The Glory of Misery

I have strange childhood memories.    

We were on the membership roster of a swimming pool that was open the day school let out for the summer and closed a few days before it started back up in the fall.   It was private,  which in the South Central Texas parlance of the time (it was the early 1960’s) meant whites only.

The founding fathers of this aquatic club decided that for safety’s sake and insurance liability, children under a certain age had to be accompanied by a parent.   If and when they passed a swimming test administered by a certified lifeguard (usually a High School coach needing extra cash during the summer or some acne riddled jock who needed to work but the area’s only other employment option for teenage boys–hauling hay–simply wasn’t an option.

For you urbanites, that mean physically moving large bails of hay from either one side of the farm or ranch to the other side…or….taking it to market.   Either way it was grueling work.   Hot, exhausting and thankless, but it kept the jocks in shape and well-tempered for the dreadful pre-season two-a days (football practice) that invariably came with playing  high school football.    Being a lifeguard and sitting in a chair under an oversize beach umbrella, smelling of Coppertone to high heaven and occasionally blowing  a punitive whistle at  young hellions like little Kenny Whozits for dunking little Cindy Whatzits near the deep end, was a glorious alternative.

I can remember taking a break from swimming and sitting in this covered alcove where the parents would sit.  It was composed of moms mostly.  Some came to the pool to sit and watch their kids; others turned it into a social hour and smoked, drank Tab and gossiped.  Others would come for a little quiet reading.    Back then, the books that fashionable literates brought with them to the pool  were “I’m OK; You’re OK” and “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”.   There might have been an occasional “Love Story” or “Gone With The Wind” in the line-up, but I remember the two a fore mentioned titles the most.

One of the books had what my grandfather would have called “one of damned them hippie peace signs” in the letter “O” of the OK in the title.    Decades later, I Googled the book to find out what was offering so many moms a literary reprieve from mothering.


As best I can tell, “I’m OK; You’re OK” was really,one of the very the first widely accepted books about a subject that now seems so ridiculously cliché and panel guest-like on the  Dick Cavett Show:  getting in touch with your inner child.  

I don’t mean to be condescending.  It’s just that the term is–or rather was– so hackneyed.   To be fair, I have NO DOUBT  at all that what we learn as children, be it good or bad, has a definite impact on adulthood–as long as it doesn’t become a panacea for every issue once we put away the dolls and Tonka trucks  and sprout pubes.   We can blame some things ( in some case, many things) on what we experienced as kids, but to make  a bad childhood a blanket excuse for every adult problem is conveniently irresponsible.

I’m not saying this is what author, Dr. Thomas Harris implied in his pages.   In all honesty, I’ve only skimmed the book.  I’m merely talking about the nonsense left by the others who took  the transactional therapy ball and ran with it,  all the way to the bank.

As for the other book?  Well, as a kid I had no idea why any adult would want to read about the antics of a seagull.  I’d spent time on the Texas Gulf Coast.  I knew what these birds were all about.  Seagulls were nothing more than airborne shit dispensers.     I also noticed that it was written by someone named Bach.   That stood out to me.  At the time, I was taking piano lessons and learning to play a few minuets that perhaps a distant relative might have composed.

In a nutshell, the  book is about growth.   Jonathan is a gull who’s passionate about flying.


He goes to great lengths to learn the math of the talent nature gave him but apparently, his fellow birds don’t appreciate his zeal for the craft.   He’s deemed an outcast and heads out on his own, only to two other gulls who teach him a bunch of existential stuff and flight basically, becomes this homily for change and personal growth without the guilt.    Wow, a self-help book with anthropomorphic whimsy.

Man, you gotta love the 60’s.

Bach’s follow-up to the avian  tome, is Illusions: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.  It’s also about change and learning and the teachers in our lives who help us accomplish this feat.   In this book,  Bach writes a great line:

Trouble is inevitable; misery is optional

I’ll take it one step further.  Misery  is a state of suffering to be sure, but it’s also a very attractive one.  No, not in the way like a pleasing personality  or a great sense of humor is.  It’s  attractive in a negative way. It draws attention.    I mean, think about it,  when we’re miserable, two things happen.  We’re abandoned because misery requires an emotional investment with which to contend…


The sympathetic people in our realm with go all Florence Nightingale and  feel sorry for us; take care of us.  They’ll bombard us with welfare calls, texts and emails.    We’re treated with kindness because no one wants to add insult to injury.  And this emotional gravy train runs along quite smoothly—-for a while anyway.    Some sad sacks will milk this for all its worth, buy eventually, that has to change.   He/she will have no choice . Misery might love company, but if a miserable person  makes the company miserable, the sources of all that attention, will go away and stay away.   Like the plague.  Dealing with/coping with a miserable person on a continuing basis takes an investment few people are willing to make.   Hell, even the guy  or gal in abject misery eventually has a tough time stomaching himself.

While growing up with had a devoted Cocker Spaniel mix named Frisky.   Wonderful dog who in late 1972, developed renal failure.  While my sisters and I were at school, my father decided that was the best time to “put Frisky out of her misery”.   She was buried in a far corner of the yard.     I can still get misty eyed at the thought at that sweet four-legged soul despite the fact that she’s been gone almost 42 years.

I had a cousin who had a genetic ailment. She died recently after years of dealing with so much pain.   She was a sweetheart of a girl, but she suffered terrifically.   Many have said that her death puts her in a better place; she too is  ‘out of her misery”.

I’m in complete agreement.   Especially where physical maladies are concerned.  Towards the end, my dog…..my cousin had no life.  Spiritually speaking, a beating heart  and respirating lungs don’t  constitute living.    Life is in the details; details  that go beyond oxygenated blood flow and brain waves.

By their deaths, are these loved ones  in a better place?   I don’t know.   Medical science and logic make every effort to assure me it means  they;re definitely not in pain.   That’s comfort for the living.

But there are aspects of mental/emotional suffering that I feel can be a positive experience.    Heartache is a game changer.     It can, if you let it, be a portal to some rock solid changes.  It can make you more self-aware;  it can break down barriers that have kept negative things internalized.    It can make us more empathetic;  hone our emotional  survival skills and can be one helluva wisdom inducer.   Reformed miserables (please re-read with a French accent) are some of the wisest people I know.

The results derives from bouts with human suffering, especially from heartache, is a lot like disaster science.   For example, we learn invaluable information about airplane safety after plane crashes.   Granted, it’s often at human expense, but well, that’s the circle of life.    We live, we die and somewhere in between that very stark beginning and end, we learn a few things along the way.   Life really is this metaphorical little red school-house.   We’re born (we get up in the morning).   We go to school (we start to grow). We matriculate 12 grades (we learn).  We graduate  (we die)

Some go on to advanced studies.    (Heaven)

Some opt for marriage (Hell)

Come on…I kid, I kid.  No emails or unsavory comments, please.   It was a joke.

Seriously,  my heart aches for all whose hearts ache, but trust me when I tell you that this too shall pass.   Bach, Lakewood megachurch  Pastor Joel Osteen and all the others who’ve made thematic variations  on the “troubles are inevitable/choosing misery or not” bandwagon, are quite right.  The power to decide is yours.

All yours.

But it’s just so goddamn ironic that more often than not, it takes being miserable and ultimately, surviving it to understand that it IS an option.

Live and learn, I guess.

Everything’s Better With Bluebonnets On It


To set the mood to this post, please play Chris Rea’s “Texas” while reading.   It’ll help.


The Bluebonnet–a name common to several North American species of Lupinas.   I think I went to High School with a girl with that name.

It’s also the state flower of Texas.  

Bluebonnets typically grow about a foot tall.  As for the flower’s name?  It might be the result of the shape of the petals and their resemblance to the bonnets worn by pioneer women to shield themselves from the sun.  It may instead be derived from the  Scottish term bluebonnet, for the traditional blue coloured version of the tam o’shanter hat, but frankly, I think that’s a stretch.

The Bluebonnet is true to it’s name…exclusively blue when it grows in the wild. A random genetic mutation does occasionally create an albino white bluebonnet naturally.  Researchers at Texas A&M  successfully  bred red and white ones and in doing so, created a Texas state flag in bluebonnets for the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial.

Further research led to a deep maroon strain, the A&M’s official color.   Somehow, a burnt orange Lupinas didn’t make it out of the lab in College Station.


Bluebonnets grow in Texas, but not exclusively.  They’re all over the Southwest actually.  You can find them in California, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

Bluebonnet season in Texas (namely in Central and Southeast Texas) generally runs from mid-March to late May and typically, you see them ALL over Texas highways and we can thank former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson for that.   

Mrs. Johnson (if you remember, she was married to that “Cracker” from Texas who passed Civil Rights legislation.   His presidency was never given its due) played an active role in her husband’s administration. During her tenure as First Lady, she made 164 speeches, participated in 718 scheduled activities, and took 47 official trips.

She promoted many of LBJ’s Great Society and War on Poverty programs, including Head Start, VISTA, and Job Corps. However, her signature cause involved promoting environmental protection and beautifying the nation’s landscapes and highways. She created a First Lady’s Committee for a More Beautiful Capital, which included tree and flower plantings in Washington, D.C., then expanded her program to include the entire United States.

She lobbied for the passage of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which included restrictions on billboards along the nation’s highways. Of these accomplishments, Lady Bird reflected, “We walked the problem of the environment on to center stage and put it on the national agenda-clean water, clean air, the amenities in all parks, in urban areas, all of that became a part of the national thinking.”

Here in Texas, that involved, prettier freeway rest stops and additional Bluebonnet seeds planted along them.   You can still see evidence of her handiwork each spring.

And this is a prime example.    Stunning, really.

In Texas, our roads DO seem to go on forever.


And it’s nothing to see cars parked over to the side of the road during the height of Bluebonnet season.  Twenty feet from the car or truck, you’ll see someone standing  with a camera in hand.  Through his viewfinder, he’s focusing on a friend or family member sitting amid a field of vibrant blue.   

These flowers make an incredible backdrop.

Nice pic, right?


But here in Texas, you also have to be very careful where you sitting.   You… uh…you just might not be alone.

.As you can see, this is one of those BIG ASS Texas Rattlesnakes.

So, the moral of this pos:  look before you squat down for an impromptu photo session in a field of Texas Bluebonnets.  

It just might end up biting you in the ass.



More About College Football


Once again, I am a devout fan of the University of Texas.  

Longhorn football especially, means a great deal to me.   And like other fanatics of other sports teams, I have supported the Horns through great seasons ( such as the BCS Championship one of 2005, courtesy of a pigskin clutching Harry Potteresque wizard in burnt orange named Vince Young)  and not so great seasons which would include the bulk of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  

Needless to say, I am ecstatic about the Longhorns’ s upcoming appearance in the Rose Bowl for all the collegiate pigskin marbles.     They’ll meet Alabama in Pasadena on January 7th.       

Many are questioning the second ranked Horns’ right to be matched up against the top rated Crimson Tide.   It’s true, my team didn’t have the best of games against I’mDominate Suh and their place kicker.   The rest of the Nebraska team didn’t need to even to bother showing up; those two players were the lump sum of the Cornhusker offense and defense.    Admittedly,  Texas played its worst game ever, but still managed to win with a last second field goal to win by one point with nary a second left on the clock.  The Longhorn record remained unblemished at 13-0.

But the “what have you done for me lately”  attitude permeates and the talking heads in sports broadcasting are treating the Longhorns like ugly stepdaughters and dirty Dickensian street urchins trying to sell matches on a street corner in the dead of a London winter.   Go ahead,  tune into ESPN; all you hear about is how Colt McCoy’s last game cost him the Heisman.  You’ll hear repeatedly how Suh manhandled him during the Big 12 Championship (which he did but come on, the Horns still won the damn game!!!). 

OK, so Colt played the worst game of his career at the absolute worst time..maybe he was well aware that the Heisman was his to win…and to lose and perhaps, he played uncharacteristically unsettled.  But  it wasn’t as if Colt allowed Suh to penetrate a Texas offensive line that was as porous as O.J.’s alibi.   His WR’s were very well covered and  they dropped several catchable, potentially game-changing passes.

Tune into ESPN and you’ll hear  about the Tide’s unstoppable defense and its pristine offense lead by QB McElroy and Heisman winner and Sophomore phenom, Mark  Ingram.    You hear that come  January 7th,   Texas will be facing a “good ol’ countryfied ass whoopin'”.  

Throughout the Heisman Award presentation and other award shows on ESPN,  jokes were made at Colt McCoy’s  expense.   It was as if Suh, who was also up for the Heisman and scads of other awards, chased Colt down like  Simon Wiesenthal on a Nazi shake down in South America.    McCoy took it all in stride.

But I’ll tell you this much…

There seems to be a national anti-Texas mindset both across the board and in college football.  Lest we forget Texas’ flagrant ommission from the BCS championship game last season, all at the hands of some ridiculous BCS conceived tie-breaker.    We beat OU soundly, then we lost to Texas Tech in the very last second of the game.  OU went on to clinch the Big 12 Championship and played Florida in The Big Game, but lost as soundly to the Gators as they did to the Horns.  

It’s as though we still suffer from this huge George Bush backlash, like he had/has anything to do with college football.   Think what you want, but NO ONE can say UT’s prowess as one of the country’s perennial power elite college football teams has anything to do with Iraqi oil or as a so-called “revenge factor” for the failings of Bush the Elder.     Abject silliness, if that could even be the case.  Still, it seems as if there’s a definitive Texas prejudice, but in reality, I don’t really mind it.

That’s why I strongly encourage ESPN to keep talking.  Keep lauding Alabama as if God himself was calling the plays.   Keep reminding Texas of its poor showing against Nebraska and forget that Alabama struggled on three occasions to win games  this season.   That’s right;  go ahead…keep trash talking.    Keep reminding  Texas that its an inferior team.

Reiterate to McCoy over and over again that he didn’t win the Heisman and that Bama’s Mark Ingram did.    ESPN’s Chris Fowler and that Albino Herbstreit are the biggest offenders.

But again, keep it up.  By doing so, you’re only setting a familiar stage.  

You see, I watched the expression on Colt’s face when Ingram’s name was called.  Of course, he was disappointed, but as the reality sunk in, I saw disappointment morph into steely resolve and determination.   His lower jaw clinched;  his eyes narrowed slightly, but never left the podium where Ingram  giving his acceptance speech.     He’s planning on repeating history.

Yes…he had that expression.

I’d only seen it once before and it was on the face of another deserving Longhorn quarterback who also went home empty-handed on a cold New York evening in December 2005.

Some may say that Colt McCoy is no Vince Young.  

Some would argue that Nebraska and Suh proved Texas’ weaknesses,  just as near miss games with Arkansas, LSU and Auburn showed Alabama’s vulnerabilities.

Many would say the Texas team of 2005 ISN’T the Texas team of 2009 and they’d be right….it isn’t.

Many say Alabama is a better team than Texas, but the same was said about Texas when it faced back-to-back national champs, USC in the 2006  BCS showdown and well, we  all know how that game ended.

As it’s been said many times before, football (especially college football)  is an extremely arbitrary game.   Any team can beat any other team on any given Saturday.  

Or on any given Thursday night in January, 2010.

All I’ll say is that the next month’s showdown in Pasadena won’t be the “countryfied ass whoopin'” that so many are predicting.  

How do I know?  

Oh, call it a gut feeling and something I saw in Colt McCoy’s eyes.


I’m Back

Well, this brief respite from blogging and e-mailability has taught me one thing–I am nothing if not overtly obsessive and compulsive about this damned contraption’s keyboard on which nimble, but increasingly more arthritic fingers pump out various forms of hoot and literary mayhem.

In September, Hurricane Ike, the monster storm that gave Houston it’s first real blow job since Hurricane Alicia back in 1983, completely molested my satellite dish. I only received one channel and that was Lifetime.


Imagine,  ALL Markie Post, Melissa Gilbert and Cheryl Ladd all the time!!!   Sweet Baby Jesus, viewing ANY of those two-hour Technicolor horror  sessions was torturous!!

Like spending a long weekend at the Borgia’s.

Like being forced to listen endlessly to so-called “comedian”, Joy Behar’s pathetic attempt at irony.

Like being Blagojevich’s back-up comb.

In other words, viewing these movies to ANY degree made  my eyes vomit.

So yes, I had my fill of those insidious chick flicks all about empowered women who kill, maim, arrest, break the hearts of and ridicule the men who have killed, maimed, arrested, broke the hearts of and ridiculed them.

And yes, I do mean women who kill the men that killed them.   You see, it is with much regret that I learned early this fall (thanks to Ike), when it comes to Lifetime’s cinematic efforts, plots almost always (especially around Halloween)  include strong willed women who are hell bent on seeking revenge and survival any means necessary AND strong willed ghosts of murdered women who are hell bent on revenge and…well…just hell bent.

And the titles of this monstrosities?   OY!   How about:

  • Dangerous Storm
  • Stormy Love
  • Risky Love
  • Love Risks
  • Risks and Consequences
  • Consequences of Love
  • Risky Love and Its Consequences

and last but not least:

  • (insert young woman’s  first name and initial of surname here) : Portrait of a Teenage (insert malady here)

Long story short:  I survived almost two weeks without TV, but went crazy without my computer.    I am attached at the hip with this brainchild of Hewlett-Packard and when it started acting up thanks to viruses (and we’re talking more more Trojans than at six Walgreen’s) I knew I would have to go without my PC for several miserable, grueling and boring days.dr-smith

Oh, the pain…..the pain!!!!

I called a couple of Computer Hospitals here in Houston but everyone I called included a pompous sounding geek on the other end.   I hate arrogance; misplaced or otherwise.

So, I inadvertently happened upon info about a little tech shop on Houston’s NW side.  I called and a man answered.  He was decidedly NOT a native English speaker.

I made an appointment to drop off my emphysemic computer the next morning.

I got to the little shop in a very generic looking strip center located in  neighborhood which had  gang insignia spray painted everywhere you looked.   And not gangs like “West Side Story’s”  mildly angst ridden Jets and Sharks, mind you.   We’re talking MS 13 and devious hoodlums that only John Gotti could appreciate.  Realizing that made it far easier to understand why A) the windows were blacked out  B) there enough bars on the windows to make Attica jealous.

The only sign of humanity was on the building’s rather bleak facade.  It was ‘adorned’ with of duplicate posters of  one Asian couple made deliriously happy by their use of  a certain computer screen and based on HER expression, it must have vibrated.

I also saw Korean writing.   How did I know it was Korean?  Because as a kid, I often took apart those tacky little paper umbrellas that were served to me in the Shirley Temples I had when I dined with my parents at the Club.   If you peel back the layers of that little round spool thing that supports the umbrella and its tiny teaky supports, you find old strips of a Korean newspaper.

OK, so that told me which ethnic group to which  the proprietors belonged.

I tried the front door.  It was locked.   I guess no one had arrived.  The parking lot was empty, but something told me to wait a while.   Good thing I did because minutes later, I witnessed a rather unusual sight when a large, taupe colored, double cab pick-up truck drove into the lot and parked right beside me.

Pick-ups?   In Texas, you ask?   What’s the big deal?   Well, you’re right: pick-ups are a proverbial dime a dozen here in Houston but rarely are they driven by a long, tall, thin Asian men named “Peter”  (I think) who wear huge glasses that would rival the late uber Hollywood agent, Swifty Lazar’sswifty famed I MAX screen sized spectacles.

And please add to this  imagery if you will, the fact that this particular Asian man also donned  a light gray Stetson which he wore low on his forehead.

He topped off the ensemble with brown Hush Puppies.

It was indeed, a sight to behold.

I looked at him; he looked at me and he motioned at me to enter his cyber domain. The inside was as bleak as the outside.   It was very no frills;  cut close to the bone establishment with stacks of computers with attached work orders all over the place.

He ( I think) asked me if I needed help.    I  told him that I’d called the day before and spoke to someone about my computer which was “all ett up with viruses and whut not”.

I think he said he remembered and then pulled out a work order.   He pointed to the place on the order which required my name, address, phone number and level of  willingness to marry for Green Card purposes.

I then tried to explain all the problems  I could considering I speak no Korean and have little to no computer aptitude.   I pleaded my PC’s case and asked if he could fix the damn thing.

He shook his head in the affirmative.

I left my computer in his hands;  drove home and sublimated  my computer-less and for the moment, completely lackluster life, by baking.    Several hours and six-thousand, 326 carbs later, “Peter” (I think)  called me and told me (I think) that my computer was ready.

I woke up the next morning, primped just enough not to scare small children and crazed, paranoid conspiracy theorists and drove back to The Computer Hospital.

“Peter?”, I asked

He responded with some mono-syllabic grunt.

“I’m here to pick-up my computer.   Kendrick?   Laurie?  It’s the Hewlett Packard I brought in yesterday?”

He then answered me, “Ah yes, computuh fah Raleigh!”.

I wasn’t sure why a North Carolinian city was important at the time but I responded with,  “Well yes…uh….Charlotte?”

He stared at me.

“Uh, OK….then..I guess maybe…uh, Chappel Hill?”

He shook his head in confusion and then gestured to me that I should follow him back to an even bleaker room which I determined,  based on the cluttered desk,  was his atelier.

Then “Peter” (I think) launched into this excited explanation of all that was wrong with my computer.   I went slack jawed,  squinty-eyed and hound dog head trying to understand his English.

He said something about my vitals….or a St. Vitus Dance or his profound love of Vitalis.   I wasn’t sure, but since we were discussing my computer, I decided to consider his broken English charming AND that his monologue was about my PC’s virus.

He charged me 25 bucks an hour.  I paid him $110 total—the ten bucks, I suppose was either a service fee or a pro-rated amount.  It didn’t matter, I had my computer again and I was happy.   I thanked him and he said something about me being a ‘whale cone’  and then this wonderful Korean mensch even put the thing in my car’s  back seat for me.

When he leaned over, I saw that those huge glasses with lenses big and thick enough to kill ants at a glance, must have  (at one time) been very uncomfortable because he attached Q-Tips cottony swab ends on to the ear pieces of his glasses.  Guess they helped provide a cushion.   In a strange way, I understood his logic and reasoning behind this effort.

We shook hands, smiled.  He went back in and I closed the driver’s side door.   I liked “Peter”.   A nice man–fair and reasonable and kind.  He even downloaded a full compliment of MS Word and Office stuff and offered me a Coke while the processing took place.  Decent guy and God love him for his courage in trying to make a go of it, not only in the U.S.—but in Texas!!  His choice of hat and truck seemed like he was trying to fit in.    I wanted to discuss his choice of footwear, but really didn’t feel like getting into a debate about ‘hash poppies”.

Even with a language barrier, I admired “Peter”.   Assimilation can’t be easy, especially since it seemed fairly obvious that he hadn’t been here all that long.  Different cultures take a hell of a lot of adaptation and courage.

Patience, too.

I drove off thinking about the reasons why he emigrated to Houston.  What were his motivations?   Was it nuclear hysteria?   Red-baiting?  Forced integration of school kids from Korea’s Northern and Southern extremities?  His anger over the unfair treatment of his native Korea on “M*A*S*H” reruns?    The devaluation of the Won?    Or did he just grow tired of the basic everyday insanity and problems that exist in the lives of those who call the 38th Parallel home?  Did he want a capitalistic based future and simply couldn’t see it ever unfolding in Korea?

He is to be admired.

This is precisely the reason why,  as I typed the last vestiges of this post wanting to be perverse and flippant,  I thought briefly about inserting a rather dated, but still fairly decent Adlai Stevenson/Korea joke right here, but nah.   A man like “Peter” deserves better.

So, that is what I shall give him.


The Language of Texas Cattle Ranching


The man that is Busby “Buzz” Owens is what you think of when you think of the classic Texas cattle rancher.

Sadly, the image we automatically conjure up has almost become a thing of the past. Today, the person who owns land and cattle in Texas has to be part cowboy, part businessman and certainly, part gutsy venture capitalist.

Owens is all that and more.

He’s a serious man. It’s obvious after meeting him that he rarely smiles and it safe to assume, he never laughs either. He is angry, too–that’s obvious. Nature and the economy haven’t been good to Owens and his ranching interests. His land has been in his family for four generations and he fears that, he’ll be forced to sell it. He’s got one son in Dallas with whom he wants to leave his land. Owens is doing everything he can in order to make that a reality, but it hasn’t been easy.

Physically, Owens is what we Texans call “a tall drink of water”–standing well over six feet in height. He’s thin, as is his gray hair. His skin is weathered by time.  It’s as tanned and leathery as the saddle he has mounted on his trusty steed, Boniface.

This is how I first meet Buzz Owens: he’s wearing his Stetson; his well-worn Tony Llama boots and he is on his horse.

It is textbook Texana at it’s best.

He tips his hat, slowly dismounts and asks me if I want to tour his property.

I accept his offer.

To fully survey his two thousand acre ranch in South Texas (I should mention here that Owens’ acreage is actually considered rather small by Texas standards) it requires a two ton pick up, a jeep and of course, Boniface.

On the day I was there to interview him about the state of ranching in Texas, we traveled the land in his truck. It’s late August in South Texas. It is very hot and outside it feels as though the Earth is angry. These are the days when living conditions in this part of the world are beyond inhospitable.

They can be lethal.

We traverse the rugged terrain in air conditioned comfort as Buzz regales me with tales about ranching back in the day. In the late seventies when times were good, he even used a small helicopter to help round up his herd which at the time, exceeded 300-head.

He spoke to me of the transient nature of ranching in the new millennium. I watched as the 71-year-old spoke…his eyes wincing  to emphasize certain points. There seemed to be an unintentional wistfulness to his voice. It told more about him then he probably wanted to reveal.

I knew immediately that over the years, change had been plentiful and apparently, painful for this old sodbuster.

In this part of the world, drought has always been a problem.

As a result, there were fantastic land prices that came and went; there were great cattle prices that came and went.

And that meant occasions of prosperity also came and went.

Oil had been discovered in the land surrounding around Owens, but over the years, several exploration teams had tried surveying and even drilling on his, but it never yielded a drop of oil. But land and cattle prices were always good as long as oil prices were solid.

But when the oil glut hit “the patch”, he suffered. He was forced to sell off more than a thousand acres of land in parcels and most of his cattle.

He now owns 11 cows, two bulls and a lot of land that isn’t being properly tended.

The bad times also cost him two marriages.

I could feel the blistering heat pour in as Owens rolled down the window of his truck to spit. “They was women only out for my money. When it left, so did they. Hell, I’m glad they’re gone”.

We rode for a while, not saying a word. The silence punctuated his sentence.

The drive was bumpy and when the front tires of the truck went over a rocky patch, I used that as an opportunity to ask Owens about illegal immigration and it’s effect on his ability to hire and keep ranch hands.

Like most Texas ranchers, the vaqueros he had hired over the years had all been from Mexico. They were here illegally, but Buzz says there were no better horsemen or cattle punchers on the planet. Over the years, as the economy forced him to sell off his land and cattle, he could no longer afford to pay them even the meager wages he had been paying them.

“I know I was breakin’ the law and such” says Owens. “But damned if it wasn’t a system that worked. And it did for years. Everybody did it. Besides, them guys needed to work and I needed them to work my land. Having them to help made all the difference. Now, I can’t get nobody to help..not for them kind of wages. Sometimes college boys from Laredo will work for me, but that’s only during the summer”.

Now Owns says, it’s a chore to keep illegals off his land. It’s proximity to the Texas/Mexico border—only 16 miles at the closest point—means that trespassing is constant. Owens resents it.

“It wasn’t like this before. They’re pests now, that’s what they are. They don’t wanna work for nothing, especially on the ranches. They used to, but things have changed. Now, they want to find work in the city, but they gotta travel across my land to get to San Antonio and points north. They steal and take and take and don’t care thing one about it. Again, I wanna stress–it wasn’t like that before”.

He winces again and slightly purses his lips before speaking again.

“They come walking through my land and I find old campfires and in drought conditions that’s so dangerous. I speak Spanish–you have to in these parts– and I’m constantly telling them to get off my land and calling the law on ’em but they out number the lawmen and those they do catch, they send back. But they’re back over here in few weeks”.

Owens’ land is dotted with man-made stock tanks. These are (for lack of a better word) ponds on his property used for the sole purpose of watering his livestock. They’re murky and stagnant and often used as places for the animals to stand in to cool off under the hot South Texas sun.

We approach one that’s near a clump of Mesquite trees.


As we drive up over a natural embankment and stop, we can see several men bending over the water. They’re obviously Mexican nationals–you can tell by their skin tone, the way they’re dressed and the fact that they’re on Owens’ land. They’re dipping their hands in the tank, filling them with water then drinking.

They don’t seem to be phased by the presence of the truck.

An angry Owens throws it in park and says, “Good Lord! There’s a few of ’em now!”

He opens the door, stands up halfway out of the truck and starts shouting. I open the passenger side window to listen. I speak Spanish.

In his excitement, Owens forgets and starts yelling in English, “Hey, don’t drink that water!!! It’s contaminated with cow manure and urine. Wild animals and livestock drink from that. It’ll make you sick. It could even kill you. Stop!!”

One of the men stops drinking…he looks up, his chin dripping with the squalid water, and he replies. “Soy Mexicano. No hablo Ingles y no quiero habla Ingles. No necessito hablar Ingles.

TRANSLATION: “I am a Mexican. I don’t speak English and I don’t want to speak English. I don’t have to speak English.”

Owens stood motionless; his withered left hand still gripping the top of the steering wheel for balance. I could see his knuckles whiten as he tightened his grip. I don’t know the man that Busby Owens is, but the bitter rancher I’ve come to know in the past hour, seemed to be getting angrier by the second.

Especially when the man shouted this back to him.

“Acabo de venir aquí ilegalmente de México. Estoy de aquí trabajar, mandar la espalda de dinero a mi familia en México. Yo me aprovecharé de asistencia médica libre, no paga los impuestos y tiene a muchos niños sin pagar un centavo y ellos serán en su mayor parte hijos que estarán con sus hijas. Al infierno con usted y con sus leyes estúpidas!”

TRANSLATION: “I just came here illegally from Mexico. I’m here to work, send the money back to my family in Mexico. I’ll take advantage of free health care, pay no taxes and have many children without paying a cent and they’ll be mostly sons who’ll be with your daughters. To hell with you and your stupid laws”.

Owens is silent for a minute. Then he shouts back, “Utilice ambos manos! Usted conseguira mas para beber en la manera!!

TRANSLATION:Use both hands! You’ll get more to drink that way!”

Busby “Buzz” Owens gets back in the truck and for the first time that day—probably for the first time in a long time—he cracks a smile and laughs.


What An Asshole


Nagin joke not funny to evacuees

Saturday, September 13th 2008, 10:53 PM

NEW ORLEANS:   Mayor Ray Nagin says he was only joking when he suggested that Hurricane Ike evacuees request a discount – the “Nagin special” – when they stay at New Orleans hotels.

But when evacuees got baffled looks from reservation clerks, some didn’t find it funny.

Nagin’s remark prompted a hotel association to send an e-mail urging business owners to make appropriate accommodations in the spirit of cooperation. Nagin said it was a joke and just “my attempt to lighten the mood.”

One Texas evacuee told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans that it “was not a joking matter when you’re running for your life.”


That’s right, make jokes and after everything Houston  and the state of Texas did for your piece of shit, corrupt, municipal oligarchy.  After Katrina, we lovingly, generously took in almost a quarter million of YOUR people- the ones you obviously didn’t care enough about to order a mandatory evacuation to get them out of a city surrounded by a system of levees that were inadequate at best.

This, in the face of a large, Category 3 hurricane.

And when it was over, WE fed them; WE housed them, WE comforted them, WE nursed them back to emotional and physical health while you played the blame game.

How utterly tactless and tasteless; then again, what really should I expect from a narcissist?  How dare he.  I am appalled by anything that comes out of this incompetent ingrate’s mouth.

Fuck you, Nagin.

Il Mondo Cane

What if it were a dog’s world along the border between Texas and Mexico????


“Mexicanines” would sneak across in search of better kibble. They’ve heard how workers can thrive on this side of the border.

It’s worth the hardships to arrive in this country.

They feel hounded by the shameful oligarchy that runs Mexico. The eight percent ruling class….a different and more rare breed of Mexican. We’re talking about the lighter skinned; light eyed descendants of Spanish conquistadors who run Mexico. They have the money and power while the dark-skinned Mestizos; the mixed ethnicity…usually some Spanish blood mixed with dark skinned farming Indians are the ones they employ as domestics and laborers. A caste system exists in Mexico that rivals anything in India. Interestingly enough, the Meztisos out number the wealthy exponentially.

Perhaps, they’re not out-numbered as much as they’re out-manned and this has them tired of sitting up and begging.

And that’s why they come here. They do so to escape the hard, social dichotomy in Mexico. This need to survive and thrive is what makes them tick. It’s why they flea their country.

How do they do it? It’s a tragic tail, really. They travel by night and sleep in thrown together pup tents. And even though U.S. Border Collie Patrol agents make every attempt to catch them, doing so would be extremely difficult. Mexicanines always travel in packs. Agents would be overwhelmed by their own dogged attempts to uphold border law.

The gravity of the situation gives one paws.

Government officials and politicians wouldn’t throw the agents a bone either. That is of course, only if the politicians are properly vetted. And if they are, you can be sure their attacks regarding the controversy surrounding illegal immigration would be nothing short of rabid. They’d only end up rubbing the agents’ noses in it.

But these Mexicanines still stream into the country. And they’re here illegally; they’re undogumented. No tags; no papers to go on.


I think I’ll end this now before these puns even make me sick……



as a dog.


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