Keeping chickens for eggs is the one bit of home economy that we never did, growing up, although we could have done so quite easily. Mom was adamantly opposed to doing so, as Granny Jessie had done so all during the Depression and probably up through WWII. Mom did not like chickens, thought they were smelly, ugly and inclined to be vicious – roosters especially have a talent for aggression, which is their purpose in life. They are there to protect the flock, and to ensure continuance of the chicken tribe, of course. Mom continued to buy eggs from the supermarket, or from a local outlet in Valley Center. Which smelt comprehensively, and could be detected at some distance, especially when the wind was in the right quarter, so Mom did have that part correct.

The whole reason for the backyard chickens...

The whole reason for the backyard chickens…

But the Daughter Unit and I entered on the prospect of keeping chickens for eggs with an open mind, aided by the fact that doing so seems to have become rather fashionable lately. Rumors of epidemics among commercial egg-producers two years ago, the fact that eggs seemed to be getting pricier … well, it made sense to establish at least some small degree of food independence. When a price of a small coop and run at Sam’s Club was slashed in half, it seemed to us that it was the right time. So – coop assembled, an enclosure in the yard set aside for it, and off we went to a local supplier for three pullets; as the Daughter Unit called them, the Three Chicken Stooges. She wanted to name them Larry, Moe and Curley, but since they were supposed to be females, I said they would have to be Loreena, Maureen and Carly. As it turned out, sexing Barred Rock chicks is not an exact science; Loreena turned out to be a Larry after all; Larry Bird. For a rooster he is pretty mellow – also pretty quiet, compared to some roosters that we have heard tales of from other back-yard chicken fanciers. Even so, I threaten to post the recipe for coq au vin prominently in the coop, as a warning to Larry.

The magnificent Larry Bird and his chief hen, Maureen

The magnificent Larry Bird and his chief hen, Maureen

Maureen and Carly lay pretty consistently – an egg every day, or at least, every other day. They did not lay for a couple of weeks last fall when they were molting, but their feathers all grew back magnificently. The whole project was such a success, overall, that the Daughter Unit became ambitious; knowing that Maureen and Carly would eventually age out of egg-laying, she proposed that we acquire some younger hens. One of the other back-yard chicken fanciers in the neighborhood had a pair of Wyandotte pullets extraneous to needs, so we paid her for the two, named them Winona and Dottie and added them to the menagerie. Unfortunately, Winona and Dottie were at the very bottom of the established pecking order. Several mornings later, the Daughter Unit found them with their heads pecked raw and bloody – she was half-afraid that

Winona and Dottie, the banty Wyandottes

Winona and Dottie, the banty Wyandottes

Dottie wouldn’t survive. We had to segregate the Wyandottes in their own section of yard, and purchase another small coop for them to stay in at night. They survived, thrived and began laying … and only then, when they hadn’t gotten much larger, we realized they must be bantam Wyandottes; about a third the size of Maureen and Carly. Their eggs are tiny; the size of a Cadbury’s chocolate egg. Handy, when it comes to halving a recipe that calls for an odd number of eggs. The big chickens and the little chickens do not mingle; they leave each other pretty much alone.

All in all, we are quite happy with the flock. Well, Larry Bird tends to tune up at 5ish, many mornings, but I don’t mind it too much. Our neighbor on one side works nights, the neighbor on the other has her bedrooms at the far side of the house – and she rather likes the sound of them coming and going about their chicken-things. We give away a fair portion of the eggs anyway, in exchange for general goodwill, for venison from one neighbor who is a bow-hunter, and another for vegetables – she is a more successful gardener than I am.

Amid some pretty stiff competition news-wise this week, these two linked stories were particularly infuriating – mostly because the matter received relatively little attention, in comparison to coverage of the protest itself. But such is the towering hypocrisy of these times. The establishment national news media continues to conduct itself in the manner that, sadly, we have come to expect of them. Mostly, they cover stories like this with a pillow, until they stop moving.

But the sheer gall of a protest encampment called to protest potential-possible- maybe environmental damage caused by construction of a pipeline … which then actually does damage to the local environment by the sheer quantity of stuff abandoned over the past six months, and the possibility of seepage of human waste into the nearby river. Well, really – one might have very good reason for doubting the sincerity of those protesters with regard to protecting the environment in the first place. More »

We have a neighbor several doors down the street who has – over the years that we have known her – been somewhat of a trial. Not only is she is a gossip with an appallingly low degree of accuracy in the stories that she passes on, she is also a keen consumer of local news, and takes the most sensational crime stories to heart. She was in her element, the evening that we had a double murder in our neighborhood, having claimed to see the murderer running down the street past her house and begging one of the other neighbors for a ride. She provided a description of the murderer to one of the police patrols who went screaming through the neighborhood – a description which turned out to be inaccurate in every detail save that the escaping murderer was a male. As for the what she sees on the news; let someone across town be carjacked in their own driveway, she is totally convinced that everyone in the neighborhood is in dire peril of this happening to them. She lurks at the community mailbox of a morning, bearing dire warnings of all kinds of unlikely scenarios. She never goes much beyond the community mailbox, having successfully frightened herself out of going any farther on most occasions. In earlier times, I would try and talk her into taking a more realistic view of things. Eventually I realized that she purely enjoyed scaring herself into conniptions, and those irrational fears provided a handy all-purpose excuse for her not to go and do much of anything with herself when her only child went to college on the other side of the state and her husband moved out.
More »

I didn’t watch very much of the horrific YouTube tape of four inner-city “youths” of color tormenting a special needs white kid – a tape that was all over the alternative media last week, and miracle of miracles, even made it to the national media, where incidents of black-on-white violence usually get to be covered, like with a pillow until they stop moving. It goes without saying that if the skin colors of victim and perpetrators had been reversed, just about every other national news story would have been driven off the front page and out of the first twenty minutes of national news for weeks. (Save perhaps one of the Kardashians bursting out of her dress like an overstuffed sausage in the middle of a top-drawer celebrity event.) I know that, you know that, we all are most tiresomely and cynically aware of that. Many would have been the chins tugged, NPR would have been consulting their golden rolodex for the most plummy-voiced commentator with an air of spurious authority over matters racial, CNN anchors and the correspondents of main-line news broadcasters over the world would have been hyperventilating in their efforts to keep up with the currently-fashionable expressions of condemnation of American racism, brutality, racism, cruelty to the ‘other’, white privilege, racism, the center-city of places like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit (aside – is there anything left in Detroit to burn?) would have been going up in flames … so on and so forth, und so weiter.

Only this was the other way around, and so noxious and horrific a brutality to an inoffensive and harmless a young person; attention must be paid, no matter how the usual plummy-voiced commentators drag their metaphorical heels. Here it was – the perps filmed it themselves, and posted their nasty, deed on-line … for what? A brag to their friends, a trophy … seemingly unaware that a recording of their actions would be used against them. Did they not expect law enforcement to somehow, magically not see? Or did they just not care, assuming they would be untouchable. There has been a long, long, long series of horrific black-on-white atrocities – the Newsom-Christian torture/rape/murders in Knoxville ten years ago, come to mind as one of the most brutal and the most little-reported, outside of local media, plus any number of flash-mob attacks, of white or Asian pedestrians suddenly attacked on city streets through the “knock-out” game, of organized looting of retail venues and white visitors to mid-west state fairs threatened as they try to leave the venue.

It’s a soulless brutality demonstrated through these incidents. In the mug-shots of the perpetrators their eyes are dead. They seem to have tormented the kid for fun and no other purpose than that of showing off to peers – akin to pulling the wings off of flies, I suppose. I also suppose this kind of game is encouraged by inner-city thug culture, excused and rationalized away by intellectuals and politicians who one would have expected to know better. Such incidents are hastily covered up by the very same national establishment press, who break out the headlines and commentary by their pet race relations experts ad infinitum when it comes to a Black Lives Matter-manufactured storm in a teacup. I have no idea why it should be this way, but I have read suggestions that secretly the national news establishment are afraid that white flyover country would go all indiscriminately punitive on the ‘hood in the manner of the 1921 Tulsa race riot – or something of the sort.
It is ironic, isn’t it – that the current inner-city black thug culture is demonstrating itself to be as feral, brutal, and ignorant as the 19th century KKK considered that blacks were. There are no chains quite as binding as the ones that you hang on yourself.
Discuss.

Yeah, I’m late again, with reviewing the past year, and look to the bright and shiny new one, with regard to personal and professional goals. I’ve looked back every year about this time (so, sometimes it been a pretty good stretch around. So, I’m an independent small businesswoman. I make my own schedule.) Every year, I have been in the habit of assessing the last year, thinking about what I want to get done in the coming year.
As always, the score is about 75% achieved.

1. The back yard is still not the bountiful truck garden of edible fruit and vegetables. This is an enduring challenge. Part of this is due to my own laziness with regard to watering, a serious hard freeze a couple of weeks ago, and the depredations of the chicken stooges, or as my daughter calls them, “the wup-wups” – from the sound of the gentle clucking they made when they are satisfied with life but still feel chatty. Indeed, the magnificent rooster, Larry-Bird, and his Barred Rock harem of Maureen and Carly, are death on any green edibles that they can reach. They chase the two bantam Wyandottes, Winona and Dottie, mercilessly … but the girls all produce eggs, which is all to the good. (Except Winona, who appears to be permanently broody.) The bantam eggs are handy when it comes to halving a recipe which in the original calls for three or five eggs. We have not had to purchase eggs from the supermarket since Maureen and Carly came on line, although there was some trepidation when they molted for about a month. Resolved, renewed; make the bountiful truck garden happen.

2. Books – at last finished The Golden Road. This was planned as being the adventures of wide-eyed seventeen-year old Fredi Steinmetz in Gold-Rush era California. The good news – finished, after about three years of back-burnering it. The bad news – the cover wasn’t finished in time for me to have print copies in time for the various Christmas markets. Two Luna City Chronicles were finished and put on the market in 2016 – they being light, contemporary comedy, they are fairly easy going as far as the writing is concerned. More light blogging, actually. Another Luna City episode is planned for release in mid-year, and a fifth … well, the various elements of both are being skulled out even as we speak. I have also resolved to do a second Lone Star Sons set of stories. The first Lone Star Sons sold very well at Christmas markets, especially as I button-holed every tween and teen passing by our booth, saying, “Hey, kid – do you like to read and do you like Western adventures?”

3. Home reno … the budget for that was shot over the last year, in having to pay for some repair to insulation of the condensation drain. Which, unrepaired, was dripping through into the kitchen. Being able to pay for repair out of pocket was satisfactory – but this gutted the budget for new kitchen cabinets and countertop, as well as the reno and installation of the vintage Chambers gas stove which Blondie inherited from her spiritual godmother. Resolved in the coming year to get at least some new cabinets installed, as well as counter-tops. The kitchen is small – and we desperately need to maximize the space.

4. The mulberry tree which shaded the back garden was dying over the last two years of some ghastly tree-plague. Attempts to save it were in vain. We paid for it to be removed, working in concert with the neighborhood handy-guy – but now the western-facing side of the house is exposed to the full fury of the afternoon sun. We finagled a deal to have the insulation topped up, such is the power of my revived credit rating – but the new plans include installation of some kind of pergola which covers windows on the west-facing side of the house. Which plans also include moving the existing dilapidated fence farther up towards the front of the property … Alas, budget constraints. Resolved to earn enough from the writing and from the Teeny Publishing Bidness to be able to afford the pergola and the new fencing.

5. Which brings me to the management of clients for the Teeny Publishing Bidness. I have decided over this last year to offer our services to other indy authors, in helping them to set themselves up as their own Teeny Publisher. I will walk them through getting an account at Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, or CreateSpace, see to editing and formatting their book for the usual editing and formatting fee, arrange for cover design … and turn them loose. I already have done this for two clients; it’s basically what I have always done for the Teeny Publishing Bidness, everything but our name on it as publisher, but this way they will have an increased level of control over their books and be able to order printed copies at a better price per unit. Several other indy authors that I have talked to in the last year are unhappy with their current facilitator/publisher, which is what gave me the idea in the first place. They want to write; and going into it as their own publisher was a terrifying prospect. There were and are a good few POD places out there which are overcharging and offering unnecessary services: Alice and I were appalled and amused at some of the itemized services that were on offer from them, and the prices they were charging.

So – that’s it. Check back in 360 days or so, and I’ll review.

That is – one more holiday market to go, and then we can put up our feet and enjoy Christmas … well, save for perhaps regretting that we didn’t have time enough to hang out lights and ornaments on the bay tree for the amusement and edification of our neighbors. But on the other hand, we did get the Christmas fudge all done and distributed, save for the batch of Brandy Alexander which never solidified as it should have done … well, there’s always one batch that doesn’t go quite as satisfactorily as it should have, but with eight different kinds, it’s not that anyone would mind or even notice.

Blanco was cold and miserable; in the forties all day, with a sullen drizzle threatening in late afternoon. Still, there were people shopping, and we did pretty well, considering – but would have done better if the weather had been as pleasant as it was in Johnson City two weeks ago. But still – the cold! And this time we were in the pink pavilion, on grass, instead of in a place with a roof on three solid walls. I had long winter underwear on, and the brown woolen Edwardian suit, with gloves and a scarf, but my feet were near to freezing in thin leather lace-up boots. My daughter had a lovely insulated pair of winter boots, so her feet were fine, but the rest of her was miserably cold. Note to self – another pair of long winter underwear, and one of those little portable heaters that run on a propane gas bottle. The weather is expected to be milder for next weekend for the Cowboy Christmas Market in Boerne, though … but that brings up still another problem. The pink pavilion developed a bend in one of the support legs which makes putting it up and taking down even more difficult than usual. Not certain of how it happened, but the metal is quite definitely indented and broken. It was never the sturdiest of pavilions anyway, and now some of the other joins have developed bends or cracks at weak points. It was most definitely not designed for the hard use that it has gotten over the past two and a half years, so this next weekend, we have to rent one of the Boerne Market Days pavilions (plain tan and completely featureless) while we arrange to purchase a sturdier pavilion for the next market season. One of the other vendors in Johnson City had a very nice one, with much heavier top and sides; she bought it at Costco; a new one of similar design and features is on our list.

Today we went through some local favorite shops, picking up this and that with an eye to mailing gifts to family, and making our own Christmas the merrier. This included a stop at a Half-Price Book outlet, where neither of us found what we were looking for – stocking stuffers for cousins/nieces and nephews – but I found a pair of David Hackett Fischer’s accounts of two episodes in the American Revolution. The next of my historical novels is dimly to be seen, at a considerable distance – something set in that period. I thought earlier this year of what the next should be, after finally completing the Gold Rush adventure. I suppose the natural tendency would be towards continuing into the early 20th century, with the various characters from Adelsverein, from Quivera Trail and Sunset and Steel Rails. I’ve already hinted at some of those developments relative to the First World War … but I find myself curiously reluctant to go there – mostly because that was the time and place in which the optimism of the 19th century died, in mud and blood, tangled in barbed-wire. Right now – I don’t need tragedy and heart-breaking disillusion. I’d rather go back, to the start of our republic, close to the foundation of the American experience …

Besides – I have already hinted at a couple of different possible characters and plotlines: Race Vining had a relation named Peter, who served in Washington’s tiny, desperate army at Valley Forge – and Carl and Margaret Becker’s grandfather Heinrich was a Hessian deserter, who fell in love with an American woman … and perhaps the notion that the individual was the master of his own fate. Nothing more certain than that; the specifics of the plot will grow from research.
Besides – I have to write another Luna City chronicle, and another Lone Star Sons, first.

From last year - a representative sample of our neighborhood Christmas gift

From last year – a representative sample of our neighborhood Christmas gift

Seventeen days to Christmas and counting … yikes. It’s coming at me like a freight-train. We finished the custom fleece blankets for the nieces and nephews … but have yet to package and mail them. I have yet to order some Christmas presents to be sent to family … seriously, where the heck does December go? And we’re just a week into it, too.
Of course, I am distracted by the weekly market events. Blondie’s Montero has been kept loaded since mid-November with all the market impedimenta; the pavilion and the weights, the tables, folding chairs, signage, display racks, table dressings, the strings of lights and extension cords for the events which require them, the tool kit for emergencies, the Rubbermaid tub with the folder of extra flyers, postcards … and of course, the other tubs and boards of merchandise which are the whole purpose for these excursions. We have not even unpacked the Montero between market excursions. The purpose for all this is pure basic capitalism: We have goods – books and origami creations, to exchange for cash or occasionally in kind – with people who desire to own said books or origami creations. This – leading up to Christmas, and the customary exchange of sometimes frivolous consumer goods between consenting adults, and presented to the immature specimens of our species of whom we are fond – is the reason that most vendors of consumer goods make their nut in the last quarter of the calendar year. I have no critique to make of this arrangement; it’s our custom, and not only do I demand respect for it, I participate willingly.
But enough about the commercial aspect of the season – now about the neighborly and altruistic aspect. It has been a long-established custom in our family to make home-made treats to present to hapless acquaintances and neighbors. My mother’s practice was for cookies – a fairly decent basket-assortment of butter-cookies and slabs of cake and fruitcake, which we attempted to emulate for a couple of years. Then we tried out giving small gift-baskets of other gourmet items, since simply everyone does Christmas cookies … until my daughter hit upon the notion of boxes of gourmet fudge, after visiting a candy store in in Fredericksburg some four years ago and sampling – and purchasing a few bits of their finest specialty fudge. Oh, a hit – a very palpable hit! Boxes, tins and plates of various flavors, made from the very best ingredients. High-quality chocolate, real butter and cream: We knew that we had a winner after the first year, when in late November of the second year, various neighbors began to hint, wistfully. “Say, are you gonna be doing that fudge again … that was soo good…”
This was the week that we scheduled for making up batches of eight different kinds of fudge; chocolate with nuts, chocolate with nuts and cranberries, brown-sugar and toasted-pecan, white chocolate coconut, raspberry-creamsicle, peanut butter, and Bavarian mint chocolate, and brandy-alexander chocolate. That was Monday thru Wednesday; Thursday and today are dedicated to packaging and delivering. We do a massive pair of boxes for the local fire station, and the nearest police substation to us; a smaller one for the Frost bank branch where we do business, for Alfred the mailman, and the guy who drives the trash collection truck. Those all went out yesterday, to great appreciation from the receiving staff at the fire station and police station, especially. Today – it’s another round of packing and delivering boxes for the near-in neighbors. Another Christmas objective achieved; tomorrow, it’s all day at the Old Courthouse in Blanco for the next to-last Christmas market. Sunday – perhaps we’ll feel sufficiently energetic to hang out some ornaments on the bay tree, and to sit down and do mail-order gifts for the family in California. And that was my week …

I was kind of intrigued by last week’s Buzzfeed article, attempting to whip up the internet mob for the purpose of going after Chip and Joanna Gaines, who have a hugely popular home renovation show on the HGTV channel, and cannily have never said a word on the show regarding their more or less mainstream Christian beliefs, or their attendance at a mega-church where the pastor apparently is on the record as having expressed disapproval of the concept of the institution of formal marriage being anything other than that of a man and a woman. (Note: I’ve never watched the show myself, although my daughter has. Blondie avers that Joanna Gaines is a one-note designer; her thing is shabby chic. All to the good, since that is my own preference, well-mixed with Laura Ashley comfortable country antique seasoned with a splash of William Morris/Craftsman. And … well, most people have items of décor and large furniture of which they are fond … who the heck clears the deck and redecorates every year or so, in response to the fashion of the moment? Only the very wealthy and socially insecure, I surmise.)

More power to them – the Gainses and their redecorating business; not the internet lynch mob, always ready to be whipped up to a fine frothing frenzy. Really, this early 21st century is increasingly resembling the 16th, in the ruthless search for the ritual burning at stake by officials or by the annoyingly self-appointed for individuals who refuse to give lip-service to the prevailing social/political orthodoxies. One would go mad, trying to keep track of them. What was a conventional, blandly conformist stance yesterday or the day before appears as high crime in the eyes of the self-anointed Social Savonarolas. Believing and saying that all lives matter, that actual, official-type marriage is a one man/one woman arrangement, and that one ought to be able to choose a neighborhood to live in according to what one could afford and among a racial/social/economic demographic with which one was comfortable … apparently, all those assumptions are now the worst kind of badthink, egregious hate-crime, the worst-evah! What is an ordinary, conventional-thinking person to do, now?

It is something of a reassurance, seeing that the 21st century Social Savonarolas appear to suffer from having their torches dialed down a bit of late. The scheduled ritual burning-at-stake for the Gainses has been derailed by HGTV recalling which side their bread is buttered upon, and the Gainses themselves going tactfully above the fray by being all high-minded and decently ignoring the ruckus below them. The threatened Chick-Fil-A boycott four years ago – derailed by an outpouring of support for the company and long lines at every Chick-Fil-A outlet in the country – may have been a harbinger, an early warning of how exactly how sick and fed-up ordinary people were of being hectored, lectured, battered and ostentatiously boycotted by the Social Savonarolas. The designated targets may also have gotten a lot less inclined to roll over and apologize for these their offenses, likely having noticed that making any gesture of apology or explanation just encourages the Social Savonarolas – and that the best response is either to ignore as Chip and Joanna Gaines did, or tell them to FOAD.
Is the Social Savonarola’s Heretic-Lynching card now overdrawn? Discuss.

04. December 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

And our Christmas marketing marketing marathon thunders on; last weekend in Johnson City for three days, and this weekend a Saturday in Goliad. Which seemed nearly as tiring as the Johnson City event, as it rained on us for nearly all the distance of a two-hour drive there, and again all the way back, as well as raining heavily on Friday night and all of Saturday night … a night which was enlivened by a massive local power outage.
The rain did not actually fall on the event itself, which was a huge relief; oh, it was a little windy and chilly, and we were in a sheltered outdoor venue next to the Goliad Public Library, but most of us bundled up in warm clothing, expecting such conditions. Although when it comes to adding to my period “author drag” wardrobe, it occurs to me that a fake-fur muff may be a very appropriate accessory. The ‘author drag’ continues to be of worth as far as attention-grabbing goes – there were many compliments from other people on the outfit, and my mastery of the art of millinery and tailoring. The outfit of Saturday was the brown wool tweed Edwardian walking suit which was almost heavy enough to be comfortable, except when the wind blew directly on me. Eventually, I hope to construct a wardrobe of five or six period outfits with appropriate accessories and suitable/comfortable for every occasion – indoor, outdoor, summer, winter, day or evening. I did add to my collection of accessories – again – with the purchase of a vintage 9-inch hatpin from an antique shop on the square. Nothing special or particularly pricy – but somewhat shorter and lighter than my first two, which are much thicker and over 12 inches long and must date from the pre-WWI era of big hair and hats the size of wagon wheels.

The shops on Goliad’s town square are looked very revived, over five years ago, by the way; the shale oil boom continues to shower a bit of prosperity on the place. The venue where we were stationed as part of Miss Ruby’s Author Corral was just renovated over the last year, along one side of an open courtyard where a building was removed a couple of years ago, revealing an almost unweathered Bull Durham advertising mural on the side of the building next door. (Now the public library.) The building on the opposite side of the courtyard is being remodeled to serve as a bed and breakfast. The owner of the property had both ends of the space with the mural enclosed and roofed over, fitted out with chairs, small tables and a couple of outdoor heaters, and graciously lent the space to the organizer of Miss Ruby’s Author Corral. Eventually, the whole place and the B&B will be an event venue, and a charming place for small gatherings – say, under 150 people, right on the Courthouse Square of historic old Goliad. Goliad and San Antonio are both within a couple of years of celebrating their 300th anniversary of being established as towns, by the way. I shall have to think of something to write, novel-wise, which will commemorate this.
A wet, tiring, but moderately profitable Saturday was had by all; my weekend. Yours?

We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Johnson City, Texas, where they established the tradition of firing up for the Christmas holidays by covering the Blanco County courthouse with god-knows-how-many hundreds-of-thousands of lights, hanging in strands from the roof edge to the ground and noting the start of the holiday season in the Hill Country with a bang … a round of fireworks at about 7 PM Friday, as soon as it was well-dark. The firework show was lavish – and the three rows of vendor pavilions and the spectators in courthouse square were so close to it that little bits of spent ash from the fireworks sifted down on us. I hadn’t seen anything so splendid, or been so close – practically underneath it all – since a Fourth of July celebration at the Rio Cibolo Ranch in 2009.

The Blanco Courhouse - all lit up.

The Blanco Courhouse – all lit up.

The trunks of the pecan and oak trees star-scattered on the lawn around the courthouse were strung with lights, and the facades of many establishments around the courthouse square were also lavishly lit up. This whole ‘lighting for Christmas’ kicked off similar displays in other small communities and towns, but Johnson City is still the lead event. The crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings were substantial and in the proper mood for buying. My daughter and I made our expenses Friday evening, so sales on Saturday and Sunday were gravy. Our expenses were more than just the quite reasonable table/booth fee, since Johnson City is slightly more than an hour drive from home. We considered the drive to and from for three days running; two such trips at ten o’clock at night on a relatively unlighted country highway, with drunk drivers, speeding trucks, suicidal deer … and said, ‘oh, hell no.’

The nearest available affordable lodgings turned out to be at the Miller Creek RV Resort, which has three little cabins with a bathroom and functional kitchenette for rent. We booked one for two nights; the cabin porch presented a lovely view of the creek, which we were never to relish, as we were there only to sleep – long and deeply, following ten or twelve hours of active selling. The Miller’s Creek RV Park is a lovely little place, by the way; immaculately groomed and landscaped. It’s not one of those luxury destination RV resorts by any means, but a modest comfortable place, beautifully arranged – they even have a minuscule dog park, in addition to the usual facilities.

I think that the most reassuring part of our experience this last weekend wasn’t entirely due to the satisfactory sales – it was the experience itself. The people in this smallish Hill Country town came together to put on their yearly extravaganza. Volunteers from various local organizations giving it their all; families with children and polite teenagers, lined up in front of the cotton-candy vendor, right next to us. That vendor had the brilliant inspiration to sell his cotton-candy spun around a lighted plastic wand, which made the wad of candy look like clouds with a varicolored lightening-storm going on behind it. (Purchase the wand – get unlimited refills of cotton-candy!)

A look down the Market area.

A look down the Market area.

Any number of those polite teenagers came and bought origami earrings from my daughter, or inveigled their parents to buy them – indeed, there was one particularly engaging teenager who admired the earrings so much that my daughter sighed and gave her the particular pair that she favored, asking only that when Engaging Teenager had the money, to come back and pay for them. The very next night, Engaging Teenager returned with four crumpled dollar bills and four quarters. She confessed to wanting to be a writer and talked at length about what she liked in the way of books, how she kept being distracted by new ideas when writing, and how she was bound and determined to finish a story of hers for her grandmother’s Christmas present – because Gran had asked for just that thing. Engaging Teenager has the very same problem that I did, way back in the early days of my scribbling career; to whit – never being able to finish anything. We talked for a bit about that; reassuring and encouraging Engaging Teenager as an aspiring writer, though I suppose that we will never know if we did her any good. I did give her a copy of Lone Star Sons (autographed with a personal message, of course!), assuring Engaging Teenager that my one YA book venture might be a help in demonstrating the art of short adventure-writing. Such a nice kid – we hope that later teenagery won’t spoil her charm and spirit.

There was the procession of lighted automobiles, trucks, and tractors, some of them towing floats for the lighted parade on Saturday, the marching band and the senior citizen synchronized marching team with their lighted lawn-chairs … it was all very reassuring to me. Small-town America is still here, still confident, still ably conducting their own affairs, neighbor to neighbor – even when the neighbor is only a member of the peripatetic small-business gypsy-market. (I took pictures, using the ‘night’ function on the camera. Alas – none of those pictures came out very well at all.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

The silver-gilt acorn earrings.

Speaking of gypsy marketing; I bought my Christmas present indulgence for myself; a pair of vintage earrings from one of the other vendors. His family business specialized in vintage and estate jewelry, mostly silver and a large part reclaimed from a smelter in San Antonio. You know – those businesses who buy old silver and gold jewelry; it goes to be melted down. This enterprise has an agreement with the local smelter to let them come in, look over the takings and purchase at cost those items with artistic merit. But my Christmas present for myself wasn’t one of those so rescued; they were from an estate sale. Described as silver – I thought they had a gold wash – and reddish-brown jasper stones; this was a pair of acorn-shaped earrings. I liked them very much, especially as they go with the brown tweed Edwardian walking suit outfit. So – my present for myself.
Oh, and I wore a different vintage outfit every one of the three days. They worked very well for merchandising purposes – and yes, I will do this again. Many times.

24. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Today is Thanksgiving Day; my daughter and I will share a feast of delightfully orange-flavored brined turkey breast (a recipe lifted from the current issue of Cuisine at Home) plus some sides; as a small dish of baked stuffing using some heels of pumpernickel bread from the bounteously-stuffed garage deep-freeze, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, garlic mashed potatoes, all served with a dash of the lingonberry sauce from the jar I purchased last weekend from the Ikea grocery department – it tastes very much like cranberry sauce anyway — and finished off with a slice of pumpkin pie, baked this week. The enduring trouble that I have with Thanksgiving is that I don’t much like most of the traditional dishes. Of those that I do, I don’t want to eat leftovers of them from now until past mid-December. Seriously, in many years, I was so tired of sorting out the remainders of a whole turkey I would choose anything else vaguely birdlike for the main entrée, and for Christmas, practically anything else. On some years when it would be just me, I threw tradition to the winds and did a tiny half-pound frozen poulet from HEB Central Market, or a rock Cornish game hen, accompanied by the traditional autumnal dishes that I did like. (These solitary dinners were a treat for me; single servings of exotic and/or expensive dishes that I would never have sampled otherwise.)

Yes, I did some Thanksgiving days with just me, myself, and I, contra every existing holiday tradition. I experienced some uncomfortable Thanksgiving Day dinners at the houses of acquaintances, but the worst of them was an excruciating dinner wherein I with preschool daughter in tow had been invited by my military supervisor to share his familial table … except that he had somehow forgotten to tell his spouse until the very last minute that he had invited us. Her resentment was a palpable thing, hovering over the table like a fog and curdling every bite that I took. That was the year that I resolved to break no bread on Thanksgiving with any but blood family; if it meant only the two of us or myself alone, then so be it. I did manage to get home for that traditional dinner with blood relatives now and again – which varied the solitary meal program to some degree.
Besides, sometimes the Thanksgiving holiday was an opportunity to do serious work – the year that I replaced the back fence myself, and ate my supper mid-project from a tray (the tiny poulet year) sitting in the living room and regarding the fence in mid-project. This year is no different, with substantial projects in mid-accomplishment: we have the three-day market event in Johnson City to prepare for; the full-on display of the pavilion, with Christmas lights, special displays and three days’ worth of stock; my books, her earrings. This is a huge event – justifying some preparations above and beyond the usual. Christmas dinner will mark the real end and celebration for us – another year, well-done.

There are so many things to celebrate, and give thanks for on this particular day: We are thankful that Mom is safely settled with my sister and her family out in California; that Mom is as sharp and healthy as ever, aside from the wheelchair-necessitating disability. We are also thankful for a couple of repeat clients for the Teeny Publishing Bidness, and a couple of new ones. This allowed us the latitude to explore other yearly markets, and with the election being done and people feeling good about spending money again, those markets may yet be profitable for us. We are thankful for our neighbors, especially the ones who tolerate Larry-bird’s early morning serenades, who exchange venison and garden vegetables for eggs, in addition to exchanging contacts and recommendations in the most neighbor-supporting way. We are thankful indeed, for a refrigerator, pantry and freezer stuffed with good food, stashed away against emergencies, that both our automobiles are in good repair and running order, that among other necessary household repairs we could afford to top up the ceiling insulation and reduce the electric bill thereby. We have our own continued good health to be thankful for… I am thankful for being able to publish three books with my name on the cover this year – including the one that I was beginning to believe I could never finish. I have probably forgotten any number of other things to be thankful for, so I’ll just stash them under the topic of “other blessings.” May you all have blessings to be thankful for, and a bounteous supper to mark the day. Happy Thanksgiving!

It has been an education, watching the mass public meltdown on the part of the not-Trump faction over the last week and a half. OK – I get the shock and denial, said to be the first stages of grief. Hillary was supposed to become the first woman elected president of the USA! (Yay, vagina!) It was her turn, per the Ruling Uni-party and a whole lot of people who should have known better. And she was supposed to be qualified – the most qualified woman evah! – although specifics about those qualifications are somewhat thin on the ground and mostly to do with her grabbing in marriage an attractive, promising professional pol on his way up, and sticking with him no matter what personal humiliations that entailed for decades.

I’d interject a personal note here: I once had a security clearance, and handled classified material for a couple of years. If I had been so damned careless with those documents as the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua was as Secretary of State, I’d still be in a cell in Leavenworth, instead of blissfully retired from the Big Blue Machine for two decades. Too, she had the establishment national media in her pocket, slavering to be of obedient service to the Queen, and a whole lineup of celebrities, likewise dropping to their knees and elbowing each other out of the way in their haste to swear fealty. Her campaign spent a bomb on pollsters, advertising, and whatever else presidential campaigns are supposed to spend megabucks on – which until now was always supposed to signal victory. It was in the bag for her, without a doubt! And yet … the dominoes dropped, one after one, after one. And the coronation was off. No wonder the Dowager Queen is reported to have had a particularly horrific tantrum on Election Night, and vanished from the eyes of her adoring public for more than a week, reappearing looking like a side dish of Death indifferently warmed over.

Her supporters’ first reaction seemed to be shock and denial, followed swiftly by skipping over the pain and guilt and going straight to the anger and bargaining, as demonstrated by a diverse variety of “never MY president!” advocates. Some of them may simply be virtue-signaling to their fellows, going along with the herd, as it were – like the cast of Hamilton. Others, mostly has-been celebs like Cher and Yoko Ono appear to be screaming “Look at MEEEEEE!” The celeb virtue-signaling wing appears almost universal among the glitterati – to the point where cooler heads like Oprah Winfrey advising a “wait and see” approach are treated as if they are vile Trumpist fellow-travelers.

The whole liberal meltdown and mass-virtue-signaling exercise exerts a kind of horrified fascination, like contemplating a spectacular 20-car pileup on the interstate. Out of decency, you want to look away … but you just can’t, because the vehicles involved have wound up in such bizarre positions: on-end in the median, pretzeled around an overpass support, or balanced on the safety railing like a child’s teeter-totter.

The pathetic part of it all is that right up until the day before yesterday (or so it now seems) Donald Trump was just a rich, blowhard Noo Yawk vulgarian, a habitué of the tabloid pages with a no-more-than-usually centrist-to-socially-liberal political stance, a reality-show businessman. Against that parody image, his businesses seemed to be well and profitably run. His family (divorces aside) appear well-adjusted; assorted wives and offspring to be quite happy and functional. He had a reputation, as it now turns out, for picking good people – borne out this very week as he selects a political dream team for his cabinet.

But to judge by the screaming tantrums of the anti-Trumpists, he is the very incarnation of Hitler, Genghis Khan, Simon Legree and Oliver Cromwell, all rolled together in one horrid package. The screaming, or as one pundit puts it, the freakoutrage, will go on for the next four years, unabated by any success on the part of a Trump administration. Racist and anti-Semitic, against every evidence to the contrary – the accusations fly, and fly and fly again, no matter how much evidence there is on the ground to counter them. The protests, the virtue-signaling, the routine street violence and the academic spazz-outs will likely continue for the foreseeable future no matter what events may befall a Trump administration for good or ill. Good thing that the establishment press – having revealed themselves to be so nakedly in the tank for partisan interests – appear to have less and less credibility when it comes to matters political among red-state Americans.

Trump’s run for the presidency seemed like a joke at the start, but to everyone’s surprise the car-chasing dog not only caught the car, but is sitting alertly in the driver’s seat, deftly spinning the wheel and touching the brakes as the vehicle roars through traffic.

Discuss, if you can bear it.

Count me among those who were astounded and relieved – somewhat – to wake up on Wednesday morning, to the sweet sound of my daughter saying, “He won it!” She had stayed up to all hours watching the returns on streaming video, becoming hypnotized by watching the dominoes begin to cascade. I just didn’t have the endurance in me. I thought all day Tuesday (and for a week or so in advance of Election Day) that while he might possibly have an excellent chance, based on the sense that his various, wall-to-wall-scheduled rallies had standing room only crowds, while Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua basically had to bus in Dem Party stalwarts and lock the doors to keep them from leaving. Just the comparative pictures of the crowds … well, that lent hope. The cascade of revelations from Wikileaks also gave hope that perhaps a larger audience would see the Clintons for the grasping, corrupt plutocrats that they have become, and perhaps have always been. But – seeing the major national news media were so neatly pocketed by her campaign, and knowing that 18-wheel trailer-truckloads of fraudulent ballots were likely being packed and loaded – I could not bear to watch our America fall into the status of a banana republic in a single awful night. I believed that at best – Republicans would hold on to the Senate and House and to a preponderance of the state legislatures and governorships. After all, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, AKA Her Inevitableness, is not Evita, and we are not Argentina – and what a pure relief it is to know that millions of Americans of all colors, genders and political persuasions agree with me. “There is a Providence,” as Chancellor Bismarck is believed to have remarked (although likely he didn’t) more than a century ago, “that protects idiots, drunkards, children, and the United States of America.”

It turns out now that most of us who chose, with varying degrees of hope and despair, to vote for Trump, were overlooked by the professional pollsters, fibbing to them when we were not overlooked, and the pollsters themselves nudging their findings this way and that to favor the establishment narrative. That is the other takeaway from last Wednesday morning; that just about every polling and mainstream media organization got it all catastrophically wrong. I mean wrong on the sense of launching an unsinkable ship on a collision course with an iceberg in mid-Atlantic in the late spring of 1912, and then standing about with eggy disaster caked on their faces, wondering what just hit them and why the water level is rapidly rising towards the Boat Deck. Shock, horror, disbelief … that everything which had always worked so well before in packaging and presenting a candidate to the electorate suddenly didn’t. Spending a lot of money didn’t work, suborning the establishment press to your side didn’t work, and collecting celebrity endorsements and the endorsements of the moneyed new-tech class didn’t work at all. Their understanding of the world is rocked … but I am certain that those who have suddenly tripped and fallen flat over a pothole of reality in their road will pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing shattering had happened at all.

Not that we are out of the shadows yet, of course. The hired protestors and freelance rioters are creating mayhem in major cities even now; likely they will continue to do so for as long as the checks from various Soros front “social justice” organizations keep coming, and the busses are for hire to bring them together for a “spontaneous” demonstration with nicely-printed protest signs and carefully briefed professional activists posing as ‘just ordinary folks’. Of course, the establishment media cameras are there to offer lip-smacking, ghoulish coverage. Funny thing, though – as a handful of internet wits are pointing out – basically, this conforms the judgement of those of us who thought that we were taking a huuuge chance in voting Trump. Another mordantly amusing item – the “Not My President” protesters are creating destruction, havoc and inconvenience … in the very places which most probably turned out for the Dowager Queen in substantial numbers, an irony of such density that it threatens to drop through the center of the earth and come out someplace in Tashkent.

Discuss and speculate, as you are inclined.

The first of our Christmas market events was yesterday at the Spring Branch/Bulverde Senior center, which is located on a side street in what passes for downtown Bulverde, Texas … which is not really one of those compact and easily recognizable towns – but rather one of those scattered along a half mile or so of several roads about twenty minutes’ drive north of San Antonio. This is the third year that we have done this event – and it was a good and reassuring start to the season, after a pair of disappointing events last month in Blanco and Johnson City. It is my daughter’s theory – and a good many other venders at those events agreed – people were either uneasy about the election, and not in any mood for Christmas buying. It was our fondest hope that with the election done, and Christmas creeping ever closer … that we would do well at this market.
And we did; I did as well this year in sales as I did at last year, which is pretty good, considering. We had a spot where we could set up three tables in a narrow u-shape, and market my daughter’s Paper Blossom Production Earrings from one side, and my books on the other. There was a good crowd out, and yes, they were in the mood to spend money. I even swapped three books to the vendor next to us in exchange for a covered bowl hand-turned out of local pecan wood – I have been longing for one such, after seeing them offered by woodworkers at other markets, but their prices were always too rich for me. But I liked the covered bowl, and the woodworker’s wife was thrilled to bits to pick out a book each for her daughter, granddaughter and grandson, which were approximately the same value as the covered bowl – so, all happy.

I wore the latest addition to my “author drag” wardrobe; brown poly-wool tweed walking suit, with hat, reticule and shirtwaist, all color-coordinated – and yes, very eye-catching, although the receptionist at the Center related with a giggle, that someone remarked to her that they had just seen Mary Poppins walking in. Another vendor exclaimed that I was just as “cute as a button” – a compliment that I don’t believe has been applied to me since elementary school. The whole thing was eye-catching – as intended – and not all that uncomfortable to wear. So – onto Weinachtsmarkt next weekend in New Braunfels and then to Johnson City for three days the weekend after that.
And The Golden Road is now up at Amazon, for pre-order and release on the 18th. I hope to have the print version available early in December. Fingers crossed…

11. November 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

I could not refind the lovely Veteran’s Day video that I spotted first thing this morning … but what about this one?

Assorted. Random. That’s the way that things are going. So … in no particular order of importance – are we really-o, truly-o in Heinlein’s Crazy Years? A time when Ted Rall and Michael Moore make sense – hey the odds would have to catch up to them sometime. The choice facing those of us who quixotically vote on Election Day have the unedifying choice between a rich, crude and notably vulgar media personality … and a jaw-droppingly corrupt and incompetent rich professional politician who possesses a vagina.

Well, Blondie and I have already cast our votes, for all the good that may be gathered from them … and in Texas, we do have to show an ID or a voter-registration card to early vote so the odds are that our votes will count for something are pretty good. The whole election thing still hangs over us like Damocles’ sword, so we are both waiting for it to be over, over and done.
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We have a breath of non-market time this weekend, and plan to use it most wisely. This week has been a slack time for us, after the Johnson City market last weekend. (A routine medical screening for me, which involved drinking a disgusting fluid and fasting the day before, and world-class sedatives the day of. Enough said, although the experience wasn’t as totally unpleasant as the previous repetition. And the gastroenterologist was a wise-cracking funny man, in the best tradition of M*A*S*H.; “Yeah, any polyps found, we’ll take ‘em out – we don’t do photo safaris here.”)
After careful consideration, we have decided to go for the big event of Christmastime in the Hill Country – the ceremonial lighting of the Courthouse in Johnson City, which associated market event will go over three days – a Friday afternoon, all Saturday and a good bit of Sunday. Everyone assures us that this event is more than huuge, so we are resolved to commit to it. The downside is that the Friday and Saturday market times run until 10 PM … and Johnson City is a little more than an hour drive from home. Which is tolerable in one iteration … but over three days, and six times up and down the highway … and in the dark late at night for two of them, with deer and drunks and god knows what on the highway on a weekend?

No. We bit the bullet and decided on a hotel for two nights; problem being that the affordable motel/hotels in the vicinity of Johnson City are already booked for that weekend. Yes, the event is that big. Finally, we opted for a cabin at an RV park a few miles away, which miraculously was still available at their regular price. The cabin is one of those nicer ones with a shower and toilet in it, and equipped with Wi-fi and a microwave oven. That will be our brief winter vacation. We’ve passed the RV park coming and going last weekend, and it looks quite nice. We’ll be able to set up at the venue and then return there to sleep and refresh ourselves, and I will likely be able to wear my author drag all three days…
Yes, the author drag. I have committed to making a splash by wearing a period costume, and seeing it work out so well in the “attracting attention” department at book events this summer, I am resolved to doing the same this season – but I will need more than just the plain grey and black Edwardian walking suit outfit, especially for multi-day events. So – chained to the sewing machine, doing a small wardrobe of late 19th-century or early 20th century outfits, with accessories … aided in this by shopping the going-out-of-business sales at the local Hancock Fabric outlets this last summer, stocking up on lengths of fabric at knock-down prices, plus judiciously shopping at an on-line fabric warehouse outlet, where I must take the fabric on trust. Which so far has worked out, but gosh, I miss a place like Scriveners, an eccentric local retail outlet here in San Antonio which had a legendary fabric department. (Pause for the obligatory tear for Scriveners … their high-quality wool suitings, their silks, muslins, notions, and their old-style premier staff. Yes, I was a beloved customer with these dearly old-fashioned salesladies; not for being able to spend a bomb as many of their other clientele could, but for being one of the few with the nous to tackle the complicated Vintage Vogue patterns.) This weekend is dedicated to finishing a brown tweed wool outfit of the same pattern as the grey and black… as some of the market events will be out of doors, and yes, it does get cool in Texas in winter. Not just the suit – but the hat and accessories to go with.)

Not as cool as a couple of years ago at Goliad’s Christmas on the Square, where it plunged into the 20s, by the thermometer, and by the wind-chill factor, likely a few degrees colder than that. That weekend was ghastly, BTW – minimal attendance at what was normally a big local thing. I’m on the docket for this year’s iteration – and Miss Ruby’s Author Corral will be in an open space on the Courthouse Square next to the library – where a couple of years ago a narrow shop-front was demolished, to reveal a nearly-pristine mural Bull Durham advert on the side of the building adjacent. This is now a pleasant courtyard, part-shaded by an awning – and this is where I will be on the first Saturday in December.
Other stuff … a considerable kerfuffle in my neighborhood over the late summer about the community mailboxes being raided by some dirtbag with a penchant for stealing mail and packages with possibly valuable contents. (We adore our local mailman – his name is Alfred, he is hard-working and efficient, also a veteran; he has put us wise to some of this.) The dirtbag possibly responsible for the most recent round of vandalism and theft has been busted by the SAPD – apparently red-handed, which was the only way said dirtbag could be arrested… that is, caught in the act. Meanwhile, those of us in the neighborhood are considering our own methods of protection for the community mailboxes. Mainly this involves either installing security cameras at our own expense, or tilting those which we already possess in order to focus on the community mailboxes. Alfred approves of this community and self-organized thing. I have a security camera, which covers my own driveway – and alas our house is too far away to cover the nearest mailbox. I will note that functional communities have no need of a self-proclaimed community organizer – they are of themselves self-organizing. No need of outside talent when that within is sufficient.

Oh, and we went to the early voting location today. Might as well get it over with; the line went out the door and almost to the end of the parking lot. Never seen that before. We did meet two of our neighbors, and had a lovely chat as we stood in line for nearly an hour. Yes … interest in this current election cycle is particularly intense …

I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)

The book project has a fair amount of my attention, as it touches on a local history matter featured in my own books – but in the interesting coincidence of the Tiny Publishing Bidness having published some of the local history books noted as sources, or citing local historians whom I have met or have had something to do with; the late Rev. Ken Knopp, James Kearney, and Jefferson Morganthaler, most notably – and referring to many of the sources that I read as research for the Adelsverein Trilogy. This book that I am working on now caps a series which can only be produced by a writer/researcher involved to the point of intense – yea, even fanatical interest – in a specific Civil War event. Seriously, Colonel Paul Burrier (USA, Ret.) has gone back into the archives of various establishments and re-published at his expense just about every relevant document there is to find in national and state archives regarding the locally infamous incident memorialized by the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas.

I’ve written here and there about the Nueces Fight/Battle/Massacre here, here, and there…and how the peculiar situation in the Hill Country of Texas – well-stocked with Abolitionist, pro-Union inclinations – generated a bitter civil war-within a civil war.

You would think that the Confederacy, after establishing the principle that if you don’t like the results of an election, you can take your marbles and secede, had little ethical grounds for persecuting those elements within Texas who didn’t like the results of the secession convention, and wished to take their marbles and rejoin the union – but they did, anyway. “It’s only OK when WE do it” has a longer-than-suspected-history in the Democrat Party, it seems. Colonel Burrier’s thesis is that influential elements among the Texas Hill Country Germans were organizing an all-out, balls-to-the-wall armed and political resistance movement, with the aim of breaking off from Texas, establishing a separate and free state, and rejoining the Union, just as West Virginia did. It’s liable to be a controversial one, since it is contrary to the accepted opinion, which tends more to the concept of relatively innocent non-participants in the peculiar institution generally, and disinclined to participate in the Confederacy’s war specifically – being brutally persecuted for exercising their rights of free speech and association. Repression bred resistance, and violence on both sides.

As in all civil wars, this one split families, friends and communities. One of the most heartbreaking that I can imagine, from reviewing and formatting Colonel Burrier’s assemblage of chapters and notes is that Fritz Tegener, who was elected leader of that party of militant German Unionists who went south towards Mexico together in 1862, was a married man with a small daughter and a two-months-pregnant wife, Susan Benson Tegener. When his party was ambushed by pursuing Confederates, he was badly injured, to the point of incapacitation in the resulting fight, but managed to survive and spend the remainder of the war south of the border in Mexico. Susan Tegener, whose two older brothers were members of the Confederate militia unit assigned to keep order in the Hill Country was taken into custody, along with the families of other suspected Unionists, but eventually released. Assuming her husband dead, Susan married twice more – to Confederate sympathizers. After the end of the war, when Fritz Tegener turned up alive and well, her divorce from him was, as might be assumed, spectacularly ugly. Fritz Tegener never acknowledged the second child as his … and Colonel Burrier suspects that Susan Tegener may have spilled all to the Confederate authorities about her husband’s planned departure with sixty other Unionists in 1862 anyway. Fritz also had two brothers; Gustaf, summarily hanged at Spring Creek later in 1862 by Confederate authorities (or vigilantes – hard to tell which, sometimes), and William – also lynched by pro-Confederate vigilantes the previous year – apparently for his disinclination to embrace the Confederacy.

The other sobering element is how swiftly things turned, and turned again, for many of the well-established and respectable men in the German community. The elected sheriff of Gillespie County, one Philip Braubach, was taken to San Antonio in the indignity of chains with a heavy cannon-ball weight attached. His companions in miserable captivity included two Hill Country store owners – one a former justice of the peace, and the other a former officer in the local militia. They all three were charged by a military tribunal and found guilty – fortunately they escaped shortly thereafter. Others coming under suspicion and persecution were just as well-established in their respective communities. They held responsible offices – state representative, justice of the peace, surveyor, militia company officer, ran profitable businesses, had the absolute trust of their friends, neighbors, communities … and for a season of madness, were branded traitors, plotters, brigands and revolutionaries. And for that, they spent three or four perilous years, hunted as outlaws and traitors until the wheel turned again …

I saw the hungry armies of the men who had no work
I saw the silver ship fly to her doom
I watched the world at war and witnessed brave men go berserk
And saw that death was both the bride and groom
I watched Bikini atoll turn from coral into dust
At Dealy Plaza worlds came to an end
And swirling winds of time blew as the Soviet went bust
And life is born in stars as some contend
The swirling winds have always blown around man’s aimless trials
And will continue blowing ‘til the stars
Wink out in just a few short eons as the goddess whiles
Away the time in counting kings and tsars
Who think that they control the winds that swirl around their heads
Believing they are mighty as the sword
Not knowing that in blink of eye they’re taken to their beds
The swirling winds of time are oft ignored
Until, like we, the winds becalm and we stand face to face
With zephyrs and Spring breezes at our back
Propelling us toward what it seems is finish of the race
The winds we have but time is what we lack –

Walt Erickson, the poet laureate of Belmont Club, on this particular discussion thread.

So, tempus fugit and all that … dust in the wind, as the pop group Kansas used to sing. That number always reminds me vividly of a certain time and place, a memory which is strictly personal and has no bearing on this post, really … save for reminding me in an oblique way, that as of this month twenty years past, I went on terminal leave from the USAF. As of the end of this year, I have been retired from the military for as many years as I was in it. I can’t claim that I have traveled as far in this last two decades as I did in the two before that … after all, when I went to my high school reunion in 1982, I won the award for having come the farthest to attend the reunion. That was the year I was stationed in Greenland at the time, and the reunion was coincident to my middle-of-tour leave. The two decades past included travel to California to visit family, to Brownsville on client business, to Washington DC/Arlington for a milblogger convention, to Houston once and innumerable road trips to the Hill Country on book business. Dust in the wind, my friends – dust in the wind.
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So, I am taking a break from writing about political stuff this week, in this last stretch before the elections. For one reason – I have said what I have to generally say about it all, several times over, and for year after year; just not interested in finding a way of saying it all again. For another, there are bloggers and commenters who are saying it all much better than I could – about the possible apotheosis of Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, the possible repercussions of said apotheosis, and the fighting chances of The Donald. Frankly, it impresses me that he pisses off a whole lot of individuals who have a long, long, long history of insulting and denigrating me, as a military veteran, a proud member of the aspiring middle class, and Tea Party participant. No, he isn’t the answer to every political maiden’s ardent prayer; he’s a loud, proud, out and out oft-married Noo Yawk vulgarian, which most intelligent political mavens realized early in the game – but as Abraham Lincoln was moved to say in defense of Ulysses S. Grant, early on in the first civil war, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

So – The Donald fights, which is quite refreshing for a quasi-conservative, and a nice change for the manner in which so-called representatives of the conservative end of the National Uniparty usually react. * They curl up and whimper apologetically when accused of some offense – whatever is the prime offense of the moment according to the current crop of screeching garbage babies – and then they move on as if nothing had ever happened. The die is cast, in any case: the election itself is in less than four weeks. Whatever deals are in the works have been cut, the planned media bombshells have already been primed and aimed, the required ballot-boxes have already been stuffed in the strategic districts, either actually, or by electronic means; the set speeches written and the responding authoritative editorials composed and set on time-delay release. All that us ordinary citizens can do is to buckle in for the bumpy ride, and vote as our conscience dictates.

Not much that I can do at this point to change any of that – so I am prepping for market events this month, next month and the first half of December. I am a hard-working scribbler of historical fiction and light contemporary comic romps – and writing the books is just half the job. The other half is getting them out in front of likely readers, and in this last quarter of 2016, this is where most of my direct sales are made, and this is why I try to have a new book ready for release in time for those markets. My daughter, with her origami art, has suggested and has the purse sufficient to enable us to explore other market venues which have reasonable table fees for participation. San Marcos – for two markets in conjunction with their Mermaid Festival worked out very well for her, so we are off to exploring other craft and local markets in Blanco, Johnson City, and back to Giddings, for a series of craft and book events which will likely take up a Saturday, or even a whole weekend; this in addition to the events which we have done in previous years; Bulverde, New Braunfels, Goliad and Boerne. It’s frankly an exhausting schedule from this next weekend until the week before Christmas, so I am trying to get as much as possible done in advance; the business cards, the book flyers, the freebie bookmarks and postcards … all printed up and assembled at home. Because the actual process of doing the market is also exhausting. Load the Montero, drive to venue, unload the Montero, set up the pavilion and tables, work the passing crowd of shoppers for six or eight hours, break down the market set-up and drive home … the easy market events are those where we only have to bring the merchandise, or the tables and table-dressings, and for an indoors venue. This can be rewarding … but also exhausting. This is the price of getting your books and craft items out there – and now is the beginning of the peak season.

*As for the current Trump ruckus du jour … Trash-talking with another guy about women? Oh, please. Both the Daughter Unit and I overheard cruder stuff from the male servicemen who were our co-workers during our time in service, and in the Daughter Unit’s case – she sometimes joined in. (Me – I’m a f**king lady – I wear a hat and gloves – and don’t you forget it!) Dems getting the vapors over this is epically hypocritical, especially after overlooking Ted Kennedy’s truly crude and abusive behavior (not just words, but actual and disgusting behavior over a period of decades as a senator) and Bill Clinton’s serial abuse of women – abuse which was enabled by the current Democrat Party candidate for the presidency – and excused by the members of that same party when it all came to national attention in the last year of his presidency. Get back to me when being a total male pig is condemned equally across the board. And for something more substantial than just crude talk.

03. October 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Home Front, Old West

So that was a fun Saturday, although exhausting as it always is to pack the Montero, drive a certain distance, unpack the Montero, find a good spot, transport the canopy, tables, the tubs of books and the tub of table dressing and giveaway materiel, and the two camp chairs to it, and set up, ready for business. Then – four to six hours of face-to-face direct sales, broken by a sandwich from the HEB deli (No, lunch is a chancy thing at these events. There may be a food truck or a concession handy with something that we’d want to eat and don’t mind paying for … or not. We have wised up. We bring HEB deli sandwiches, and an insulated bag of bottles of drinking water.)

This is the second year for the Boerne Book Festival – last year there were about twenty of us, spaced out in a back room in the main building. If records and memory serve, we did sell a handful of books, but mostly, us authors were reduced to looking at each other after a certain point in mid-afternoon. I did have a table across from a local historian, Jefferson Morgenthaler, who did a very good book about the German settlements in the Hill Country – a book that I absolutely recommend, as he covered the same territory in non-fiction the same ground that I did in fiction. He is one of those local authors that I knew of, but had not met until that point – so last year’s event was not a totally wasted effort.

Neither was this year’s; they set us up on the landscaped grounds of the library, under the trees where a winding paved path went down to an amphitheater which was the venue for a couple of scheduled events, starting with a children’s ballet company performance: the mini-dancers performed as various forms of sea-life to the music of Saint Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals”. This was the most-well attended segment of the presentations in the amphitheater, I will have to admit, although the later presentations/discussions did have an audience. One of the authors wrote zombie thrillers and was of sufficient celebrity as these things go to have the local Barnes & Noble store with a representative sample of his books.

There were about thirty-five authors present, plus Alan of the Texas Author’s Association, who had a booth filled with books by members of the association. One of them was Clay Mitchell, who was a client of Watercress Press. Alice and I had done some substantive and line editing for his book, Amid the Ashes and the Dust, which is a terrific and evocative read, set in East Texas. Another was John Keeling, who has started a western series about cattle ranchers in Texas; the first book is called Take ‘em North: The 2E Brand Begins. We had a brief chat about writing about the post-Civil War long-trail cattle drives; always go back to the primary sources, we agreed. Just about anything about that enterprise that you saw in a movie or a TV show during the Golden Age of the Western (say from 1930-1970)  is liable to be howlingly inaccurate.

Boerne is one of those towns just about commute-distance from north-side San Antonio; with a very distinct identity, and a well-established historical district. The ambiance is one of very substantial proto-yuppie prosperity. A couple of new developments on the outskirts of town have sprouted up in the last few years, and the various businesses in the historic downtown have – for as long as we’ve been visiting – been very, very upscale. It is, in a word – a prosperous place.

My daughter and I did venture by turns into the used-book store, which is an outgrowth of the Patrick Heath Public Library; a lovely building on the grounds, with a two-level terrace at the back, and a beautifully-arranged selection inside. Seriously – this is a library used-book outlet, which was as well-sorted and set out as any high-end retail book store. My daughter bought Alison Weir’s bio of Henry VIII and I found a copy of the Crabtree and Evelyn cookbook, which I bought for sentimental reasons. And yes – I can’t resist cookbooks of a certain sort. I really used to love that company when they had an outlet in North Star Mall, across the street from the office building where I had a job, some years ago. Sadly, the Crabtree & Evelyn outlet vanished, seemingly between one week and the next. Eventually, there was nothing left in that mall which I was interested in, on my lunch hour, save maybe the Williams-Sonoma outlet. It all became high-end designer clothing, makeup and jewelry. I commiserated with the volunteer cashier at the bookstore about that. She was leafing enviously through the cookbook during the time it took for me to go back to our tent and get my purse. ‘Hah!’ I said. ‘You had your chance!’

So – a very good and reassuring start to the last-quarter-of-the year selling season. One of the readers that we sold a set of the Luna City Chronicles to, stayed for a while to lament about how her widely-geographically-spread friends visualized Texas … in a most unflattering way, of course. My daughter has marveled at how her English FB friends seem to think that we all live in little desolate towns, where tumbleweeds roll through deserted unpaved streets, and everyone lives in tumbling-down shacks with outhouses out at the back and gunfights in the streets on a regular basis.

No, it’s not like that – not anything like that at all… But perhaps we want to keep that quiet, because then everyone would want to move here, and that would quite wreck the place. Say, did I mention how hot it is in Texas during the summer? It’s boiling hot, miserable-hot, fry-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot. For five whole months, and sometimes six! No, stay away, stay away!

Anyway, the Daughter-Unit and I are planning out the next market events on our schedule; Johnson City and Blanco are a go for their markets, and Saturday morning at the New Braunfels Sophienburg’s Christmas marked in November at the New Braunfels Civic Center. Dates to be posted as soon as confirmed.

30. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

I followed a link from one of my usual daily reads to Angelo Codevilla’s of-linked most recent essay, After the Republic and read it with the usual sense of renewed depression which usually attends me on reading a disquisition on our current political/social conditions. (Wretchard at Belmont Club and Victor Davis Hansen also produce pretty much the same results – what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.)
Especially this paragraph:

Who, a generation ago, could have guessed that careers and social standing could be ruined by stating the fact that the paramount influence on the earth’s climate is the sun, that its output of energy varies and with it the climate? Who, a decade ago, could have predicted that stating that marriage is the union of a man and a woman would be treated as a culpable sociopathy, or just yesterday that refusing to let certifiably biological men into women’s bathrooms would disqualify you from mainstream society? Or that saying that the lives of white people “matter” as much as those of blacks is evidence of racism? These strictures came about quite simply because some sectors of the ruling class felt like inflicting them on the rest of America. Insulting presumed inferiors proved to be even more important to the ruling class than the inflictions’ substance.

Repeating the last sentence for emphasis: “Insulting presumed inferiors proved to be even more important to the ruling class than the inflictions’ substance.” Especially since the tidal-spew of insult from that we think of as the bi-coastal ruling class, the gatekeepers, the fortunate 1%, the intellectual class and the media darlings towards ordinary, working-class and middle-class residents of what I have begun thinking of as Flyoverlandia has achieved tsunami-depth in the last few years … indeed, the last few months. More »

Well, hallelujah and hurrah, I finally finished out the final draft of The Golden Road which was conceptualized something like five years ago when I mentally mapped out another trilogy-companion set to the Adelsverein Trilogy. Yes, there would be a book about Margaret Becker Vining Williamson, which would slot into the sequence as a prelude to the trilogy – and that took two books to bring to completion. (She was a fascinating character, who saw a lot of Texas history either happen right before her eyes, or just around the corner and out of sight.) There would be a book following on to the Trilogy – the Quivera Trail, which would pick up with Dolph Becker’s English wife and her travails in a new and alien country. And – in between the first and second Adelsverein volumes, there would be the Gold Rush adventures of Magda Vogel Becker’s young step-brother, Fredi Steinmetz. Fredi appeared as a minor character with some brief dramatic turns in the plot. He had gone to California following the rush for gold … but was never forthcoming about what he had done and seen there, between the settling of Gillespie County and the start of the Civil War. I always wanted to write a Gold Rush adventure somewhat like The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, or so I told myself … but it kept being put on the back burner, metaphorically-speaking. I bashed out the two books about Margaret, and then Quivera Trail … for a good bit, I was actually writing them simultaneously. When I got bored or stuck, I’d work on the other. Which is a good method, as long as one is equally motivated. And then I wandered off-track.

First it was Lone Star Sons, then I got taken up with Sunset and Steel Rails – in which Fredi appeared as an older man, a hard-bitten, yet courtly romantic interest for a heroine who chose (through a series of dramatic circumstances) to be a Harvey Girl – and then by the ongoing Luna City Chronicles. Really, I wonder just how much I did want to write a Gold Rush adventure after all, since it kept getting back-burnered so frequently. I posted the first chapter in January, 2014 – but two years in the writing is about par for me, in a historical. So – actually not all that bad in the actual writing and research. So – finally roughed out, start to finish, send to the beta readers, and now to buckle down again with the various contemporary accounts collected. Lot of blanks to fill in – where, for example, was Mary Ellen Pleasant’s boarding house/restaurant in 1856-57? What were the names of express companies in operation in the northern diggings in that same year? How far degraded had the riverbank of the middle fork of the Yuba River become by that same period? Had that vicinity pretty well been overtaken by hydraulic mining – in which whole hillsides were washed away by huge gets of water. And how – exactly were daily newspapers distributed in San Francisco. I am certain that subscribers must have had theirs delivered, and equally certain that they were also sold on the streets … anyway, back to work.

The fall book event schedule carries on this Saturday with the Boerne Book Festival in Boerne, at the Patrick Heath Library, a little off Main Street at Johns Road, just past Main Plaza Park. I’ll be set up in the park and amphitheater by the side of the library – hope to see you there! When the market schedule lets up, after Christmas, I will turn to working on two more book projects – another Lone Star Sons adventure, and the 4th Luna City Chronicle for release in late 2017.

21. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, General

So a writer who hangs out in a blog that I follow had a very cogent point in a recent post – about calumny – and the moral crime of falsely accusing an innocent person of a crime, ranging from the mild social offense to the deeply hideous crime against God and humanity at large. He felt, if I read the post aright, that calumny is one of those deeply awful things – as it damages an innocent person ….
Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins … I think it worse than the crime or sin. Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. … And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly, the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever …

The thrust of that particular post was to do with the creation of credible villains – but it did set me to thinking about calumny, which is either the eighth or ninth of the Biblical ten commandments, depending on your religious tradition: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Ancient Biblical law took this prohibition so seriously that anyone found to have brought false witness would receive the punishment for that crime which they had accused an innocent party of. Which brought to mind the unfortunate frequency of political calumnies; the most recent of which being Hillary and her so-called Basket of Deplorables – je suis Deplorable, anyone? At this point, I would venture a guess that those people that she meant to insult are having a good laugh and making a joke of it all through t-shirts and other novelty items, while she has hurriedly backed away and apologized. She is but a single person, and a sick and feeble one at that, even if she is a long-time political operative borne up on the shoulders of a groveling media establishment, attending on her like courtiers of an unpopular monarch.
She is but one person and that was one single instance of shooting from the lip in the manner that we have all come to expect of her. What has been of more damage, over which I took much more offense was the near universal calumniation of Tea Party supporters over the years since the first big protests began in 2009. Here were earnest, educated and contentious Americans, demonstrating their concern over a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of our national leadership – as is our right and duty to do so. And the wide-spread response from a substantial portion of the so-called media, entertainment and intellectual elite was to be painted as ignorant, racist and reactionary morons. That is calumny on a grand scale, in solo and chorus, and has never walked back from or apologized for by the perpetuaters. That narrative still stands, in the minds of those who never had actual personal experience of participating in a Tea Party event or organization. It is the calumny that will not die, but I can at least take comfort from knowing that it has done at least as much damage to the credibility (and possibly the pocketbooks and long-term careers) of those who flung it, as was done to those at whom it was flung. Discuss.

11. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?

06. September 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic

Here it comes, rolling around again – this season salted with the bitter seasonings of a particularly contentious electoral season and all that this year has brought to us. Seriously, at this moment, I would rather not think about that campaign, and the international situation. I’d rather just put my head down and power through the book and craft events that come our way, and provide us a certain visibility in the local book and origami jewelry direct market in the lead-up to Christmas. And even some sales and visibility, for there is always a follow-on effect.
Because the last quarter of the year is traditionally the best for retail sales; when the Daughter Unit and I go all-out. Towards the end of it, we have an event every Saturday, or every Saturday-Sunday. The most brutally taxing are the ones where we haul out the pavilion, the folding tables and all the racks, chairs, and all the display stuff. This fills up the backs of the Daughter Unit’s Montero and takes both of us to set up and arrange. The least demanding events involve just the merchandise and maybe both tables. Still, it means that both of us will be tied to the venue of the day for at least six hours, which is exhausting in it’s own way – especially if a long drive is also involved.

So – what is coming up this holiday season? I will have two books to launch; the third Luna City Chronicle, of course – and the long-awaited picaresque Gold Rush adventure, The Golden Road, which I have had on my to-do writing list for … umm, the last three years? I just kept getting sidelined … read – distracted with bright shiny stuff, and completion of that book just kept getting rolled back. Lone Star Sons, the two previous Luna City books, Sunset and Steel Rails. This is the adventures of Fredi Steinmetz in California, which were referred to in the Trilogy – and in more depth in Sunset and Steel Rails, where he is an older man who has knocked around the old West for quite a bit. The Golden Road is … well, it’s about his time and adventures in California during the late 1850s, which never came up much because in the Trilogy he was a minor character, and in Sunset, he was decades beyond the impulsive, adventurous teenager he is in The Golden Road.

We’re loading on a full schedule, beginning with the Giddings Word Wrangler event this week. This was not such a big-selling event for us last year, but it was a blast to participate in because it was so strongly backed by the community. There was a banquet on Thursday evening with all the local important people there, as well as other authors, then an all-day event at the Library-Community Center on Friday, where the kids from local schools were bussed in to do the rounds of the author tables, a luncheon sponsored by city employees at mid-day … and it was all the most splendid fun. Yes, it does mean an overnight stay, with a two-hour drive on either end of it, but honestly, for Texas, a two-hour drive is reasonably close – and no, this will not include a large part of it being stuck in traffic.

Right after Giddings, we have to turn around and head up to San Marcos for a day – this is not for books, but for my daughter’s origami jewelry and beadwork. Art Squared is having a special art market to kick off Mermaid Week – on Courthouse Square in San Marcos on Saturday, September 10.
And that’s just the start of our confirmed fall events, for both my books and her stuff. I’ll have a place at the Boerne Book Fair, on the grounds of the spanking brand-new Patrick Heath Library in Boerne on October 1st, and we’ll share a place at the Bulverde-Spring Branch Fall Craft Fair, which is in the Senior Activity Center on Cougar Bend Road, on November 12. Other events and markets will be filled in as they begin taking applications.

There have been any number of important stories covered by the nationally-based establishment media in the last decade or so – in the deathless phrase tweeted by Iowahawk, David Burge, “with a pillow, until they stop moving.” Through the internet and alternate media, a good many of those stories that would have stopped moving through judicious use of the media pillow in previous decades – have still managed to percolate from those alternate media sites into the national mass media conversation. Things like the Dan Rather/TANG faked memo, the Swift Boat Veterans going after John Kerry as the duty-shirking Eddie Haskell of the Swift Boat service and dozens of other incidents fought off the smothering pillow, the Chick-Fil-A boycott, and yes – eventually got discovered in the major media outlets. With considerable reluctance, one might add. The matter of black on white violent crime may be on the edge of being discovered by the mainstream media, much as the Hollywood producer in the Godfather movie discovered the head of a dead horse in his bed.

There are these issues, you see – about which the major national media outlets appear to have a strange, almost Victorian compact; a determination NOT to see them, even when ordinary citizens know about. Not only know about, but are deeply concerned – and have strong opinions. (I mentioned one of these issues some months ago – here.) The matter of illegal immigrants in the US is one of those radioactive issues that the media, the political and intellectual leadership in this country do not wish to touch. They wish for various reasons, including the fact that there are certain monetary and social benefits to tolerating an influx of illegal immigrants, that the issue be disappeared, bundled out of sight and off the front pages. But the issue adamantly refuses to stay disappeared – precisely because there are so many stories like this one; the horrific bus accident in Louisiana on IH-10 this last week, where it appeared that the driver of the bus was not only an illegal alien, but unlicensed as well.

It’s a regularly occurring thing, all across the West and southwest; automobile accidents involving uninsured and unlicensed drivers, often illegal residents. Sometimes alcohol is involved as well. Precise statistics are hard to find – especially since partisans on one side don’t wish to find them, and those on the other side may be prone to exaggerate for effect. But with so many ordinary Americans having had an on-the-road accident experience where the other party was unlicensed, fraudulently unlicensed, uninsured, illegal or any combination of the above … there must be a substantial number of them – together with their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors affected to a lesser degree. Then there are the million working Americans whose social security numbers have been stolen by illegals – a matter over which the IRS feels no particular urgency. A large part of Donald Trump’s popularity across flyover America is precisely because he does address issues like this. Perhaps this will break the major media’s reluctance to acknowledge such matters.
Or not. Your thoughts?