David Smith Terry was truly a man of his time and place – Texas and California in the early to mid-19th century. He possessed a large portion of the same intelligence, ambition, and physical courage which distinguished many of his contemporaries, as young men in tumultuous times. Alas, such qualities were offset by a pig-headed conviction of his own righteousness, a boiling-hot temper readily provoked to violence, and one more weakness, which would eventually prove fatal to David Smith Terry; he was all too ready to act on impulse without regard for consequence.
He was of a generation born into a relatively new country, with no memory of colonial rule by Britain, or the revolution itself, save perhaps for passed-down recollections of his maternal and paternal grandfathers, who had both fought in it with distinction. David S. Terry was the second of four sons of Clinton Terry and Sarah Smith Terry. The Terry marriage does not appear to have been a particularly successful one; they separated in 1835, when David Terry would have been about eight years old. Sarah Terry must have been a woman of spirit and determination, for she moved with her four sons to Texas in that same year, apparently hoping to retrieve some portion of respectability and income which had been lost through her husband’s mismanagement – mismanagement which must have been on a fairly epic scale to leave her in possession of their remaining property and custody of their sons. She and her sons established a plantation west of the present-day city of Houston, where they planted cotton and waited for prosperity to bless them once more. Instead, Sarah Terry died, shortly thereafter, leaving her sons – the oldest, Benjamin being fifteen, and David thirteen – essentially orphaned in the war and rebellion which followed.

David, large for his age and already impetuous, enlisted in Sam Houston’s army of Texans at Gonzales, following the fall of the Alamo. Reputedly, he fought at San Jacinto with considerable distinction. When Texas won a shaky independence by Houston’s victory, David S. Terry returned home to the cotton plantation – but not for long. He took up the study of law in the office of a relative by marriage, was admitted to the bar and practiced in Galveston for some years. He was described as a tall, handsome gentleman, solidly built, with steel-grey eyes under heavy brows, and sandy hair brushed back from a high forehead. He sported chin-whiskers but no mustache. Naturally rather reserved, he could be animated in conversation when the topic interested him, and very good company. He identified passionately as a man of Southern sympathies and as a Texan; to that end, he usually carried a sheathed hunting knife of the design made popular by Jim Bowie.

He went soldiering again, in the Mexican-American war, serving in Colonel Jack Hays’ regiment of Rangers. He participated in the battle before Monterrey, and upon returning to Galveston at the end of that war, became interested in politics. In 1847, he ran for the office of district attorney for Galveston and lost. This defeat may have been felt in a stinging fashion; two years later, he joined together with some of his Ranger comrades and followed the Gold Rush to California. He tried gold-mining for a brief time, didn’t care for the experience, (as did most men with a more readily-profitable trade who did not immediately strike it rich) and set up practicing as a lawyer again in Stockton, California. There he dabbled in running for local office, this time as mayor. Just as before, in Galveston, he was defeated, and thereafter for a time returned to the practice of law. He prospered sufficiently over the next few years that he could afford to return east and marry a distant cousin-by-marriage, a Miss Cornelia Runnels. She was educated, well-mannered; the perfect gentle Southern belle, twenty-three to her husband’s twenty-seven. She is supposed to have influenced him greatly, and as the decade progressed, David Smith Terry went from success to success. Sadly, of their six children – all sons – only three survived to adulthood; of those, one died as a teenager in a hunting accident and the other at the age of thirty or so.

As for David S. Terry’s professional prospects, in 1855 the laurels of high political office finally descended on his noble brow in the form of a position on the California Supreme Court. But controversy dogged his footsteps; in a tense interlude during San Francisco’s second bout of organized Vigilante activity, he lost his temper. He was not a supporter of the Vigilance Committee, which had been created by otherwise sober and law-abiding citizens in the wake of what appeared to be flagrant abuse of the law by elected and appointed authorities. Being one of those elected and appointed authorities – although personally incorruptible – Judge Terry did not approve of other parties interfering. An altercation ensued, when he and others who objected to amateurs taking the law into their own hands paid a visit on the Vigilance Committee. When a posse of Vigilance Committee members led by Sterling Hopkins attempted to arrest two members of Judge Terry’s group, Judge Terry most intemperately stabbed Hopkins in the throat with his Bowie knife. Arrested in turn himself, he must have had a nervous couple of days, waiting to hear if Sterling Hopkins’ wounds were mortal. Fortunately for both men – they were not. Alas, in coming years, Judge Terry’s temper remained as uncontrolled as ever.

The matter of slavery – whether it was to be allowed in prospective new states of the Union and under what conditions if any – roiled California every bit as deeply and violently as it did elsewhere. There, the established Democrat party in California split into pro and anti-slavery factions. Not entirely unexpectedly given his origins and background, Judge Terry was vociferously on the pro-slavery side. Given that, and his intemperate nature, he was bound to clash with the anti-slavery side, personalized by his former friend and now US Senator David C. Broderick. Inflammatory accusations were exchanged, deep offense was taken … and a formal duel agreed on by the aggrieved parties. On September 12, 1859, they met in a place which is now a city park, but which then was outside San Francisco’s city limits. Judge Terry won the coin toss, allowing him to select a set of dueling pistols … which had hair triggers. Supposedly, Senator Broderick was warned of this by the neutral party who examined the pistols – but as the two men squared off, Broderick’s pistol accidently discharged. This left Judge Terry to take his own sweet time in taking aim at Broderick.
Mortally wounded, Senator Broderick fell; he died three days later – a martyr to the anti-slavery cause. Judge Terry was charged, but acquitted. His career in public office – although not his profession as a lawyer – being pretty well trashed, in the eyes of indignant anti-slavery partisans and perhaps those who disapproved of dueling, or of a duelist taking savage and unsporting advantage of a hair-trigger misfire – remained relatively untarnished. He returned to that practice for a time, but on the outbreak of the Civil War, picked up his sometime occupation as a soldier, in which practice an affinity for dealing out sudden fatal violence was – if not more acceptable – conceded to be more generally useful.

Returning to Texas, he proceeded to join the Confederate Army – for which his older brother Benjamin had raised a swashbuckling cavalry regiment official known as the 8th Texas Cavalry, and popularly as Terry’s Texas Rangers, which served valiantly throughout the war in the west of the Appalachian theater. Benjamin Terry was killed in nearly their first skirmish, late in 1861, another Terry brother perished at Shiloh and David Terry was wounded at Chickamauga. He finished the war as a colonel, lay low for a time in Mexico, as did certain other die-hard Confederates … but in 1865, he returned to California and the practice of law as if nothing had ever happened. Time and experience appeared to have chastened him, or at least taught him to rein in the temper, for by the end of a decade after his return, he was a respected member of the California Constitutional Convention, revising the original state constitution.

And then, fate played the femme fatale card on David Terry, jurist, judge, colonel of cavalry and man of the world. He took on a client of the type usually termed as an ‘adventuress’ in the 19th century and a gold-digger in the early 20th, terms which usually hint at a degree of daring and amorality – a woman bent on playing high-stakes poker in the grand game of life. She was Sarah Althea Hill, an orphan of a respectable and prosperous family in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In 1871, when she was twenty-one, Sarah Althea and her older brother came to San Francisco to live with relatives. Sarah, in the parlance of the time, was ‘fast’ and in the next decade, she burned through the inheritance from her parents of $20,000 dollars. (From modern calculations, this would have been anywhere from a quarter to over half a million.) Sometime around 1880, Sarah Althea made the acquaintance of a very, very rich man – William Sharon, a ‘49er, financier, silver-mine magnate, real-estate tycoon, hotelier, and for two terms, US Senator representing Nevada. He was at that time in his sixties, a widower … and as noted, filthy rich. They became attached, to which precise degree became a matter for spectacular and scandalous legal wrangling in various courts for the next five years.

Seriously, the courtroom antics would have made a spectacularly tacky real-world TV series, beginning when Sarah Althea Hall had William Sharon arrested on charges of adultery, and proceeded to sue him for divorce, demanding alimony and a generous share of his property due her as an aggrieved ex-spouse. The resulting legal wrangling enthralled the readers of tabloids across the nation. Sarah Althea insisted they had been secretly married and she had a signed contract to prove it – secrecy necessary because he was running for reelection at the time, and wished to keep it all quiet lest his other mistress hear about it and create an embarrassing scandal. William Sharon insisted, indignantly, that Sarah Althea had merely been his generously compensated mistress and any such contract alluding to a marriage between them was a forgery. After a year of bitter legal wrangling, a judge ruled in favor of Sarah Althea, declaring her to have been William Sharon’s legal wife, and to have a right to such of his wealth accumulated since their presumed marriage. Coincidentally, Cornelia Terry, David Terry’s long-suffering wife died at the same time.

The appeals and countersuits commenced immediately, continued by William Sharon’s son and son-in-law after his death a year after the judgement. Meanwhile, the presumed Mrs. Sharon married her now-widowed and very much older lawyer, and together they zestfully embarked on another round of legal hearings on whether William Sharon and Sarah Althea Hill had been truly and legally man and wife … only the next time, the circuit judge hearing the case – Associate Justice Stephen Johnson Field, of the US Supreme Court – appeared distinctly unsympathetic. Sarah Althea, in a breach of court etiquette, loudly accused Judge Field of having been “bought” by the Sharon interests in the case. A fracas ensued, with David Terry drawing his Bowie knife in her defense. Both Terrys scuffled with US marshals, were forcibly removed from the courtroom, arrested and slapped with jail sentences by Judge Field, who thereafter earned the bitter enmity of the pair. The threats against him by the Terrys were taken so seriously, that when next Judge Field ventured to California in the late summer of 1889, he was accompanied by a US marshal as his dedicated body-guard.
Whether it was coincidental or not, Judge Field and his body-guard, David Neagle, were traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco train, on August 14th, 1889. Coincidentally, the Terrys had also boarded that train, somewhere along the way. When the train stopped for breakfast at the station restaurant in Lathrop (a town a little south of Stockton), the Terrys discovered the presence of the judge … although perhaps not his bodyguard; a fatal omission, considering subsequent events. But given the hot and irrational tempers displayed throughout the lives of both David Terry and Sarah Althea, this was absolutely guaranteed not to end well or without bloodshed. David Terry approached Judge Field, peacefully eating breakfast, and without warning, slapped him across the face.

Marshal Neagle – who had previously been a town marshal and deputy sheriff in the rowdy municipality of Tombstone, Arizona, during it’s the wildest and most wooly stage – leapt to his feet and drew his own weapon as David Terry reached inside his own coat. Marshal Neagle shot David Terry twice – dropping the former judge dead in the middle of the railroad restaurant. So ended the life of a man who otherwise might have been better known for nobler things – save that he had a wicked and impulsive temper, and fell for a woman who had even more problems with violence and impulse-control than his own.

The post-script? There was a resulting US Supreme Court case, which decided that yes, the Attorney Genera of the US did have the authority to appoint US Marshals as bodyguards to Supreme Court Justices. Sarah Althea Hill (Sharon) Terry – who it might be inferred – had substantial mental health issues, was eventually confined to an institution, where she died of natural causes some forty years later. She was buried in the Terry family plot, in a cemetery in Stockton, California. A granddaughter of David S. Terry came forward and approved, at the time of her death.

This last weekend, I overheard two of the volunteers at the New Braunfels Weihnachtsmarkt commiserating on how the last two months of the year seem to go on rocket-powered skates. For them, the last two months of the year are spent sequentially at Wurstfest, early in November; at Weihnachtsmarkt in mid-November; Thanksgiving, which slaughters the last of the month, along with Christmas shopping in other venues firing up with a roar, then Christmas… This demolishes pretty much all of December, until one emerges in the New Year, exhausted, partied-out, gifted-out, volunteered-out, and with one’s checking account sobbing for mercy.

Fellow Texas indy author CM Bratton setting up in New Braunfels.

Fellow Texas indy author CM Bratton setting up in New Braunfels.

This is pretty much what Blondie and I will be doing, in support of my books and her origami and beading – and origami-plus-beading art – although we will have a short break over this week’s Thanksgiving break. This we will spend, sorting out the fence between ourselves and our neighbor to the immediate south, as the fence posts along that property line have disintegrated to the point where there is actually no connection at about soil-level between the concrete and the posts which supposedly uphold the fence. This is the stretch of fence that I replaced myself in about 2002 or 2003, over the Thanksgiving weekend, since the bulk trash pick-up in my fair city was conveniently scheduled for the week following …

Where was I? Oh, yes – the schedule and last weekend … they had decorated the hall through the Convention Center with seasonal arches, all lighted and seasonally adorned, and moved the Santa venue to one of the conference rooms adjacent to where I thought would be prime spot to have a table … alas, it would have only worked for someone having strictly children’s books of the ‘large picture and simple word’ style … although I did sell a set of Quivera Trail/Steel Roads to the energetically costumed couple who were doing St. Nicholas and Mrs. St. Nicholas for the entire weekend. I did OK with my books over the two days, but not so thick a traffic with the new releases as we had hoped. A number of sets of The Adelsverein Trilogy – which practically sold us out … but not so many of the new books as we had hoped, based on previous years. Blondie speculates that perhaps we have tapped-out the market in New Braunfels for a while.

So – on to the next events; Goliad with Christmas on the Square – which I love purely because that event is so small-town local. I’ve been coming back to it and back to it again; it’s a goodish drive, and on that one year that it was murderously cold, I didn’t sell a single book – but still. Much of the inspiration for Chronicles of Luna City came from stories that we heard there, or things we saw – like the lovely classic courthouse square. That will be Saturday, December 5th. Then, the following Sunday afternoon, it’s Chocolate and Santa at La Escondida Celebration Center in Helotes. The weekend after that – the 19th and 20th, back to Boerne Town Square for the Cowboy Christmas Market … and then we likely will collapse for the rest of the year, completely exhausted.

But then … I have to get cracking on finishing The Golden Road – the adventures of a wide-eyed teenaged Fredi Steinmetz in California during the gold rush. And more stories for another collection of Lone Star Sons, and yet more for Luna City.

Add me to a relatively short list of people on social media who are not making any particular gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the people of France who have been whammed for the second time in a year by the bloody-minded foot-soldiers of Islam. It’s not that I don’t care, and that I don’t feel the least shred of human sympathy for those people who went out for a drink and a good meal at a popular restaurant, a raucous rock concert, a soccer game, and then had their lives changed forever – if not ended entirely. It’s just that at this particular point in time, I am a bit tired of making easy feel-good, symbolic gestures about Islamic terrorism. Once you’ve made them … then, what for a follow-up?

I’ve so been to this rodeo before. 9-11. Beslan. The train bombings in Madrid. The bus bombings in London. The slaughter in the streets of Mumbai, and at the Boston Marathon finishing line. Westgate Mall. The murder of staff members of Charlie Hebdo, and the Jewish supermarket in Paris. Intifada without end in Israel. Und so weiter. I won’t even start on the list of bombings and slaughters across the Middle East; merely observe in passing that in those circumstances the usual Muslim suspects are slaughtering each other, rather than doing the business to outsiders.

The only thing more inevitable than the candle-light vigils, the moments of silence and the mounds of flowers piled up at the sites are the lamentations from the Muslim communities about the never-yet materialized anti-Muslim backlash. There comes a point where one gets tired of it all, of doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. There is a lack of seriousness about the problem of deliberate Islamic aggression in Western countries; an unwillingness to defend those values we have developed – sometimes painfully – over a long time; values such as freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry, a separation between the state and religion, a rule of law and not of the mob – one law, applied equally across class, race and sexual divides – and an unfettered press. This lack of serious intent is perhaps more marked in Western Europe, as it appears from various sources. The various no-go areas common to French metropolitan areas are not so firmly established in the US yet, and the mass sexual trafficking of vulnerable young women by Muslim men so recently demonstrated in places like Rotherham, England appears to have been landed on like a ton of bricks by civil authorities in the US. We are not – yet – being swamped by thousands of Middle Eastern faux-refugees arriving daily, as is happening in Germany.

But Beslan, Mumbai, Westgate, Charlie Hebdo … it will happen here, and probably sooner than later. Not all the candle-light vigils, moments of silence, and sorrowful hashtags and logos will prevent it. Only determination on the part of individuals and our leaders to do the difficult, the harsh and the necessary will do that.

This was a lovely and profitable Saturday in Bulverde, where we had a table (actually a pair of tables facing in opposite directions in the center of one of the exhibit halls in the Community Center) for the first event on our season of book and craft market events. This is the first on our schedule for this season, which will see us on most weekends until Christmas. Last year at this event was … eh, not very promising at all, but this time around – yes. My daughter had a nice round of sales for her origami-based and bead-weaving based adornments, which she had at a fairly reasonable and appealing price.

The sad thing was – we went up to Bulverde late Saturday afternoon to set up, since her stock in trade is kind of finicky to put on display, we spent a while at it – and returned home and to internet access to hear all about the Moslem terrorist strikes in Paris. Yes, I said it – Moslem Terrorists. Terrorists – deal with it. In the 1980s, I lived with the possibilities of anti-American terrorism in Greece – around the corner always; assassinations, explosions, sudden random gunfire, sabotage and all that. These are on the schedule to be happening here, apparently, if the loonies of ISIS/ISIL are to be believed. Whether they can pull off something like that here in Texas … well, it didn’t end at all well for the pair of Moslem loonies who tried to shoot up the Draw Mohammed contest in Garland. They didn’t make it past security at the pull-in for the parking lot. Never assume that you will out-gun the locals at an art show in Texas.

The show itself proved to be a pretty good day for us both; I suspect that my daughter has now shown up at enough of these local shows to attract repeat attention. Her origami earrings and beaded bracelets are original, and rather reasonably priced … a perfect, inexpensive, original and charming gift, something that a teenager can afford to purchase with pocket money. This was also my first outing with print copies of Sunset and Steel Rails, which went also very well. So did Quivera Trail, saleswise. Here is hoping that this particular event is a good omen for the next few. We have added an event the second weekend in December in Helotes, which will be a new one for both of us. Next Friday and Saturday, I’ll be bringing more copies of Sunset & Steel Rails, and the first shipment of Chronicles of Luna City to the New Braunfels Convention Center – so, hope to see you there.

(This is another short essay about the mostly mythical South Texas town of Luna City … which Blondie and I have created together. We have a website for Luna City — here, and the first book about it is upon Amazon, here. Official release date is November 12. This is my tenth book in ten years. Yay, me! And WHERE has the time gone?)

Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid career in the Army in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. But he is the exception; mostly, Lunaites have served a single hitch, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.
The oldest veterans among present-day Lunaites are from the Big One – World War Two, although that number has diminished to a handful in recent years. Doc Wyler, who served in the Army Air Corps is the most notable representative of that cohort. Miss Letty’s late brother Douglas McAllister, the eminent historian, was also in the Army Air Corps, and Miss Letty herself served in the European theater as a Red Cross volunteer. The greater portion of the Luna City VFW post, though, are of Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, with a younger cohort – including Joe Vaughn and Chris Mayall – having served in various capacities in more recent operations in the Middle East.
There is not much need in Luna City for very elaborate observances of Veteran’s Day; flowers and wreaths appear on the steps of the pale obelisk in Town Square which is the war memorial. The Abernathys’ display window has a pair of American flags with the staffs crossed, over a large vase of red, white, and blue artificial flowers, and a fan of those magnets shaped like loops of yellow ribbon with various patriotic and veteran-supporting mottoes on them. The notice boards outside of the various churches make respectful note of the day … but in the main, the most notable civic event marking the eleventh day of the eleventh month is the late afternoon BBQ at the VFW post. This is more of an open pot-luck; the VFW members pass the hat for the purchase of brisket, pork roasts, sausages and chicken quarters … and everyone else brings salads, bread, chips, and relishes. The bar has been well-stocked with beer and soft drinks for weeks. The weather is usually mild – neither hot or cold, although rain has threatened in some years – so the party spills out from the clubhouse, out onto the paved patio under the trees which line the riverbank. The air is rich with the good smells of roasting meats slathered with the spicy sauce provided by Pryor’s Good Meats BBQ. The veterans and their families nibble on a bit of this and that, as they reminisce and gossip. Sometimes someone works up an impromptu flag football game, played on the mown grass out in back of the Tip Top which sometimes serves as an overflow parking lot during Founder’s Day, six weeks before.
The only thing which might strike a casual visitor as curious is that table set up in the corner with a plate and silverware for one, a beer mug empty and turned upside down, even as unopened bottles of beer accumulate during the afternoon and evening. There is a small square of black fabric draping this table, which is centered underneath the POW/MIA banner which hangs on the wall – the table set for those who are not able to return to Luna City for the Veteran’s Day BBQ at the VFW. Their friends buy them a beer, though. By unspoken understanding, the money paid for those beers goes into a gallon glass jar which once contained pickle relish … and at the end of the evening the cans and bottles lined up on the black-draped table are put back into the storeroom. The day after the BBQ, the money in the pickle relish jar is forwarded to a military charity which sends comforts to those troops deployed overseas.
And that is Veteran’s Day in Luna City.

08. November 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Memoir, My Head Hurts, Rant · Tags:

… when I used to be a feminist, and proud to think of myself as such. This was back at the time that I was a teenager, and being a feminist meant you earnestly believed that women ought to have the same opportunities for education, professional advancement, credit for personal and business purposes, and perhaps to be seen by a female ob-gyn, and generally have a wider range of choices when it came to what you wanted to do with your life. Even then the bra-burning drama and other minor theatrics seemed kind of pointless. Back in the day, as now, bras were expensive … and unless one had prepubescent-sized breasts, it was uncomfortable to go without!

Seriously – when I was a teenager and looking at my prospective life, – the feminism of that day appeared to be about having interesting and fulfilling alternatives in life. Believe me, Granny Dodie was shoving me energetically in the traditional direction of inevitable marriage to some nice guy I met in college or *shudder* high school, since she and her contemporaries had bragging rights over the quantity and accomplishments of their respective great-grandchildren and she and Grandpa Alf weren’t getting any younger, and the little girl across the street whom I used to play with when I came to visit them, why she got married at 18 and had a baby already! It was the lockstep nature of it all, that put me off, more than anything. Because I wanted some adventure, first.

There were only a couple of respectably acceptable professional options, unless one was totally driven, unusually talented, and single-minded, to boot. There was being a nurse: Guh! I hated scrubbing the bathroom, the sight and smell of vomit made me heave … seriously, I think I learned what I did then about nursing was all from reading Cherry Ames, Student Nurse, and I most definitely didn’t want any part of that. Then there was being an elementary school teacher; nope, I knew that I definitely did not have the patience – or the toleration for idiocy that was required even then, in those college programs dedicated to turning out education majors. Secretary … no, no, a thousand times no. (Although I did eventually put in a few years as an ‘admin assistant, which is what they now call what used to be an executive secretary.) I could type fairly well, but learning Gregg shorthand? Might as well learn Morse code and be done with it. There was also the glamorous occupation of being a stewardess … but I had as much affinity for glamor as I did for vomit.

So – the feminism of the 1960s and 1970s opened up a whole new and gloriously adventurous choice of professional occupations to us, and ones in which a woman would not just be the only one, or the only one of two or three in any particular profession, or class, or office. When I first went to military journalism/broadcaster school, there were three women in my class of about forty. By the time I departed the military, I had been told that the journalism/broadcaster courses were running about fifty-fifty. Quite a good few of the women I knew in my first hitch were the first, or maybe the second women in their various military specialties, since all but a handful of the most direct combat related fields had been opened up to anyone – male or female – who could meet the physical requirements and score high enough on the ASVAB to qualify. It was a great time to be a feminist; the big battles for acceptance, for educational and economic quality had been fought and won, and women of my age could enjoy the fruits of victory.

And then feminism … or those females wholly identifying themselves as professional feminist activists developed a serious case of boredom, or maybe shriveled, bitter little man-hating and resentful souls, perhaps upon discovering that all the big fights had been won already – and in some cases, won quite a while ago. The so-called feminist intellectuals discovered that busy women, reveling in those new opportunities, those new-to-them professions, or perhaps even just reveling in being able to choose freely to be wives and mothers … didn’t always toe the line of acceptable feminist thought. I began to note – yes, I did subscribe to MS Magazine – that the editorial voice, and that of the contributing writers was increasingly snotty, exclusive and doctrinaire … it was as if you weren’t really a feminist in good standing unless you were a vegetarian, single-mother, a liberal, employed in the academic world, and for extra points, a lesbian of some color or other. For me, this reached an absolute nadir with the rubbishing of Sarah Palin by the establishment feminists; a woman who combined a successful marriage, active in her husband’s business, and launched a political career starting locally and moving up to the level of state governor without being the spouse or spawn of an establishment politician was just not a good feminist for the professional activists – whose snobbery was nearly as vicious as their calculated scorn? That was about the final straw for me.

And now, we have the current crop of pathetic professional feminists; whining about guys looking at them, clumsily trying to flirt with them, making mildly risqué jokes between themselves, or wearing shirts with pictures of classic science fiction babes with blasters on it, complaining about near-to-invisible micro-aggressions, re-defining bad and later-regretted sex as rape, and about how a Catholic University not funding birth control is just the most unjust thing evah! Put a fork into current feminism, it’s done already.
Seriously, sometimes reading the latest blatherings of what the special feminist snowflakes complain about is to wonder if they don’t really want to go straight back to some neo-Victorian sheltered bubble, where their sensibilities are as delicate as blown-glass Christmas ornaments, and there is never a harsh word spoken. Those 19th and early 20th century women who campaigned for women’s rights are probably revolving in their graves so rapidly that you could generate electricity from them at the antics of these whining, passive-aggressive and vindictive spoiled children.

My two books for the year are done – both the historical adventure, and the contemporary romp. (Two in the space of a year? Haven’t come close to that since the Adelsverein Trilogy, which was three separate books – but one single narrative – done in the space of two years, research, writing and all.) Now comes the hard graft of putting the two out in front of the reading public, via the usual internet publicity methods, and in doing Christmas market events in various small towns, and somewhat larger towns in the neighborhood of San Antonio.

Yes – writing the book is just half the job. The other half is the marketing thereof – which starts next weekend with a craft fair at the Community Activity Center in Bulverde, Texas, followed on the next weekend with the Christmas market – Weihnachtsmarkt – in New Braunfels. Weihnachtsmarkt is staged in the New Braunfels Civic Center every year as a benefit for the Sophienburg Museum and Archives. A good few years ago, they began setting up for local authors in the long hallway which leads from front to back of the Conference Center. And it’s indoors, and the tables are supplied … although, my daughter has been saying lately that if I write any more books, I will have to start getting two tables … or even buy a floor stand to display the books, and flyers and postcards about my books on. With Sunset and Steel Rails and The Chronicles of Luna City, and that doesn’t even count the German edition of Adelsverein: The Gathering, the hard-bound all-in-one volume of the Trilogy, or that first harmless little family memoir, assembled from early blog-posts and published through Booklocker in …(hastily checking copyright page of Our Grandpa Was an Alien) … 2004? Wow! Time does fly when you are having fun.

Ten books in ten years. That’s the same rate achieved by some of the professionals, although there were scribblers of pulp fiction who managed even more than that. Still, at this point in the game, every one of my books – even the YA adventure collection of Lone Star Sons, and the comic narrative set in contemporary small-town Texas – is an advertisement for all the others, historical fiction-romance-western, call them what you well.

And with that – off to work up promotional flyers for the market events. The work, as it says on those comic office signs, isn’t over until the paperwork is done …

I know that I have not been posting much lately – here or anywhere else lately; just the bare minimum of commenting on other people’s posts and other people’s blogs and websites, but I had a couple of projects for the Tiny Publishing Bidness to work on, and then the two major projects to finish, format and upload to various platforms. Yes, I decided to go all-out and finish two books in time for the Christmas marketing season this year. Amazingly, neither one was the one that I had declared at the beginning of the year that I would have all done and ready to launch by this time  … yes, the adventures of young Fredi Steinmetz in Gold Rush-era California is rolled back another year. Sigh. I still have to do an epic-truck-load of reading of contemporary accounts and skull out a plot sufficient and historically-accurate to fill the last half of the book; which so far in my head will include a stint in San Francisco the year of the epically well-organized Vigilante organization, encounters with various historic personages, to include William T. Sherman, Lotta Crabtree and her formidable mother, some murderous claim-jumpers and a young woman seeking justice – while disguised as a boy. So, yes I will get on to that presently. After all The Quivera Trail was held at a third completed while I worked on Daughter of Texas and Deep in the Heart, and it didn’t seem to do any harm in the long-run.

So – the Harvey Girl adventure, Sunset and Steel Rails is done and ready for release on the 19th, in print and in Kindle. Amazon is dragging their feet apparently, in expediting the ‘Look-Inside’ feature. It isn’t up at present, but it should be in the next couple of days. Not bad, for something that I only got inspired to start in February of this year.  But The Chronicles of Luna City is a light and amusing present-day trifle which my daughter and I only got started on at the end of July – and here it is November, and that book is done and nearly finalized as well.  Three months, and just 70,000 words (but with pictures!) which is short for me, as most of the other books run 125,000 and up. (Although Lone Star Sons pegged in at 65,000.) There was one of the professional pulp adventure fiction writers – whose name escapes me at the moment – who was said to have done a book a month at one point in his career. Don’t know what the total word count was on any of them, but he must have worked in a white-hot blaze of energy … and Luna City is a light and diverting trifle, requiring very little research. Well, except for looking up restaurant equipment, and the names of obscure British TV series of the 1980s, and making certain that there aren’t any real companies with the same names of companies that I have mentioned in Luna City. Movie production companies really go for the obscure, I have to say. Had to nix six or seven possible names because there is a real production company out in the world with the name of something I thought would work for a movie production company. Luna City is pure contemporary escapism, utterly devoid of any redeeming social value in the eyes of the established guardians of our high literary culture … which I believe a lot of us have a need of these days, given how particularly screwed up, violent, and depressing real life seems to be, lately. (Oh, Established Guardians of our High Literary Culture? Yoo-hoo … over here! Now, gaze lovingly upon my upraised middle finger!)

So, light blogging will commence, now that all the hard labor of writing, editing, formatting and polishing have been done. Did you miss me?

Berthold Brecht’s bitterly satiric poem “The Solution” has now and again been quoted here, usually in regard to some towering idiocy on the part of a government given to complaining about a lack of support among citizens for some particular national objective. Note that I specified citizens in the once-commonly-accepted American sense, and not the citizens-as-subjects in the European sense, which seems to imply that the ordinary people of a particular nation are there merely to serve as a kind of sheep to be sheared economically, or as metaphorical cannon-fodder to be marshaled up and flung to the front of whatever national objective that the national ruling class has ruled must be the focus of the effort of the moment.

After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Nasty old Commie that he was, he did have a way with words. The irony in this is so thick that I am surprised that it hasn’t coagulated, and dropped all the way through to the center of the earth. And it is only ironic – again – that Germany’s ruling class (analogous to our very own unholy alliance among elected politicians, the bureaucracy, the intellectual and media elite) appear to have decided to take the opportunity of unrest in the Middle East, to dissolve the people and elect another, welcoming them in with balloons, banners and stuffed toys.

Yep, opening the doors to any refugee with the energy and wherewithal to flood into Germany, that will likely end well. Note that only a few of them appear to be genuine refugees from the Syrian civil war. Note to, in contrast to the pictures of innocent, doe-eyed children and their mothers plastered across the main-stream media outlets, those pictures of the refugees in mass appear to consist largely of men. Young men of military-service age, pretty fit-looking, and nicely dressed, at that. I can’t pretend to know what Angela Merkel was thinking when she opened the floodgates and seemingly expected ordinary Germans to cooperate when her government seems to favor the newcomers at the expense of ordinary citizens … evicting long-time residents from rental apartments so that refugees can be parked there? Coopting school-children as volunteers to help feed and clean up after refugees in railway stations and refugee centers? Demanding that ordinary Germans – whose devotion to order, cleanliness and quiet is legendary – stand by and submit while public spaces are trashed, and women are sexually-harassed or worse? And never mind the almost certain possibility that ISIS/ISIL terrorists have slipped into Europe along with the refugees.

No, this will not end well, especially as the ordinary German citizens, (and British, French, Danish, Dutch, Italian and Swedish, just to name a few) begin to feel the bite of having been dissolved by their ruling classes in favor of economic and political refugees from the Middle East. The Camp of the Saints may be the best-case scenario – the worst would be Caliphate. Discuss.

18. October 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: General

I had it in mind this weekend to go out to a local event that I was always very fond of, especially when I was trekking out to the Medical Center area every Saturday for a shift at San Antonio’s public radio station. (Yeah, they got a new manager some years ago, and fired all the local part-timers – but eh … at the time I was getting rather tired of being locked into a schedule which pretty much put a kibosh on doing anything much on a Saturday … and anyway. Never mind. Old story.)
The local event that I was fond of was a fall herb market, held under the oak trees and in the pavilion at Aggie Park, at West and 410. Loved it, once I discovered it almost accidentally – and budgeted money to spend at it, for there were venders galore; local farms selling a dazzling array of potted herbs – in every format from seeds, through 2-inch pots, to arrangements in bigger pots, to small trees. I got the bay tree which adorns the front yard (and is about twenty feet tall now) at the herb market, when it was a mere tadpole of a bay sprout in a very small pot, also the indestructible Key lime sapling in a 2-gallon pot which was carefully inserted into the back of the VEV with the aid of one of the volunteers detailed to assist shoppers – hey, that sucker has thorns ALL OVER IT! I set aside money in the household budget to pay for indulging myself at the Herb Fair, usually counted on blowing at least $25, sometimes more if circumstances permitted.

One of the historic buildings at the Pearl

One of the historic buildings at the Pearl

There were a multiplicity of venders at Aggie Park then, with live potted seedling-plants of just about everything herbal and legal you could grow in a garden in Texas at very reasonable prices, plus dozens more selling stuff made from those herbs; soaps, and potpourri, candles and room-spray, and at least one vendor selling wrought-iron baskets, garden ornaments and stands.
And a few years ago, they moved the venue to the grounds of the Pearl Brewery, where it happened in conjunction with the weekly farmer’s market. Well, OK then – the lawns and shade under the oak trees at Aggie Park, swapped for a bare parking lot in front of the Whole Goods building. Many of the same familiar vendors appeared in the new venue … so when I heard an announcement that the Herb Market was this weekend, I had no expectation of much having changed on schlepping down to the Pearl complex, looking for a wide array of small pots of herbs, just the sort to cherish over the next expected winter.
But it had. It’s nice that the Pearl complex has thrived, extended, and there are even more tall apartment buildings going up. My ranch real estate friend tipped me the word a couple of years ago that
Dogs and diners in the park at the Pearl

Dogs and diners in the park at the Pearl

the development around the Pearl and the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk was a gamble at least as much as a labor of love … and apparently it is paying off. It’s a very pleasant urban space; pedestrian streets and squares, a salting of historic brewery buildings with the very modern; all kinds of upscale shops on the ground floor with apartments and lofts on the upper. It’s all very European – and on Saturdays when the farmers’ market is in full swing, very crowded. There is a campus of the Culinary Institute of America in one of the buildings, and some other coffee shops, and small restaurants, and it looked like a lot of the booths at the market were providing food. Quite a few people were eating at tables and benches in various park-like squares; lots of children in strollers and dogs on leashes … we took Nemo with us, and he being the friendly little terrier-mutt that he is – he had a grand and exhausting time, meeting new dog friends.

But as for vendors of herbs and garden stuff … there was almost nothing; if I hadn’t known about the event, I would have just thought it was just part of the regular farmer’s market. There was only one vendor that had a selection of herbs in 2-inch pots that interested me, and they didn’t process credit cards. So disappointing, as I would have spent twenty or thirty bucks at least. Compared to previous years – especially when still at Aggie Park – it was a pitiful showing. I wound up not buying anything at all, except a pound of fresh mushrooms from one of the regular vendors. We wondered if perhaps the table fees for vendors had increased to the point where it wasn’t worth the trouble. Perhaps the drought a couple of years ago which caused the closing of the local Antique Rose Emporium outlet affected other plant nurseries as well.

A society as huge and complex as the United States can run economically only on the basis of acceptance and trust. This has been true for so long it is no longer noticed, like the air. People accept the rules and generally follow them whether or not there is a policeman in attendance. …. All over the the land people go about their business secure that arrangements will be honored and carried out. A high-trust society is a low-cost society.

Wretchard, at the Belmont Club

Of all that has changed over the last decade in the general culture of the United States, I wonder if a widespread loss of trust in the political, media, intellectual and bureaucratic establishments is the most quietly catastrophic of all the damage done to our society of late. It is axiomatic that once trust in an individual, a friend or a spouse is lost, it can almost never be regained; one of those things which is easily, almost casually done, never to be completely repaired. I suspect that we will discover over the next few decades that the thinking and observing portion of our society will never regain that unthinking trust in our institutions, now that we have seen them become weaponized in open and politically partisan ways. We have observed the national news media become politically partisan, more intent on hiding matters of significance than informing the public about them. What doesn’t appear above the fold, so to speak, or even in the back pages is sometimes more revealing. And the hate for ordinary American citizens in flyover country, frequently expressed by those residents of the wealthy bicoastal enclaves has been mind-boggling. There are personalities who have been so casually offensive in this regard that I have made it a point to avoid patronizing with my pocketbook anything that they have had anything to do with. I suspect that I am not alone in this – it’s another element of that ‘cold anger’ that I wrote about some days ago. How has it come to be that the so-called ruling elite of a nation now appear to hold their fellow-citizens in such deep contempt? (This contempt has begun to be returned with interest of late, although the ruling elites are predictably mystified by such quiet demonstrations as in the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, the failure of certain lavishly promoted moves and TV shows, and heavily attended Tea Party rallies of a few years ago.)

My daughter has been watching old television series, on streaming video as she worked on various artistic projects for the upcoming Christmas bazaar season. This week’s choice was McGyver; over walking the doggles one morning she commented that two things about the show slightly boggled her mind; that the character didn’t have the internet (she kept thinking ‘Why didn’t he just google … oh. Never mind’) but the most striking feature was that government agencies like the EPA were seen as as benign, even competent and worthwhile. I did explain to her, how it used to be – how the EPA once did good work, or at least in the eyes of the general public, used to do good work. Other governmental agencies also used to be seen as the good guys … but not any more. Interfering, partisan, abusive busybodies, without much of a mission left, but more passionate and bullying in wielding authority of the crushing sort. When federal regulatory agencies established in-house SWAT teams on their table of organization marked the change from benign to malign.

One of the points that Wretchard makes in the essay linked above is that the low-trust state is fearfully inefficient, frequently corrupt and usually poor; energy that might be turned towards innovation, creation, building – is instead wasted, when a proportion of its’ subjects become enforcers, tirelessly surveilling, documenting, prosecuting and punishing the rest – who as a result spend their own creative energies into twisting, turning, evading and escaping that control. When nothing larger than a toy train layout in the basement can be done without a bribe or the influence of someone within the governing system, innovations and businesses are held down to being marginal, or illicit, and usually both. The nation keeps two sets of books, essentially; the official set and the black market set. Progress dies, strangled at birth, so to speak. Nothing moves, unless the State allows – because unapproved change will upset the comfortable establishment; that just can’t be permitted.

Obama is the man who promised that “…we are going to fundamentally transform America.” That certainly seems to have been accomplished. We still have some space for ourselves, of course. The shelves in the grocery store are still full, gas in Texas is at and around $2.00, Christmas and the local bazaar events are around the corner, our hens are laying, and the pantry is full, so there is cause for optimism.
But not much. Discuss.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

07. October 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Eat, Drink and be Merry

So, leafing – metaphorically speaking – through the video delights on offer through the Acorn video catalogue in search of something amusing to while away the evening after a day’s labor on various book projects, the most pressing of which is not my own, but a paid client – we came upon a two-part version from about ten years ago of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy. I suggested that we watch it, since I had a bout of Waugh fever about the time that I was in college upper division, in hot pursuit of that relatively useless degree in English. (But I enjoyed the pursuit very much on its own merits, not being one of those one-percenters with delusions of the diploma leading me author-matically into an lavishly paid gig anywhere in the academic or in the publishing establishment.)

Anyway, I had read a good few of Waugh’s books early on; liked Scoop – as vicious an evisceration of Big Media as it was in the 1930s as was ever set to page – and the first book of the Sword of Honor Trilogy, as a similarly bitterly cynical romp through the first years of WWII. The training year, the ‘Phony War’ year … when nothing much (aside from Nazi Germany overrunning Poland, the Low Countries, Norway and Denmark, and France) was happening. And then it all turned deadly serious, with which Waugh just didn’t seem able to cope. The seriousness of it all, I mean. Literary and serious observers, looking through their lorgnettes at current events sometimes have this difficulty, I know. Poor P. G. Woodhouse also had the same trouble, regarding WWII, even as it caught him up in its ghastly coils. I surmise that dear old P. G. dealt with it by moving to America and never dealing with it at all, within the frame of his books; probably a wise literary decision, since he had the formula down pat, so to speak.

We watched the whole two-part distillation of the Trilogy – enjoying the scenic views of Daniel Craig no end – but the miniseries kind of left us cold. I suspect that re-reading the Trilogy entire would also leave us rather cold. Apparently in the purview of the Great and Good English Literature Establishment, The Trilogy is held to be one of the Majorly Significant Novels dealing with WWII … to which I blow a large raspberry. (That all you got, English Literary Establishment? Really…) Yes, Evelyn Waugh was a magnificent prose stylist, and his satiric novels in the 1930s are bitchy and hilarious, Return to Brideshead is elegiac and heartbreaking … but the Sword of Honor Trilogy is a very odd fish. The first volume was true to the bitchy and satiric form; frankly, I found it very funny because … well, it was to do with the weirdness of the military. Of any age and country, really; a sort of inside black humor, best appreciated by those who have lived through and endured. (G. M. Fraser’s McAuslan cycle is a wonderful example of this, only not burdened by the weight of being A Majorly Significant Novel, so it can be appreciated for its own merits. What a lovely miniseries the McAuslan cycle would make – I can’t imagine why it has been overlooked in this respect… anyway, back to the subject…)

The rest of the TV version – and take into consideration the fact that I am trying to recall the source novels that I read a lifetime ago – rather fell flat for both of us. We agreed that Waugh couldn’t really write women – although he did have the manipulative bitch subset of the species down cold. It was just rather depressing that just about all the various characters which the hero character tried to help in some way came to rather awful ends. Perhaps that was the inclination of the screenwriters; but really – the message is that it’s useless and futile to be a decent person and do the right thing? How nihilistic is that?

I wonder also if trying to write a novel about current events isn’t rather a trap for the writer; in retrospect it certainly seemed so for Waugh; the Holocaust together with the Communist aggression in Eastern Europe were just too horrific for a satirist to manage within the scope of a serio-comic novel.

It’s one of those things that one becomes aware of as a blogger, over time. The internet is like a vast ocean, with weird currents, storms and agitations in far corners that eventually send out waves and ripples that travel across wide spaces and eventually turn up crashing into the shore of awareness. Many moons ago, as time is counted in internet years, the ruckus over the fraudulent documents presented in a 60 Minutes/Dan Rather expose broadcast on the eve of the 2004 election created one of those far-rippling storms. So did the fracas generated by the Swift Boat veterans, when it turned out that despite John Kerry’s attempt to campaign as sort of studly Dudley Do-Right Vietnam veteran, those who served with him in-theater viewed him as more of a Frank Burns/Eddie Haskell figure, and were not afraid to say so in whatever small-media or internet venue would give them the time of day. Yes, eventually the whole issue crashed ashore on the Island of Major Media Awareness.

Ever since then, I am of the notion that it pays to keep an eye out for those interesting ripples, especially when those on the Island of Major Media Awareness seem most determined to avert their eyes. I very much suspect that a lot of ordinary news-consumers are not ignoring these concerns. Look at how many people turned out for Chic-Fil-A appreciation day, having got the word through blogs and social media.
More »

10. September 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Well … a deep subject as the old gag goes. I spent much of my working day yesterday polishing off the next-to-last chapter of Sunset and Steel Rails; just one more chapter, to deal with an emotional climax in the life of the heroine – just as the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is putting the whole place under water. This has me reading and rereading accounts of the hurricane itself, and teasing out certain details. I sat out a typhoon once, in Misawa in the late 1970s, and one of the things that I remembered most vividly was how very powerful the storm winds were, and how exhausting it was to try and walk against them, even when slacked off to about 75MPH, when we were all permitted to leave quarters. Misawa – about ten miles inland, was maybe a foot above sea level on the main part of the base, so … the authorities paid attention to disastrous possibilities.

Eh – the book will likely top out at about 300 pages, once the editing and the review by the Alpha reader is finished, but I hope to have it done and ready for launch this coming holiday season. This is the book about a proper young Bostonian who comes west as a Harvey Girl, marries Magda Becker’s scapegrace and apparently-confirmed bachelor brother Fredi, and discovers belatedly that a) he is much better husband materiel than previously assumed and b) she is more closely related to the extended Becker-Vining clan than she thought at first. Her motivation for a sudden career change and departure to the Far West is due to the machinations of her sociopathic older brother … but enough of that. Dramatic possibilities galore and just leave it at that.

The rest of the afternoon was given over to printing up flyers on nice expensive heavy paper for this week’s first Book Event of the Season. Likely I have killed much of the printer ink in the color and black cartridges by this exercise … but, the Giddings Word Wrangler event is one that I am thrilled to be a part of, since it was by application and invitation, and it is in association with a library … ah, libraries. When I was a kidlet and a young adult, I practically lived in libraries. Now I also live in a library, but it is an ordinary house with a lot of books stuffed in it. Yes, the last time I moved from overseas, the guys packing the household goods had a bet going, on how many boxes of books there would be. IIRC, it topped out at 63, and that was in 1990, so one can only imagine how many more there are now.
There is also stuff to do with the Tiny Publishing Bidness – other people’s books besides my own. Wrapped up a book for a regular client, have a big meet scheduled to maybe wrap up another one, some potential new client books to spec out … yeah, the days are full. And then there is the semi-regular brush and tree-trimming collection in my neighborhood. Blondie and I spent several days with a pruning saw and dragging branches from small trees out to what is now a substantial pile in front. As it is still eye-bleedingly hot in this part of Texas, this constituted a perfectly exhausting effort on our part.

Finally, our Pullet Surprise; yes, the backyard chickens – still no eggs yet, although the three of them are supposedly closing in on maturity, and ever-more-close-to delivering on the promise of eggs, which is why we started down this line of back-yard farming in May. It seems, alas, that the science of sexing juvenile chickens was not all that advanced at the poultry farm where we purchased the girls. The biggest of the three so-called pullets – which we had previously assumed was just older and more developed – is a rooster. We’ve both gone and compared pictures of mature Barred Rock roosters with our chicken critter … Yep; we can’t escape science. Got spurs developing, longer tail-feathers, impressively dark red crest and magnificent jowls, and a bigger and more impressive set of neck-feathers. Not good in one way – we wanted eggs, dammit, but good in another. The other two girls will be protected against hawks, feral cats and other chicken-slaughtering wildlife, and if we do want to start chicken-raising in a mild way; well, here is the raw materiel. Larry, Maureen and Carly – welcome to our (slightly adjusted) enterprise.

We rather like the chickens, BTW. Maureen is entirely agreeable to being picked up, and having her chin scratched, Carly is not quite so cooperative, and neither is Larry – but he does like having his chin rubbed, too. And that was my week ….

(This is the background, or essential info-dump relating to the history of Luna City, Texas. This will be one of my books for this fall, as soon as I dash off another hundred pages or so, of the doings of a little town where eccentricity is on tap, day and night.)

Final Cover with LetteringLuna City is an incorporated township, located in Karnes County, Texas, at approximately 28°57′29″N 97°53′50″W, a point where Texas Rte 123 crosses the San Antonio River. The population of Luna City and environs in the 2010 Census was 2,453. The nearest large town is Karnesville, the county seat, approximately ten miles south of Luna City. Those residents of Luna City not employed in their own small businesses commute to Karnesville for work, or to nearby enterprises such as the entertainment/spa/commercial venue of Mills Farm, the Lazy W exotic game ranch, or in various oil-production ventures associated with the Eagle Ford shale oil formation. Notable people from Luna City include the prima ballerina Johanna Gonzales Garcia, international financier Collin Wyler, noted historian Douglas McAllister, Korean War jet-fighter ace Hernando “Nando” Gonzalez, and the legendary bootlegger Charles “Old Charley” Mills.

The land on which Luna City was later established was part of a 1769 Spanish land grant of a league and a labor to one Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales), who may have been already settled in the area at the time that his grant was recorded. It is a matter of undisputed archeological record that Don Diego, members of his family or in his employ were engaged in grazing cattle, goats and sheep in the area, as an adobe structure on the northern outskirts of Luna City was extensively excavated and studied in the late 1960s. The structure apparently served as a shelter for both animals and people. Evidence of regular camping and hunting by elements of the native Tonkawa people at a fairly early date was also found in later excavations in the area. The first recorded permanent dwelling in the area was built in 1857 adjacent to an easily-forded stretch of the San Antonio River, by Herman Borgfeld, an immigrant stonemason from Bohemia, who ran a small general store, tavern and inn catering to travelers between San Antonio and the coast.

In 1867, a large portion of the tract originally part of the Gonzales or Gonzalez grant were purchased by Herbert King Wyler, formerly a captain in the Confederate Army, assigned during the hostilities to various garrisons west of the Mississippi and in Texas. Captain Wyler had been involved in various capacities with operations to move Confederate cotton to Brownsville and thence over the border to the Mexican port of Baghdad, from where it was shipped to Europe. He emerged from his wartime service with sufficient wherewithal to purchase outright what is presently the Lazy W Ranch, still run by his great-grandson, Dr. Stephen Wyler. Captain Wyler caused to be built a palatial residence, modeled after the magnificent Greek Revival-style mansion of Windsor, at Port Gibson, Mississippi, a mansion distinguished by a series of ornate columns all around the perimeter of the structure which extended from the main floor through two stories to the roofline and supported a wide veranda on the main floor, and wrap-around galleries on the second. It is thought that the local economy revived to a not inconsiderable degree, as construction of the house itself employed hundreds of local workers at a time and in a place where money was scarce. (The ranch residence and gardens are open to the public once yearly, for the term of a week in mid-September, as part of the observances of Founders’ Day, although application for private tour may be made through the website for the Wyler Game Ranch.)

Around 1884, or 1885, having made another considerable fortune in trailing herds of cattle north to Kansas, Captain Wyler became intensely interested in the possibility of establishing a town on his property, since the proposed town-site lay along a possible route proposed for the as-then-unbuilt San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway. Along with Don Antonio Gonzalez, presumed descendent of Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez (or Gonzales) and the second largest landowner in the district, Captain Wyler formed a corporation to build attract investors and businessmen willing to settle in a new town. Captain Wyler brought in as a partner in the project, an ambitious surveyor and engineer who dabbled in architecture, Arthur Wells ‘A.W.’ McAllister, to not only survey the site and create the city plat, but to design various public buildings, including a suitably impressive courthouse. It was confidently expected that Luna City, as Captain Wyler dubbed his project, would become the county seat. Arthur Wells McAllister in turn was so confident of success and committed to the project that he moved his family to the site, after purchasing, expanding and renovating the original Borgfeld stone house. (The house still stands amid spacious and well-maintained gardens along Rte. 123, and is lived in by his descendants.)

Alas for Captain Wyler’s ambitious plans; they were undone by love – specifically that of his daughter, Myra Elizabeth “Bessie” Wyler. Having married relatively late in life, his progeny numbered only three; two sons and Mary Elizabeth, the youngest. He doted upon them to a considerable degree, and especially on Myra Elizabeth – beautiful, indulged and impetuous. On returning from a year in a finishing school in New Orleans, which the Captain and his wife had hoped would curb Bessie’s naturally youthful high spirits, the young woman fell hopelessly in love with one Edward Standifor, some ten years her senior and employed as a locomotive engineer on the GH & SA Railway. Bessie Wyler eloped with Edward Standifor; they were married by a Justice of the Peace in Fort Worth and settled down to a life of respectable tranquility – but Captain Wyler’s fury knew no bounds. He not only disowned his daughter, but declared that his enmity against the railway – all it’s works, ways, establishments and personnel – was unremitting. The railway was, he declared in an impassioned statement to the San Antonio Express News, an open invitation to the establishment of vice and debauchery of every kind, a threat to the virtue of susceptible young women and girls everywhere … and he vehemently withdrew any support previously rendered to the establishment of a route for the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway which led through his property. From surviving correspondence, it appears that A. W. McAllister blithely assumed that this was an attempt by Captain Wyler to pressure the builders of the SA & AP into offering a higher price for the right-of-way through his property. A.W. had a basis for this belief, as Captain Wyler had a long-established reputation for driving a hard bargain, using every possible means at his disposal – including treachery and personal tragedy, as they served his immediate purpose.

Alas for the future of Luna City as a station on the SA & AP – Captain Wyler was completely in earnest. The managers of the proposed railway line shifted the proposed route to run through Karnesville – and all the investors in the Luna City project were left high and dry, including A.W. McAllister, who had sunk all of his own funds into the project and therefore had to make the best of it. Fittingly enough, he did prosper in a mild way – although not to the degree that he would have, if the whole project had come about as originally projected. Still – he was respected and honored, as the decades wore on; the man who originated the vision of Luna City, and designed nearly every one of its surviving public buildings. Architectural historians and aficionados for this kind of thing laud Luna City as a peerless and harmonic jewel of minor late Victorian and Beaux-Arts city planning.

As for Bessie Wyler Standifor, she and her husband lived to a ripe and happy old age, parents of a large and prosperous family. In the early years of the 20th century, she and whoever of her children wanted to accompany her were frequent guests of honor at Founders Day observances. It is noted, however, that her father throughout the remainder of his life eschewed railway travel, choosing to travel in a horse and buggy until the development of other means of transportation. Captain Wyler was the first recorded owner of an automobile in Karnes County in 1901 – a Columbia Electric Runabout – and the first to die in an automobile accident five years later, when – at the wheel of it and against the advice of his chauffeur – he collided with another motorized vehicle on what would become Rte. 123. There is a historical marker alongside the roadway where this occurred. Folk memory has it that the driver of the other vehicle was none other than Charley Mills, with a load of illicit whiskey.

The 2015 Hugo awards were given out over last weekend, at Worldcon in Spokane, and the meltdown is ongoing. The commentary on this at the follow-up post at According to Hoyt has gone over 1,000 comments, a record that I haven’t seen on a blog since the heyday of a certain blog that is not mentioned any more (but whose name referenced small verdantly-colored prolate spheroids). I’ll admit, right from the get-go, that as a writer and blogger I have no real dog in this fight over the Hugo awards – not even the smallest of timid and depressed of puppies, but I did feel enough of an interest in it to post about it a couple of times. I merely observe with sympathy as an interested internet ‘friend’ and fan of some of those who are deeply involved, rather than a directly-involved author. I love Connie Willis’s books and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, used to love Marion Zimmer Bradley – alas, my collection of her books is now boxed and moldering away in the garage . My science fiction and ‘con’ activity extends only as far as having an entire run of Blakes’ 7 taped on VHS from when it was broadcast on KUED in Salt Lake City in the 1990s, having gone to the Salt Lake City ‘con several times, and once to the Albuquerque ‘con’ when it happened to be on a weekend at the time I was TDY to Kirtland AFB for a senior NCO leadership class. I had a marvelous time, on all those occasions … but my personal writing concentration is on historical fiction, and to a lesser extent, socio/political blogging.

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23. August 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America? · Tags: , ,

So I saw a couple of variations of a news story regarding the home in a teeny town in Oregon which was the location for exteriors in a movie shot at about the time that my daughter was in elementary school. Yes – the simple white frame house on a hill overlooking a Hampton Inn, a major local road, and something of the sea-front; the house featured in the movie The Goonies … a fun and funny kid’s movie, which has lately been headlined because the current owner of same is sick to death of movie fan visitors showing up at the garden gate and being … well, showing up and apparently in herds and a good portion of them being rather invasive, rude and awful. It is the 30th anniversary of the making of that movie, and the surge of visitor interest has become overwhelming, at least as far as the current owner is concerned, although it seems that the administration of the city of Astoria has seized the day and posted signs all over the place, referencing the Goonies House. Well, all props to them, and I am certain that they are reaping some benefit through tourists visiting.
I live in a town which boasts two major tourist draws, so I cannot be dismissive of all of that. I also grew up in Sothern California, where seeing a camera crew at work, or recognizing a familiar place in the background of a movie or TV was just part of the charm of living there.

There are lots of houses which were used as exteriors for movies, some of them with every bit as much of a cult following; Ralphie’s house in A Christmas Story, for instance, although in that case, the house itself is now a local museum. The Winnetka house used in Home Alone, and Home Alone 2 is still a private residence and the current owners don’t seem to be particularly bothered by sightseers. The Money Pit mansion seems to be located at the end of a quarter-mile long driveway, which probably helps to keep sightseers at a respectable distance. The house used for exteriors of The Godfather movies is perhaps a little closer to the street, but still … These last three are or were recently on the market; I am certain that whoever purchased them, or is thinking about purchasing them has noted the past use of the property for a movie or movies as just a curious tidbit. But still … When did private property become a public utility?

The comments on the various news stories about the Goonies house are a bit dismaying, to me as a home-owner. The current owner bought the place – which really looks to be quite a modest little hillside cottage with a splendid view – some fifteen years ago. Likely, she viewed it having been used as a movie location as just another curious tidbit; oh, yeah, that’s interesting, right along the lines of having had a now-famous person born there, or having guested George Washington for a night or two. Slap up a historical marker and call it a day; not everyone wants to set up a museum or souvenir shop in Home Sweet Home. A fair number of comments seem to suggest, with various degrees of snideness, that is what the owner should do – but really? Turn your house into a commercial enterprise? Again, when did private property become a public utility? It seems that the owner was quite gracious in earlier years, with a relatively small trickle of Goonie fans, but the trickle has become an ungovernable, unendurable flood. There’s a limit to what the owner of a private home can put up with – and no, selling and moving away (the other snide suggestion) is no solution, either. Hanging up blue tarps and declaring the house closed is a relatively mild response; I am only surprised there isn’t a ten-foot wall, and restricted access at the bottom of the driveway.

By way of decency, one of the stars of the Goonies is asking for consideration on the part of the beleaguered homeowner. Good for him.

So much idiocy, so little time and energy, especially when so many other people have come out swinging – but hey, if it’s worth doing, why not join in?

To the Trump, to the Trump, to the Trump-Trump-Trump. Say what you will about The Donald, all of his decades worth of baggage is out there, and out there proud and he doesn’t give a d*mn. Is he totally serious about running? Darned if I know – for all of it, he may be out there purely for the fun of throwing a spanner into the works of the long slow, gruesome march of the establishment GOP powers to force Jeb down our collective throats. At the very least, he’s making it possible for the other GOP candidates to start talking about the issues that 95% of the rest of us are concerned about – but which the establishment GOP is too darned lily-livered to even address. And at worst – that he could actually be elected? I don’t see that The Donald could possibly be worse than what got elected the last time around.

Speaking of long, slow gruesome marches … shall we start a pool on how much longer Her Inevitableness is going to carry on with her campaign? From where I stand, it seems like every appearance and event just seems to be making her more dislikeable and unpopular than before. Look, Hillary … the coronation just isn’t going to happen, not when your baggage train is about sixty boxcars long. May as well divorce Bill, settle down in Chappaqua and take up knitting for the grandspawn or something. Even coming out as a lesbian ain’t gonna help, not at this late date.
The revelation that the cheating website Ashley Madison has thousands of accounts at mil email addresses has me shaking my head. You need the help of a third-party website to organize an illicit affair? Back in the day, that’s what TDY orders were used for by determinedly unfaithful spouses. You kids – get off my lawn!

And finally – Shaun “Black Lives Matter” King turning out to be white, white, whiter than Rinso white? He ought to get together with Racheal Dolzeal, Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill, and start a group or something. I can see a future when someone starting a career as a racial activist or asking for academic preference on racial preference will have to have a DNA test run, and the results of it tattooed on their shoulder-blade for future reference, or something. It looks like young Mr. King is a fabulist of the first order, but scamming Orca Winfrey out of a scholarship intended to benefit youths of color in da hood is chutzpah above and beyond.

Discuss, if you dare.

17. August 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History

This last weekend marked the 70th anniversary of VJ-Day; the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces. This marked a day of wild rejoicing in New York, Honolulu, London and in practically every town and city across the Western world which had sent armies and navies into a bitter fight against Imperial Japan – a fight which had been up and running in China long before Japan chose to take the fight to America by launching an attack on Pearl Harbor.

Time has had its’ usual way with those who fought in it, and survived. The generals and admirals who stood at the top of the military chain of command are long gone, being middle and late-middle aged in the 1940s. The colonels and naval commanders are pretty much gone from the scene, the captains and ensigns vanishing likewise; most of the veteran survivors still with us were very young men and women, little more than teenagers at the time of the war; young and happy to be reprieved from fighting in a war which looked to drag on for another five or six bloody years. By the next significant anniversaries – the 75th and the 80th, there will be even fewer remaining.

Skimming through my guilty pleasure – the UK’s Daily Mail – I noted the lavishly illustrated stories posted there regarding observances in London for VJ Day; a parade, and a fly-by, a wreath-laying, a special memorial service at Westminster Abbey, the Royals and senior members of the government all out in splendor, the Duchess of Cornwall dancing at a garden reception for veterans, all kinds of splendid pageantry, reported in detail. Our British cousins do that kind of thing so very well; the WWI display of millions of red ceramic poppies spilling into the moat of the Tower of London, and the Queen’s Jubilee are just two of the most recent to come to mind.

And … what did we have on this side of the pond, aside from the obligatory mea culpa about dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Not so much. I did a compare and contrast search – 70th anniversary VJ Day, both US and UK. On the US search, I turned up news of a mass reenactment of the famous sailor-kissing-a-nurse, and a great many local small-town and city observances of the date, an observance at the US Navy Memorial and at the National WWII Memorial (on September 2, according to the Friends Of website), a picture feature on USA Today’s website … and that’s just about it. A good third of the results on the US search mentioned the London observances anyway. There was nothing particularly splashy on the US national scene for VJ-Day, no big events, nothing requiring the attention of this current administration, or the President. I understand he is on vacation, anyway.

Discuss, as you will.

16. August 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Texas, The Funny · Tags:

(The visit by Dr. Wyler and Jess to Hippy Hollow has been interrupted by screaming …)
“Oh, god!” Jess exclaimed.
“Oh, f__k!” growled Joe Vaughn, as he unsnapped the strap on his holster.
“Jumping Jesus Key-rist on a pogo-stick!” Dr. Wyler raised his reading glasses and squinted across the raddled meadow that was the campground at the frantically leaping, sun-browned and vaguely human figure leaping and twisting like an agonized gazelle on the riverbank.
“Oh, dear,” said Judy, wringing her hands. “I think he found a fire-ant nest the hard way.”
“Oh, sh*t!” responded her husband. “Judikins, you know we don’t wanna use all those artificial insecticides on the property … but for the happiness and safety of our visitors …”
“Seftie, sweetie,” Judy replied, with the most obdurate expression that her otherwise sweetly bland countenance could muster, “We agreed … no inorganics.”
“But fire-ants!” Sefton protested in a half-hearted way, as Dr. Wyler snorted contemptuously, “You morons, everything is organic; if you are going to pretend to be scientifically knowledgeable, at least get the terminology down right.”
“Cool it, Doc.” Jess whispered, warningly. The Grants were also her clients. And Luna City was a small place, in which conventional courtesies greased social interaction among those with wildly differing social and political philosophies to achieve a sometimes startling degree of amity when it came to outsiders.
“Well, sports fans, I think we found the missing guest,” Joe Vaughn re-snapped the strap across the top of his side-arm holster, regarding the empty campground with a particularly sour mien. “And a damn-good broken-field runner – pity he can’t play for the Moths next season.”
“Looks like he will fit in here real well, Seftie,” Judy commented, as the naked runner galloped across the intervening meadow at top speed. He was being chased by a very small Nubian goat, bleating enthusiastically. “He has already made friends with one of Rigoberta’s babies! How sweet!”
The naked runner arrived, just short of the interested cluster of observers, his chest – clearly visible to them all – heaving like a bellows – and his eyes showing white all the way around.
“What the blooming hell!” he gasped. “Where am I? What is going on, and why is this … this thing following me. I couldn’t find the dunny in this benighted place … and I woke up … oh, flaming hell!”
He swatted ineffectually at his thighs and nether parts. “Get them off me! Flaming hell, that stings!”
“He found the fire ants,” Joe Vaughn announced to the world at large. “Jesus, sport – get a grip and put on your pants – there’s ladies present. You’re in Luna City, Texas.”
“I don’t think I am seeing anything I don’t already know about,” Jess replied, with an edge in her voice which unaccountably caused Joe Vaughn to turn faintly red, underneath his tan.
“Aloe vera,” Judy Grant announced, with a great deal of satisfaction. “Seftie … you know where my aloe vera patch is … can you be a sweetie and break off a length – about as long as your hand. It’s the least we can do, to make up for the fire ants. There’s a bottle of witch hazel under the sink in the workroom – bring that, too.” As her spouse trotted away obediently, she regarded their visitor with appreciative interest. More »

14. August 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Texas, The Funny · Tags:

The marquee sign outside Luna City High School makes note of the fact that the school is home to the Mighty Fighting Moth Football Team – District Champions – 1967 – 1971 – 1974. That there is only a small space left to insert another champion year or two is clear indication that the Mighty Fighting Moths football coach, school administrators and team boosters have completed their journey through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and accepted the sure and certain knowledge that there will likely never be another district championship in their future with quiet fortitude. It’s not that the Moths lack heart and determination; players and boosters alike begin each football season in the spirit of game optimism, and in the hope that maybe this year the Karnesville Knights or the Falls City Beavers – which are the two regional football powerhouses and die-hard rivals – will not be able to defeat them 80+ to 6 with the casual absentmindedness of a man swatting a fly while thinking of something important. Texans live for high school football; it is simply the expected thing to do, and Luna-ites are heart and soul Texans, even those who came from somewhere else, like the Walcotts or the Steins, or Chris who bartends and manages the Ice House, Gas & Grocery.

It is simply the Done Thing – although why the Moths have not had a purely winning season in four decades is a matter of passionate discussion at the Café & Coffee, the Icehouse and regular BBQ picnics at the VFW. The usual conclusion is that this is due to the relative shallowness of the bench, as Luna City High School is a relatively small one. However, Dr. Stephen Wyler suspects dark machinations on the part of realtors in Falls City and Karnesville. He is convinced they have carried on a forty-year plot to offer absurdly good deals on residential real estate to families of sturdy youths with good athletic prospects in an organized effort to maintain a large pool of players. Most Moth boosters dismiss that theory, as well as criticism of the Moth’s current coach, Dwight Douglas “Music Man” Garrett, for he has only been coaching for the past decade. His immediate predecessors were renowned coaches of football in the old-school style, and one of them had overseen the Fighting Moth’s last winning streak. Otherwise, it is as much a mystery as the wholly unexplained random disasters which strike the Moth’s homecoming games with disturbing frequency, ensuring that liability insurance for participants and spectators is always paid up.

The Mighty Moth Homecoming game is most usually held in conjunction with Founder’s Day – a local celebration marked by a parade through Luna City led by the Mighty Moth Marching Band, a carnival set up in Town Square, and numerous other events, culminating in a football game on the Luna High School home field. It is a matter of historical record, however, that every few years, the game is disrupted, delayed, or even cancelled entirely due to an unforeseen accident. Sometimes this is due to human agency or a suspected misfiring prank, and sometimes to what can only be described as a freak of nature, such as in 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert roared through Texas, and a small tornado touched down on the Luna High playing field shortly before game time. Four years previously, excessive flooding from another tropical storm produced the interesting phenomena of a plague of frogs invading the field. During one Homecoming game (the year is a matter for intense disagreement) excessive leaking from a cracked water main dissolved a layer of limestone underlying the end zone, resulting in a substantial sinkhole opening up in the guest-team end zone – fortunately during half-time. The only near-casualty was the Falls City Beavers mascot, who happened to be standing in the end-zone, but he was pulled clear by quick-thinking bystanders who managed to catch ahold of his costume tail. In the mid-1990s, the Beavers mascot was a casualty of yet another Moth Homecoming incident; attacked by a live beaver, which inexplicably appeared just before the game. A human prankster was suspected; since then, Falls City has been reluctant to participate in Moths Homecoming games.

Human agency was involved in the stampede of nilgai antelope from the Lazy W Ranch, which broke up the 2000 Homecoming game. A section of high-fenced game pasture abutted on a paved service road near the high school. A quartet of poachers, taking advantage of Founders’ Day festivities appeared with a stock-hauling trailer, and having lured a dozen nilgai close to the fence, cut the fence and attempted to load them into the trailer. The nilgai were not cooperative, and galloped away in a body … straight across Moth Field. The most recent Homecoming game disruption was also in the form of an escaped large animal: one of the Wyler’s breeding bulls, who upon escaping from durance vile, inexplicably became enamored of one of the marching band’s tubas. The tuba player, understandably traumatized by the experience, immediately gave up marching band and switched over to playing the piano.

Which brings me to the Mighty Fighting Moth Marching band; the redeeming bright spot in Luna City’s sports program. Under the direction of Coach “Music Man” Garrett, they have swept band competitions from Laredo to Richmond, to Amarillo and Texarkana for the last ten years, with a combination of razzle-dazzle formations and mind-blowing musical selections. Their marching-band rendition of Orff’s O Fortuna is a show-stopper, although at least half the student body is convinced that the number is really called Gopher Tuna. Moth boosters comfort themselves over yet another double-digit to single-figure stomping on the football field by contemplating the case full of glorious band competition trophies on display in a glass case in the main foyer of the high school. And of those graduating Luna City students to go on to college? A good number of them go on band and music scholarships.

The PTA and Booster Club, though, keep a particularly thick cushion of funds, on hand, in expectation of the next Moth Homecoming disaster. As the last one was three years ago, the time is more than ripe for the next.

I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.

The expected fate of American and Allied soldiers in an invasion of the Japanese mainland was only part of it, an aspect which tends to be forgotten in the afterglow of the mushroom cloud. There were Allied civilians involved as well, and their fates were also tied up in use of the atom bomb. With the passage of time, memory of the realities of WWII in the Pacific for people who were actually present have dimmed in memory as that generation passes. There is a kind partial amnesia in certain quarters, a tendency to forget that conflict between the Allies and the Japanese was knock-down and drag out brutal, completely unscathed by any pretense of observing the so-called rules of war; that white flags would be honored, that prisoners and internees would be treated humanely, according to the Geneva Convention, the Red Cross would be respected – all these and a number of other war-making conventions were flung down and danced upon, beginning with on Day One – as far as Americans were concerned – with a sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.

Germany may very well have been run by a murderous Nazi gang headed by a demented paper-hanger and failed artist, Germans may have referred to disparagingly as Krauts, and lampooned in the movies and pop music by cut-ups like Charlie Chaplain and Spike Jones, but as far as Americans were concerned, they at least made an effort to honor the rules of war when it came to all the Allies save the the Russians. They had a certain amount of grudging respect as an enemy but a mostly honorable one – until the concentration camps and indisputable evidence of the Final Solution were uncovered at the end of the war. With the Japanese, there was no such mutual courtesy extended, no quarter offered and none given or expected from the very first. Poisonously racist attitudes and assumptions were openly demonstrated by all parties concerned, and the Japanese were more than equal in demonstrated bigotry towards all non-Japanese. Initially welcomed as liberators from the colonial powers all over south-east Asia, they had made themselves so detested for their brutality that by 1945 returning Westerners had local allies who hated the Japanese more than their one-time colonial masters.

I had read that initially those horrifying reports of the treatment of American and Filipino POWs on the Bataan Death March which leaked out through a handful of fortunate escapees were suppressed as a matter of national security, to avoid damaging morale on the home front. It was easier, in those days of written letters, telegrams and a few radio broadcasts, to keep a lid on everything but rumors. Of rumors and fears there were plenty all across the United States, Australia and Great Britain; those countries and a handful of others saw thousands, hundreds of thousands of civilian and military citizens – nurses, missionaries, soldiers, businessmen, colonial authorities, expatriates, and their wives and children – simply vanish into the black hole of the Japan administered Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere after the fall of Singapore, Malaya, Borneo, the Philippines, Hong Kong and those European enclaves in China. Few if any letters or contact, no reassurance from the Red Cross that their people were alive, safe and well for more than three and a half years; fears and rumors abounded. If those military and civilian internees were still alive, they were not safe and – increasingly as the war ground on to a bitter end – not well, either.

In a museum in Britain sometime in our wandering summer of 1976 – was it Carlisle? Salisbury? York, maybe? One of those little local museums, with a case of artifacts given over to the relics of the local regiment, with dusty embroidered colors, and little Victoria sweet-tins, and souvenir hardtack crackers adorned with poems in careful copperplate handwriting. This museum had a long picture of an entire company of soldiers; one of those formal things with four rows of men and officers standing on risers. Everyone who has ever served has been in at least one picture of that sort, but this one had a sad distinction; the entire company, fifty or so, were captured in the fall of Singapore… and none survived to the war’s end. They were sent to work on the Burma-Siam Railway, and among the museum’s relics was a metal measure about the size of a 12-ounce can. It was used, so said the card underneath, to measure out the daily ration of water and rice for the slave labor set by the Japanese to work on the railway. And that was what they got, day in, day out, doing hard physical labor in the tropics … just that little rice and water. The saying about the Burma-Siam railway after the war was there was a man dead for every sleeper laid, the whole length of it: POW, internee, or native civilians pressed-ganged into the service of the Japanese.

POWs and internees were routinely starved, forced into hard labor, denied any kind of effective medical treatment save what internee doctors and nurses could provide, spitefully prevented from communicating with the outside world, or keeping any kind of diary or record at all, subject to the most vicious punishments – up to and including murder in a revoltingly gruesome variety of ways – for the most trivial offenses or often none at all. Transported to Japan itself, to labor in mines and factories, POWs were loaded like cattle, into the holds of transport ships; men went insane, and tragically, died when the ships were bombed and torpedoed by the Allies. There are also stomach-churning accounts of POWs used as guinea-pigs in Japanese medical experiments, and vivisected while alive and un-anesthetized. The estimate is that 27% of the Allied POWs held by the Japanese perished in captivity, as opposed to 2-3% held by the Germans.

Civilian internees fared hardly better; this account of women and children interned in Sumatra – most of them shipwrecked in the Java Sea while escaping Singapore by sea in the last days before the surrender – reckon that about half perished in captivity. American internees in the Philippines fared a little better, although most survivors of Santo Tomas and Los Banos estimate they were about two weeks from dying of starvation when they were liberated. “Thou shalt not kill,” runs the bitter couplet, “But need not strive, officiously, to keep alive.” Most military and civilian survivor accounts concur on the time frame of survival; that is, if the Japanese didn’t massacre them all first, as they did at Palawan. At best, writer-historian Gavin Daws estimates that the subsequent life-expectancy of the survivors was reduced by ten or fifteen years, so severe were long-term health problems resulting after three years of near-starvation, exposure to every tropical and deficiency disease known to medical science, and the psychotic brutality of the Japanese camp guards.

During the war, this was not something much talked about, except in the vaguest sort of way – no spreading despair on the home front. Immediately afterwards, the most popular accounts of captivity, such as Agnes Newton Keith’s Three Came Home (1947) give the impression that it all was quite dreadful, but skimmed over the specifics. Many survivors wanted more than anything to just forget, to put it out of mind, and have a normal life again, and many more just could not talk about it at all, save to those few comrades who had been there with them. It is only in the last few years that I have really noticed the horrific accounts being published, and historical memory uneasily jousting with political correctness. But it is clear – that the total surrender of the Japanese after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved civilian internees and POWs alike.

Final Cover with LetteringOn Saturday morning, Berto Gonzales slept in, knowing that he should have the town car back to Elmendorf to Uncle Tony’s place by mid-day. He came yawning from the tiny back bedroom at his father’s place, drawn by the smell of bacon frying, coffee brewing, and the sound of the cable Univision channel on rather loudly. His grandmother, Adeliza Gonzales, had never learned English and was slightly deaf besides – but in spite of that and being relatively homebound at the age of 89, Adeliza Gonzales didn’t miss much, even though the only English-language programs she ever watched were on the Food Network. Berto’s father had bought a wide-screen television specifically to put in the kitchen so that Abuela Adeliza could watch her cooking shows in the comfort of the room that she loved the best.
“Morning, Abuela,” Berto said, and then repeated himself slightly louder. Abuela Adeliza’s attention was riveted to the television screen, where an excited announcer was yammering on about … Berto wasn’t sure. It looked shaky cameraphone footage of a naked man with something metallic on his head, running down the street in a foreign city – a brief clip, then to steadier footage of an important-looking storefront building, with a large number of ambulances parked in front, flashing lights everywhere. Abuela Adeliza shook her head in dismay.

“Poor, poor fellow!” She exclaimed. “Such a shame … he had such a fine future before him … ‘morning, Berto; did you sleep well, then?”
“Always,” Berto dropped a brief kiss on the top of Abuela Adeliza’s head. “Abuelita … may I have some migos and bacon? No one cooks migos like you do,” he added with calculation. Just as expected, Abela Adeliza rose from her rocking chair. The bacon was already cooked; a bowl of fresh-gathered eggs sat on the counter by the stove
“Of course, Berto,” she replied, but Berto’s attention was suddenly riveted by the television, all hunger forgotten. On the screen appeared a series of pictures – some of them intended for maximum dangerous glamor – of a youngish and rather handsome man in his thirties in a series of poses, alone or with others. In most of them, his head was covered by black and red plaid handkerchief tied do-rag fashion; his lower face adorned by carefully cultivated designer stubble; he held a knife, a cooking fork or a mixing bowl and whisk, standing in front of a truly ferocious stainless steel restaurant stove. The handkerchief seemed oddly familiar to Berto … and come to think of it, so did the young man’s features.

“Abuelita – who is he? That man – do you know him?”
“Why, of course I do, Berto – it’s Rich Hall – they call him the Bad Boy Chef. He was coming up in the world, on television cooking shows so often… I thought he looked so much like your Abuelo Jesus when he was young – so dashing and handsome, so I always watched when he was on.”
“Well, damn,” Berto exclaimed, “so he was a celebrity, after all! That’s the guy I picked up at Stinson last night. I practically don’t recognize him when he isn’t barfing or dead to the world.”
“Oh, Berto!” Abuela Adeliza dropped the fork she had been scrambling eggs with. “Are you certain? But you must call Chief Vaughn at once, and tell him! Everyone is searching for him, pobrecito! He has disappeared!”
“No, he hasn’t, Abuelita – I dropped him off at Hippie Hollow!”
Abuela Adeliza assumed her sternest expression, commanding, “Berto – you will obey! You will call the police, at once.”
“Why?” Berto was no longer eight years old, even if Abuela Adeliza still seemed to think so, sometimes. Abuela Adeliza told him. Before she was even finished, Berto had picked up the phone and dialed Joe Vaughn’s office.

“I swear to God, Jess,” Dr. Stephen Wyler examined the sludge at the bottom of his coffee mug, “if things don’t get better around here, I might as well stay home and poison myself with my own coffee.”
“No, you old poop, you have too much fun, carrying on complaining,” Jess Abernathy replied, with a notable lack of sympathy.
“I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, young woman,” Dr. Wyler replied, and Jess grinned at him. They were actually quite good friends, despite a distance of sixty years of age between them, Jess being a qualified CPA and Dr. Wyler one of her clients. As he was materially the wealthiest among them, Jess spent a good many hours untangling and keeping his complicated finances more or less in apple-pie order. There wasn’t much Jess didn’t know about Dr. Wyler. If no man was a hero to his valet, he most certainly isn’t to his CPA. Jess regarded him very much as a kind of honorary uncle, aside from the professional considerations.
“We might advertise for a replacement cook,” she suggested. “The Bee-Picayune has rather reasonable rates. I’ll call and see if they have room in next weeks’ classifieds.”
“That’s how I got whats-his-name,” Dr. Wyler scowled. “And he left without notice as soon as he got a better offer from those bastards at Mills Farm … damn, is that your phone?”
“No, it’s yours,” Jess replied. She and Dr. Wyler were sitting at one of the outside tables at the Luna Café and Coffee, enjoying the relative coolness of the morning, if not the currently dismal state of the Café’s menu selections.

“Damn fool invention …” Dr. Wyler unsnapped the catches of the ageing leather medical bag that accompanied him everywhere. He fished out the insistently buzzing cellphone from its depths and regarded it with mystification.
“Finger on the circle and slide over,” Jess hinted broadly.
“I knew that … Hello? Wyler here, what’s your major malfunction?… oh, hullo, Sefton.” Jess listened to the faint squawking emanating from Dr. Wyler’s phone. At last, he broke the connection. “Sorry, my dear – duty calls. Azúcar has developed a cyst on his neck which simply defies all of Judy’s home remedies.” Azúcar was the Grant’s pet snow-white llama, who because he had been bottle-fed since shortly after birth, had grown up to be almost two hundred pounds of bossiness with regard to humans.
“I’ll come with you,” Jess hastily stuffed her notebook, and took out some change for a tip, for the long-suffering high school girls who were tending tables during the summer. At ninety-four, Dr. Wyler was as wiry and weathered as a lifetime of riding, working cattle, and tending large recalcitrant animals could have made him, but still … ninety-four, against a two-hundred pound llama. Jess would have never forgiven herself if Dr. Wyler came to harm. “Heads or tails?”
Jess deftly flipped the largest coin, caught it in her palm and slapped it down on the table.
“Heads, I drive, Dr. Wyler.”

The Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm was but a short distance away; it would have been little trouble for Jess to walk, but the day was already becoming warm, and mid-summers in South Texas are merciless to the elderly, no matter how hardened by a lifetime of work in it. Dr. Wyler’s late model extended-cab pickup truck with the custom design – the brand of the Lazy-W on the front doors – bumped down the unpaved ruts between the pasture where the Grants’ goat herd spent their days, and the smaller meadow scarred with regular tracks which – if you squinted and the light were somewhat dim – did somewhat resemble a campground. The only evidence of this for most of the year was the aged Airstream trailer with long-disintegrated tires parked at the top of the slope, under a fringe of trees farthest from the riverbank, as the solstice had been last month. The last of the mid-summer nudists had been gone for weeks and the campground reverted to its usual dilapidated appearance.

As Dr. Wyler’s truck came around the last bend, they both saw the single Luna City Police Department cruiser parked by the moldering Airstream, and Joe Vaughn – every crease of his crisp tan uniform short-sleeved summer uniform as sharp as if it had just came from the cleaners not ten minutes ago – leaning against the fender, deep in conversation with Sefton and Judy. In marked contrast, the Grants were not crisp in their attire. In point of fact, neither of them were attired, although in deference to local sensibilities, both had donned simple hand-loomed loincloths. It has long been a truism, and one deeply appreciated by Luna-ites that in just about every case, those who proudly and defiantly forswear clothing really ought not to indulge themselves this way, as a matter of aesthetics. Judy’s long hair covered the top half of her body rather efficiently, and Sefton wore battered cowboy boots.
“What’s going on, Chief?” Dr. Wyler spoke first. Joe Vaughn tilted his white felt Stetson a little farther back on his head and nodded politely to Judy. Joe was tall, hawk-faced with a direct gaze – also like a hawk – and very, very fit. A military tattoo with the motto “Death from Above” just barely showed below the bottom of his shirt sleeve, which barely constrained the arm that it clothed. His muscles had muscles.

“Welfare check on a guest,” Joe replied. “Berto Gonzales called me up, first thing this morning, with a tale of how he brought out a fare last night from San Antonio – and he saw him on the TV this morning. Miz Adeliza told him some cock and bull about the fare being some TV celebrity chef that went ‘round the bend. Just as soon as I put the phone down, Miz Grant calls and tells me that their guest from last night is nowhere to be found. His clothes, his bag and wallet are all here …”
“And two empty bottles of Cristal,” Judy Grant put in, her pleasant round face the picture of worry. “I think he must have drunk it all… You don’t think he’s done away with himself, do you?”
“Overpriced gnat-pee,” Dr. Wyler put in, apropos of nothing in particular. “A man with real taste wouldn’t swill anything but Krug for a last drink.”
“Young Berto says his grandma told him this runaway chef is named Rich Hall,” Joe Vaughn answered. “But this joker’s Green Card and visa say that he is Richard Astor-Hall, and that he came in through New York two days ago. The paperwork says that he is a chef, though.”
“You don’t say,” Dr. Wyler’s expression brightened … but just then, the screaming started.

(This is another book project for me – which came out of some speculation between my daughter and I; what would a town like Cecily, Alaska be — if it were a small town in an out of the way part of South Texas. In a very short time, we came up with a setting, a history, an enormous cast of sometimes quirky characters, and something of a plot to tie them all together.)

Final Cover with LetteringIt was Berto Gonzales who brought the Englishman to Luna City – the year that Berto was in his freshman year at Palo Alto on San Antonio’s south side, and driving a luxury town car at night for his uncle Tony. Uncle Tony Gonzales lived in Elmendorf, but ran his business based in San Antonio, and Berto was living with Uncle Tony’s family while he attended college. Berto was one of the bookish Gonzaleses, but had no objection to driving for Uncle Tony, who was both a third-cousin once removed, and married to Berto’s Aunt Lucy.
“You get to meet all kindsa people,” Uncle Tony was fond of expounding. “I drove Bryant Gumbel, once … and Spurs players? All the time; I got Tony Parkers’ autograph, even.”
On one particular summer evening around six PM, Berto got a call in the town car from Uncle Tony’s dispatch office. “Got a pick-up at Stinson – half an hour. It’s a special – he’ll be waiting for you out in front.”
“Cool,” said Berto. “Is it a celebrity? Where’s the pick-up to go?” Stinson was the old airport on the South Side, which served mostly corporate and private aircraft; a quieter, less frenetic place. And if the pick-up was someone famous, that would give him something to brag about on Monday morning. Dropping down to Mission Road was a snap compared to fighting heavy rush-hour traffic around San Antonio International on a Friday. Stinson was nearly out into the country on the edge of Espada Park.
“He’ll tell you when you get there,” the dispatcher replied.

Berto nearly gave up in dismay, when he pulled into one of the parking spaces in front of the brand-spanking new little terminal. There was no one out on the sidewalk who looked like a passenger – and there was already another town-car pulled in. After ten minutes there still wasn’t any sign of a pick-up. Out beyond the terminal building and row of hangars and warehouses which lined that side of Mission Road was the ramp and a pair of runways. The airport was separated from Mission Road by nothing more imposing than some chain-link fences hung with any number of threatening signs. Presently, a silver and blue Gulfstream dropped low on approach and touched down with a roar. It flashed past the terminal, came around at the end, and taxied up to the terminal, being lost to sight but not hearing. Berto opened the door and got out of the car, wilting briefly in the blast of heat after the coolness of the air-conditioned car. The driver of the other car was already out, standing in front of his car with a sign in his hand – “Wilson” written in block letters in felt-tip. The other driver acknowledged him with a brief nod.
“Busy day,” he commented and Berto sighed.
“Sooner here than SA International.”
“That’s for certain,” the other driver grunted. Another small jet dropped down from the blue sky – a Learjet with a t-tail and wings which turned sharply upwards at the very tips.
“Looks like my fare,” Berto observed. No, passenger pick-up at Stinson did not usually take long. The Lear rolled down the ramp with an ear-piercing shriek from its engines, and vanished behind the terminal. Three minutes, four minutes … a single person appeared from the glass doors leading out to the apron of paving, interspersed with raised beds and patches of grass which formed the forecourt. Berto watched his pick-up approach – a young man carrying a small overnight bag in one hand and a bottle in the other.
“Oh-oh,” the other driver remarked, with considerable sympathy, as the man seemed to pause, look in their direction and focus with an effort. “You got yourself a drunk, it looks like. Sooner me than you, hijito.”
“I hope he don’t barf on Uncle Tony’s upholstery, ‘cause he will kill me.” Berto watched his fare approach; a young man, with dark straight hair cut short, as if he were going out for football this season. His clothes were wrinkled, as if he had slept in them for a week. He staggered over to the bicycle rack set out by the flagpole and the handicapped parking. On his way, he dropped the bottle into the hedge. Then, clutching the bicycle rack for support, he began throwing up.
“Looks like he got that taken care of already,” the other driver remarked. He held up the “Wilson” sign as a knot of people appeared in the terminal doorway. “Good luck, hijito … you wanna couple of plastic bags? I got some in the trunk, just for this kind of thing.”
“Yeah, sure.” Berto’s fare made one last heave, straightened himself from the bicycle rack, and approached the two town cars, walking as carefully as if he were on eggshells.
“I say, chaps,” He spoke carefully, enunciating every word – oh, yes; English. He talked like some of those characters on those PBS programs that Aunt Lucy was so fond of. “I only needed the one car … I am, as you may observe, traveling very light.”
“If you aren’t Wilson, then he’s all yours.” The other driver jerked his thumb at Berto, adding in a low tone, “I’ll get you those items I mentioned.”
“Alas, I am not Wilson,” the fare admitted, sounding rather sad about that. “But rather – Richard Astor-Hall, or what remains of him. Have you heard of me?”
“I gotta say that I haven’t,” Berto replied, disappointed. He had so been hoping for a celebrity on this pick-up. Unexpectedly this seemed to cheer Mr. Astor-Hall. Berto opened the passenger door, and asked, “Where am I supposed to take you, Mr. Hall?”
Mr. Astor-Hall drew himself up to his full height and tossed his overnight bag into the front passenger seat. He fished into his pants pocket, drew out a roll of bills the size of which Berto had never seen before, not even at Uncle Jesus’ garage, where many of the old customers preferred paying in cash and pressed it into Berto’s hand.
“As far from here as that will take me,” he said grandly and passed out cold.
Berto caught him one-handed as he sagged, and directed Mr. Astor-Hall’s unconscious body into the back seat of the town car. The other driver shook his head, in sympathy, as he helped Berto tuck Mr. Astor-Hall’s legs in and close the door.
“Turn his head sideways, so he won’t choke on it if he’s sick again. What are you gonna do with him? That’s one heck of a roll, hijito – enough to take him a good long way.”
“Three – four hundred bucks,” Beto hastily counted out the fifties and twenties, then folded them away, deep in thought. Meanwhile, the other driver’s fare gathered around, busy with getting their expensive luggage stowed away. A Friday evening, an unlimited expense account – and Uncle Tony would understand.
“We’re going home to Luna,” Berto said out loud to his unconscious passenger, as he backed out of the parking place, and turned south, towards Presa Street, and the road towards Luna City. Mr. Astor-Hall snored comfortably in the back seat – if he had no particular place in mind, than Luna City would do as well as any.
At about the time Berto was coming up to Floresville a cellphone rang, rang insistently from deep inside Mr. Astor-Hall’s little bag. Berto let it go, let it ring several times, but whoever was calling didn’t want to give up. Finally, he pulled over into the Whattaburger parking lot and fished the phone out of the bag; a Blackberry – the ID of the caller said only “Morty.”
“Hello?” He said, tentatively into it. The voice on the other end – presumably Morty exclaimed, in a burst of impatient profanity;
“Oh, for f—ks sake, Rich – you finally pick up the damned phone. You gotta be in LA by now. Look, I’ve been leaving messages on your voicemail for hours … no, don’t talk, just listen, things are happening too damned fast. I’m trying to put the kibosh on the paparazzi, but you know how it is … a few dozen A-listers puking on the pavement in front of Carême on opening night no less … and you running stark-naked through the streets, with a colander on your head, screaming “I’m a little teapot short and stout” as you bang two pots together! That’s made the news on three continents, Rich – what the f—k were you thinking? Never mind, that’s why I get paid the big bucks to get ahead of PR disasters. I got you booked into that fancy place in Malibu for as long as it will take for you to deal with your personal demons – but I gotta have you promise you’ll stay there and keep your yap shut until I can get ahead of this thing. Damage control – it can be fixed, you can make a come-back, just let ol’ Mac work his magic. Don’t talk to anyone. Rich – are you listening to me?”
“Hello?” Berto said again, and Morty exploded.
“Who the f—k is this?”
“No one,” Berto said, and hung up the phone. It buzzed again almost at once. Berto turned the phone off, and carefully put it back into Mr. Astor-Hall’s bag. It was almost sundown, and he had another hour and a half on the road. Uncle Tony always said that you couldn’t and shouldn’t drive distracted.

The Daughter Unit and I were watching Northern Exposure this week, and I had an errant thought; what would a town like Cecily be like, if it were in South Texas? A charming and quirky place, full of slightly skewed, interesting people, with an eccentric history all it’s own. And before long, we had come up with Luna City, Texas, and a whole long cast of characters, drawn from people we know, or have met, and little towns that we have visited, or know about. Eventually, this will be another book. It seems to me at times like this, with news of horrific or distressing events arriving in wholesale lots … well, a bit of mental refuge might be in order. If such is not to your taste, or seems terribly frivolous … well, then skip over to the next post.)

Final Cover with LetteringThe little town of Luna City is not a city at all, as most people understand these things. It is a small Texas town grown from a single stone house built by an immigrant Bohemian stone-mason in 1857, at a place where an old road between San Antonio, Beeville and points south forded a shallow stretch of river. The railway was supposed to come through where Luna City would be – and the city fathers confidently expected it to become the county seat. Alas, when Dr. Stephen Wyler’s great-aunt Bessie eloped with a smooth-talking engineer on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, her father – who owned much of the land in the district – was furious. The railway, he stormed, was an invitation to vice and debauchery of every kind, a threat to the virtue of young women and girls – and so he saw that it never came to Luna City; although there had been a generous space allotted in early plans of Luna City for the usual magnificent Beaux Arts-style county courthouse in the square at the center of town. That expectation also came to naught; the county seat stayed in Karnesville, and since then, Luna City has made very little effort to attract the casual tourist.

Travelers on the farm-to-market road going north or south will pass by the Tip-Top Ice House, Grocery and Gas, perhaps note the four-square house of limestone blocks owned by the last descendant of Arthur Wells McAllister – the surveyor who first drew up the plat of Luna City in 1876, and drive on. They might also note the metal towers, ladders and chutes of Bodie Feed & Seed Supply, looming on the distant horizon – but definitely will miss the disintegrating sign advertising the Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm. Anyone looking for that establishment already knows where it is … and that clothing there is optional. Jess Abernathy, who does the finances for Sefton and Judy Grant has mentioned to them now and again, that they ought to get a new sign or have the old one repainted and repaired, but Sefton and Judy aren’t into the realities of advertising and commerce in this … or really, any age. This exasperates Jess, but then she is the fifth generation of a Luna family with commerce bred into their bones and blood; her father and grandfather run Abernathy Hardware, housed for all this century, every decade of the previous and fifteen years of the one before that in a looming Victorian commercial building on Town Square with a cornice which looks as if it is about to topple over onto the sidewalk below.

Sefton and Judy arrived sometime in the summer of 1968 in a colorful cavalcade of carefree spirits intending to establish a communal farm; forty-five years later, they are the only members of it who remain. Odd as it may seem at first or even second glance, they are valued members of the community. They set up in Town Square every Saturday morning, under the biggest of the oak trees, and sell fresh vegetables – which are sometimes a slow-seller, because in Luna City, most residents have a vegetable garden themselves – but also eggs, honey, home-made goat-milk cheeses, herbs, and hand-made soap. The Grant’s vegetable patch has the advantage of deep and rich soil on the bank of the river, and generous applications of well-cured compost seasoned with goat-manure. A single disintegrating Airstream trailer is still parked there in the field which is supposed to be the campground, a relic of the past. Sometimes a relatively broke or undiscriminating traveler rents it for a couple of days or weeks; the Englishman who manages the Luna City Café and Coffee lived there for six months. Only a few residents of Luna City refer scornfully to the Grant place as Hippie Hollow. Mrs. Sook Walcott is one of these; if Jess Abernathy has commerce in her bones and blood, Sook Walcott has all that, tempered with the acid of pure acquisitive capitalism. The Grants are liked, and Sook Walcott is not … more about that, later.

The tea room and thrift shop housed in the front room of the old McAllister house is open only two days a week, which discourages casual visitors, but not anyone who knows Miss Leticia McAllister; the last woman in this part of the world who always wears a hat and gloves when she leaves the house, not just for early Sunday services at the Episcopal church. The formidable Leticia McAllister – always known as Miss Letty, even during those decades when she taught first grade in the Luna City Elementary school – is notoriously impatient, especially of anything reputed to be humorous. On the occasion of the centenary of Luna City, Miss Letty and her older brother, Doctor Douglas McAllister (the doctorate was in history, which he taught at a private university in San Antonio) compiled a commemorative volume of local history, gleaned from the memories of the oldest residents; scandals, shenanigans both political and sexual, the last gunfight in Luna City (which happened in front of the Luna Café and Coffee) old feuds and new, controversies over every imaginable small-town issue – it’s all there in A Brief History of Luna City, Texas, published privately in San Antonio, 1976, price $18.25 plus sales tax. The Luna Café & Coffee still has a small and dusty stack of them behind the cash register counter – although the manager/chef at the Luna Café & Coffee has no idea of what they are or what to do with them. Where he comes from, a hundred years is practically yesterday. Miss Letty’s erratically-open tea room also has a couple of boxes in inventory. Dr. McAllister, whose puckish sense of humor was not appreciated by his sister, was dissuaded from titling it A Hundred Years of Lunacy in South Texas on the very fair grounds that other places possessed a history every bit as scandalous, and that it would somehow encourage local residents to be called Lunatics, rather than Luna-ites … and that simply would not do at all.

Luna City, you will gather from this short introduction, does not discourage visitors, exactly; but neither does it welcome them effusively. Luna-ites prefer to take a quiet measure of such visitors who do venture into the heart of downtown, and treat them with exquisite Texas courtesy. Those who choose to remain longer than a quiet stroll around the square or stop for a lunch at the Luna Café & Coffee – never doubt their welcome. And if they fall under the spell, and stay , within four or five years, they are as established and respected as any of the original Luna-ite families … McAllisters, Gonzalez-with-a-z and Gonzales-with-an-s, Abernathy-who runs-the-hardware-store, Wyler-of-the-Lazy-W-Ranch, the Bodies of the feed mill and all the rest. Luna-ites have no urge or need to distain relative newcomers. They know exactly who they are, and do not need proving it to anyone.

26. July 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

…would be superfluous.