to our house and help them drink the entire bottle in order to prove his manhood. Non-drinker was quickly drunk and getting queasy. Rather than puke the turkey up at our house, he decided to go home, by climbing the wire fence that separated our houses. To their utter amusement, he got his feet tangled up in the wire and fell onto his property hitting his head, just as his wife pulled the family car into their drive. Horror struck, my aunt dragged him inside as he vomited and jerked the entire way. It was a bad time and our two families did not talk for a month or so.

Non-drinker got even with my dad a month later. He drove a utility stake in the middle of our drive with an orange ribbon atop, claiming the City Of Denison had re-surveyed their properties and were moving the utility pole to the center of our drive way. When my father came home and saw the stake, my uncle came right out of his house to tell him the news. My father’s temper exploded and my uncle let him stew all night before he told the truth.

All of them are dead now, but the story lives on. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and maybe a story or two. I dedicate this song to their memory.