This would appear to be the new theme song for the Fed-Gov’s Bureau of Land Management – that bane of ranchers like Cliven Bundy – as well as a whole lot of other ranchers, farmers, loggers, small landowners, and owners of tiny bits of property on the edge of or in areas of spectacular natural beauty, west of the Mississippi and between the Mexican and Canadian borders.

Yes, indeedy, folks – the maw of the Fed-Gov appears to be insatiable, although it is veiled over with the rationale of wanting to protect endangered species – many of which do not seem to be endangered so much any more – and miles and miles of unique old-growth Western forest. Some of these old-growth forests are so well-protected that they have burned down to the roots in catastrophic fires of late, as local environmental groups went into fits of spastic pearl-clutching, at the very suggestion that … well, pine-bark-beetle and drought-killed trees needed to be cleared away, and so did the duff and accumulation of flammable trash-brush. (The nature of many Western ecologies meant that being burned over every couple of decades was required for the good health of the ecology generally. Well-meant intervention seems to have made the situation worse. But never mind, say the environmentalists…)

This raises the natural suspicion among those of us who have been paying attention, as well as those who have had to make a living in parts of the West lately, that quite a lot of the endangered-species, famously-unique-old-growth-forest, and spectacular-unique-bit-of-landscape legislation which was passed a good three decades ago are now being used for other than their stated purposes. That they are being misused in the service of some international plot (Hello, Agenda 21!) to move us all into urban concrete Stack-a-prole apartment blocks where we can be observed and controlled by the functionaries of the Outer Party, 24-7 … well, I am not quite ready to order my tinfoil chapeau … but I am to the point of becoming concerned, shading to somewhat worried. I can see – rather clearly – that the ostensible care of establishment environmentalists has been used – and the degree of knowledge and malice aforesaid may be debated – in order to close off public lands to any economic use at all, even recreational use, if it is the wrong sort of recreation and by the wrong people. This has all has the whiff of a royal forest being established, for the use and recreation of the small numbers of the anointed, and the lesser orders – the ranchers, hunters, hikers and campers (or cabin-owners) being strictly forbidden on pain of death.

I cannot begin to guess how serious this latest threat to land along the Texas side of the Red River from the BLM is. Likely it will not go very far, now that the Texas AG has drawn a line in the sand. Maybe it is just a feint or even a campaign strategy by Mr. Abbott … but given recent history, and the resentments of all kinds of small-property ranchers and land-owners it’s a shrewd one. The state of Texas, in a handy turn of fate retained ownership of public lands upon becoming a state, instead of the Fed-Gov taking over and retaining vast tracts of wilderness. To this day there are only a couple of national parks within Texas, plus military bases – and for the BLM to even think of appropriating privately-owned lands on the Texas side of the Red River – is breathtakingly ill-conceived. If the BLM is serious in doing so, I guarantee that they will be resisted, furiously. It would make the brouhaha at the Bundy ranch look like a kindergarten playground squabble. It appears at this point, though, that the BLM has backed away, piously disavowing any such intent. For now, anyway, say I, cynically. Five years ago I might have written such a step up to ignorance rather than malice. Five years ago I wouldn’t have thought the IRS would be turned loose to harass political opponents of the Dem Party machine, either.

(Crossposted at www.chicagoboyz.net)

I’m having mine chocolate-flavored, with a dash of whipped cream and mini-peanut-butter cups and toasted almonds sprinkled over, watching the Wendy Davis meltdown, high atop my perch in suburban San Antonio.
Yes ma’am, the spectacle of a relatively unknown local state senator, suddenly elevated to national media attention and anointed the great feminist hope of out-of-state Dems everywhere, suddenly melting down … it is delicious. I ought not to feel this degree of vicious satisfaction … but I do. Heretofore, Ms. Davis only annoyed me for her filibuster opposing tighter regulation of abortion and the three-ring circus which ensued in the Capitol; Honestly, is insisting that abortions must take place before 20 weeks of a pregnancy have passed, and that the facility in which they are performed be at least as hygienic as your average Lasik surgery clinic somehow rise to the status of Teh Great War on Wymens? Really!? She wasn’t representing a district anywhere near mine, and lord knows I have heard tales of state senators and representatives who were notorious for shenanigans even more embarrassing. She, in other words, was not my representative and not my problem.

So I paid very little attention to her, other than to note that she had that sort of slim, tanned and polished look which only can be achieved by relentless dieting, working out, regular beauty-parlor appointments and a lavish expense account at Neiman-Marcus; the very epitome of a modern major feminist. Of course, she would be the latest liberal flavor-fave, especially since her story of working up from being a single teenage mother, living in a trailer … and yet managing to pull herself up by her own efforts and graduate Harvard Law. Well, as Bertie Wooster would say, huzzah for all that! What better liberal candidate for governor of the state of Texas could there be? Although, as my daughter pointed out, if being a relatively impoverished, self-educated and hardworking single mother are the criteria for higher political office these days, I might be at least as well qualified as Ms. Davis.

I have not a shred of a doubt that Ms. Davis has pulled in out of state donations by the bucket-full – and I also have no shred of a doubt that she will move on to a profitable perch in the national Democratic party organization, or maybe to their propaganda arm, otherwise known as the national media. Where else can someone so essentially unself-aware be assured of a comfortable living after having mucked up a political future at the state level? Thanks to that devastating report in the Dallas Morning News, and her own ill-considered reaction to it, Ms. Davis likely has sunk herself with Texas voters three different ways. To male voters, she looks like the vindictive and social-climbing ex-wife from hell, to women voters, she comes off as a manipulative, gold-digging mean girl, and to all Texas voters, she appears as if she is more wedded to outside-Texas interests. And to whimper about having her personal and family life put under a hostile microscope, and have media outlets like NPR whine on her behalf, after what was said about Sarah Palin’s personal and family life? In this cruel world, that’s called turn-about being fair play. Hence the extra scoop of schadenfreude.

Well, the early critical reviews are out and the knives are in: the latest movie remake of The Lone Ranger looks to be tanking like the Titanic,(the original ship, not James Cameron’s movie fantasy) although the some of the reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes are favorable, most of them are entertainingly vicious. Jerry Bruckheimer again goes over the top from the high-dive with a half-gainer and a jackknife on the way down, all with the noisy special effects, Johnny Depp was promised that he could wear bizarre hair and a lot of makeup and it appears as if the ostensible lead character is just there…

There have been so many iterations of The Lone Ranger, on radio, television and in the movies, and each one added its conventions, characterization and images that now it has become a creaking tottering edifice built of clichés. No more growth is possible, just a recitation of the same old verities. I believe that we can do better by the old Wild West, and so I propose a very, very radical solution; to reboot the Lone Ranger by amputating it from the post Civil War never-never-land of mid-20th century imagining and transplanting it squarely back in pre-Civil War Texas, with forays perhaps into Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, and to New Mexico – perhaps even as far as California. John Reid would be the sole survivor of a ranger unit ambushed and wiped out by – oh, whoever would be the villainous gang of the time; a scalp-hunting gang, villainous Comancheros, cattle and horse thieves from the Nueces Strip. Really, any sufficiently well-organized gang of baddies from the period would serve. He could even be a survivor of the Mier Expedition, escaped from Mexican custody and found near-death in the wilderness by Tonto … who could be a Lipan Apache or Tonkawa scout.

And thereafter, the two would roam the southwest as it was at that particular time, with attention to actual historical figures and facts. They could do all the fighting of evil-doers and injustice that the plot would require; a pair of fearless and adventurous friends. (Ix-nay on any suggestion of gayness, mostly because I’m damned tired of that particular character development.) Keep the horse named Silver, though. But lose the silver bullets, the white hat and the mask. Sorry – but the first is impractical, given the weapons of the time, second given the custom of the time … and in the days before wide circulation of photographs, you could be a total stranger once you were five miles away from where you lived and worked. One didn’t need a mask – in fact, in the real Wild West that would have made the lone Ranger even more noticeable. “Hey, who was that masked man? Did you ever see the like? Oh, I heard tell of him …” Whereas, sans mask: “Hey, who was that guy? Oh, just another saddle tramp, passing through; don’t pay him no mind…”Keep the sense of honor, though – the chivalry, the sharp-shooting and the unwillingness to kill, unless there was no other way. I know this seems radical – and loosing the mask might be seen as heretical – but the situation calls for radical steps. Look, this latest version had Tonto with a crow squatting on his head, so I believe we have reached the point where something must be done to resuscitate our popular cultural heroes.

(Crossposted at Chicagoboyz.net at at www.celiahayes.com)

It was a gradual process … the place grows on you, even back before it became clear that it was one of the states – out of these occasionally United States – which has a good chance of emerging comparatively unscathed from impending economic disaster. I don’t know why Texas should be so fortunate among states and nations, but perhaps it is because of a part-time Legislature. Yes, this might tend to discourage professional busy-bodies from taking up a full-time career dictating the teensiest minutia of every scrap of our lives, from the number of flushes our toilets need to the wattage of the light-bulb in our porch light and the knotty question of whether a puddle in the back forty qualifies as a seasonal body of water. The Texas Lege can only assemble every two years for a set period of time to consider these and other weighty matters, and so must find other and more remunerative means of earning a living and staying out of their constituents hair. There was an adage to the effect that work expands to fill the time you have available for it – very likely it works the same way for legislative bodies. Perhaps limiting the time available to them forces legislators to prioritize and focus their potential mischief on only the most necessary tasks. Still, what a thought, that Texas might be the last best place to survive the impending economic and political meltdown – who would have thought, eh?

So, Texas took us over, bit by bit – although it wasn’t without a struggle, especially when enduring the ghastly heat of summer, which occasionally felt as if it were lasting all year. Or when there was a highway alert because … er, there were stray cows on the roadway … Or when I could not get just-introduced men in a social setting to not straightaway start addressing me as ‘darlin’’. There were charms, insidious ones – the Hill Country, and sweeps of wildflowers in spring, breakfast tacos (the breakfast food of the gods, I swear), the many splendors of the HEB grocery chain, real Texas BBQ … oh, the list goes on and on. I suppose the first sign that assimilation had begun was when my father began to say that Blondie and I sounded a little more Southern in our speech – there was, he swore, a faint interrogatory lift in tone at the end of certain sentences, which had not been there previously. Blondie began to like country-western music, I began to giggle at Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” … and upon finally retiring from the military I had to get a Texas driver’s license. And then I began to write historical fiction … and well, it was all over, then. Assimilation was complete, or nearly so.

I do like to dress up in a slightly western-fashion when I do a book event now; a long skirt, western-style shirt and vest – and I have let my hair grow long again, so that I can do it up in a roll with a curved Spanish comb in it – and I have been looking around for a pair of Western boots to complete the look. I’ve substituted a pair of high-laced old-fashioned ladies’ boots for now – but a pair of cowboy boots would really complete the look. But not just any boots – being thrifty but with high standards means that I’d like I. Magnin style at a Walmart price, so we’ve been checking out the various thrift and resale stores for a pair of good and broken-in (yet not broken down!) boots. We almost thought we’d found them at a little boutique in Boerne last week, but I couldn’t get one pair on, and the other was too big … for me, but not for Blondie. So, she has herself a pair of Tony Lama’s now, and for me, it is just a matter of time.

Assimilation complete. I got here to Texas as fast as I could.

As I am going up to Comfort on the 11th, to take part in the 150th anniversary observences of the Nueces Fight, and since it has been a while since I wrote about this — herewith some background.)

Who would have thought that deep in the heart of a staunchly Confederate state, there would have been a large population of Unionists? But there was; and not only did they vote against Secession, but the governor of Texas himself was a Unionist. He was none other than Sam Houston himself, the hero of San Jacinto, who more than any other Texas man of note had politicked and maneuvered for ten long years so that Texas could join the United States. In the end, Texas seceded; instead of going it alone again, the secession party joined the Confederacy with what some observers considered to be reckless enthusiasm – especially considering the perilous position of those settlements on the far frontier. Those settlements had been protected from marauding Comanche, Apache and Kiowa by the efforts of US troops – and who would guard them now? When the Texas legislature passed a law requiring all public officials to swear an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, Sam Houston resigned rather than take it. Being then of a good age, of long and devoted service to the people of Texas and held in deep respect even by citizens who didn’t agree with his stand, Sam Houston retired without incident to his home near Huntsville.

Other staunch Unionists in Texas were not able to refuse the demands of the Confederacy as easily as wily old General Sam. Among those who felt the wrath of the Confederacy most keenly were the German settlers of the Hill Country. Most of those settlers had come from Europe in the late 1840s; others had settled in San Antonio, Galveston and Indianola. In many cases they were the mercantile elite, as well as providing a solid leavening of skilled doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, teachers and writers in those communities. They were also Abolitionists; and in an increasingly perilous position as the split between free-soil states and those which permitted chattel slavery widened during the 1850s. Once Texas went Confederate, they were in even more danger, although they did not at first appear to realize this. Those citizens and counties which favored the Union and abolition could not easily separate, as West Virginia had from Virginia: they were stuck. The war began and ground on … and the breaking point came early in 1862 with passage of a conscription law. Every white male between the age of eighteen and thirty-five was liable for military service. This outraged those who had been opposed to slavery and secession, to the point of riots, evasion and covert resistance. Texas abolitionists and Unionists would be forced to fight in defense of an institution they despised, and for a political body they had opposed. Only a bare handful of men from Gillespie, Kendall and Kerr counties volunteered for service in the Confederate Army throughout 1861 and 1862, although good few more were perfectly willing to serve as state troops protecting the frontier, or in local volunteer companies of Rangers. Anyone who wanted a fight could take on the Indians, without the trouble of going east for military glory.

Before very long, the distinct un-enthusiasm in the Hill Country for the Confederacy and all its works and ways became a matter of deep concern to military and governing authorities. In a way, it was a clash of mind-sets: the German immigrants were innocently certain that the freedom of speech and political thought which they had always enjoyed since coming to Texas were still viable. The pro-Confederate authorities saw such thought and speech as disloyalty, clear evidence of potentially dangerous spies and saboteurs … and acted accordingly. In the spring of 1862, Gillespie and Kerr County was put under harsh martial law. All men over the age of 16 were ordered to register with the local provost marshal and take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. Few did so – and many never heard of the order, until the state troopers arrived to enforce it, under the command of a peppery, short-tempered former teamster; Captain James Duff.

By summer, Captain Duff ordered the arrest of any man who had not taken the loyalty oath. His troopers waged a savage campaign; flogging men they had arrested until they told his troopers what they wanted to hear, wrecking settler’s homes, arresting whole families, and confiscating foodstuffs and livestock. Men of draft age took to hiding out in the brush near their homes, while their families smuggled food to them. Frequently parties of Duff’s men assigned to arrest certain men returned empty-handed, with the subject of the arrest warrant left dangling on a rope from a handy tree on the return journey. Four out of six men arrested near Spring Branch in the Pedernales Valley and taken to be interned with other Unionists were summarily lynched when two of them escaped while their guards were asleep. A state trooper serving in the Fredericksburg area at that time remarked, “Hanging is getting to be as common as hunting.” Suspicion followed by repression bred resentment and defiance, which bred violence… and resistance.

(To be continued …)

Nat Love, who was born into slavery in Tennessee in 1854, went west to Dodge City after the Civil War and cadged work as a wrangler and cowboy. He was already a pretty good rider and bronco-buster, and in a very short time had picked up the other requisite skills – with a six-shooter and lasso, earning the nick-name ‘Deadwood Dick’ through a contest of cowboying skills at a 4th of July celebration in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. He not only won the roping contest, but the the grand prize pot of $200 in the shooting contest. He was a hit with the audience, as well as with his fellow cattle drovers. He cut a striking figure in his star cowboy days; lean, slim-hipped and cocky, with a mop of long black hair to his shoulders, and a wide-brimmed sombrero with the front turned rakishly up – a Jimi Hendrix of the 19th century rodeo.

As a teenager, Nat Love worked the legendary long-trail cattle drives; when Texas cattle ranchers faced with a glut of native long-horned cattle and no other means of making money in the desperate years following the Civil War thought to trail them north to where the transcontinental railroad was slowly creeping across the upper Plains. There, in the open prairies of Kansas, there was no hazard of infecting local farmers’ cattle with tick fever, and for ten years, millions of Texas cows walked north to the stockyards of Abilene, Hays City, Wichita and Dodge City. For a few years he was employed on the Duval ranch, in the western part of the Texas Panhandle – near Palo Duro, the sheltered canyonlands that were last heartland of the wild Comanche.

His autobiography contained many stories of derring-do familiar to aficionados of classic Westerns; accounts of chasing bandits and Indians who had absconded with the best part of a herd of longhorns. On one memorable occasion, when under the influence of something stronger than lemon sarsaparilla, Nat Love tried to lasso and drag away one of the cannons that sat in the open compound at Fort Dodge; he told the astonished soldiers that he wanted to take it back to Texas to fight Indians with. He was one of those who also were enshrined in cowboy legend by riding his horse into a drinking establishment (a Mexican cantina, location unspecified) and grandly ordering drinks for himself … and his horse. He had cleared the way for himself and horse with a splatter of wild shots from his revolver – which rather excited some wholly understandable hostility from the local citizens, and so he had to depart at speed before having a chance to enjoy his drink. He even claimed to have been captured by Pima Indians while working at a ranch in Arizona. In the best tradition of adventure novels, he was thought so much of that he was adopted into the tribe and only made his escape a year later, presumably leaving several broken hearts behind him.

Even if his life as a cowboy had not been all that eventful … and many of his adventures remembered with advantages … it was still a life better suited to a young man. The work itself was physically hard, most of it in the out-of-doors, and not that well-paid. Most working cowboys only did it for a couple of years until something better came along. So after two decades, Nat Love wisely took up a second career. He became a Pullman porter on the railroad; apparently being just as well-respected by his employers and fellows as in his first career … and with more remunerative and regular paychecks. He died of respectable old age in the 1920s, after completing an autobiography which related his gloriously rowdy days as a cowboy.

I read a good few chapters of his autobiography – he comes across as a very appealing person; unusual in his charm and swagger, but not for his color; something like one in seven or eight cowboys were black, one in seven or eight Mexican. An actor like a young Will Smith could have played him, in his younger days. There will be a character very like Nat Love in the next book – I promise.

10. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Local, World · Tags: , ,

Well, because of the drought and all, and in spite of the occasional productive storms blowing through, it’s not entirely bone-dry and ready to blow away on the next stiff breeze. As a matter of fact, the garden is looking quite beautifully lush, almost tropical. Of course, this may be due to about half an hour of hand-watering the pots and the hanging baskets every morning. But still – the back yard is no longer something I am embarrassed to have people see. Nothing like the desolation left in the wake of a hard and prolonged frost a year and a half ago, and the depredations of a pair of stray mutts that my daughter took pity upon, and we housed until we … umm, passed them off on a couple of likely suckers … no, make that fond and indulgent dog-lovers. As for rain – we went halfsies on a rain-gauge, and there’s been rain in it, every couple of days; how coincidental is that?

Anyway, the back yard was left pretty much as a wreck after these twin disasters, but now it is brought back, and if I can figure out a way to cram in even more raised beds to grow vegetables in, I will – for next year, at the very least. And there seem to be more and more people doing that backyard homestead thing; keeping chickens for eggs, bees for honey and all. If I had half an acre to spare, I’d consider one of those mini-cows … one of the regulars at Chicagoboyz suggested that breed, a couple of months ago, and don’t think I didn’t consider it, for when I have my eventual country retreat. My grandmother kept chickens during the Depression, and we had a hive of bees for a couple of years.

We went up to Canyon Lake for the 4th of July – rather than spend a day baking under the hot sun at the rocky edge of the lake, as we did last year. Since we took the dog, we had to go to the campground, rather than the public beach, so this year we omitted the dog and floated a bend of the river instead. Candidly, it wasn’t all that much fun, since the current wasn’t all that, and the river ran so shallow that we wound up portaging the tubes over the last third. Struggling out of the tube, schlepping through the rocky shallows, wondering what the heck is that nasty thing you are stepping on all unseen, knowing that the odds of turning an ankle on a slime-covered rock are pretty good, seeing that most everyone else is pretty well toasted – from alcohol and the sun – before they have gotten out of sight of the launch-point … not again, I don’t think. Unless we do the Comal, take some friends, a picnic lunch and remember to slather our shins with waterproof SPF-30 … I did remember to bring a hat, though. But the views of the banks, of cypress trees and of vacation houses that cost more than my entire family (including the brother-in-law who works for JPL) will make in five years or more were very nice. They went by, very slowly … and the tubers with loud, waterproof radios were … not pleasant. Mom and Dad always preferred a ‘stay-cation’ – they were doing it before it was cool, and now I see the wisdom of that.

We went to Wurstfest in New Braunfels this last weekend, to celebrate all things Germanic. I posted the pics in a Facebook album here – enjoy!

And no, I don’t have a recipe for the German Taco … I would guess, since it is fair food, that it is basically a grilled country sausage, with jalapeno cheese and maybe some salsa, wrapped in a flour tortilla.

Being that I am snowed under with finalizing the last details for the second edition of To Truckee’s Trail, and preparing to launch the sequel to Daughter of Texas at more or less the same time in order maximize my portion of what increasingly looks like a pretty dismal Christmas shopping season with sales of my books . . . I have been only intermittently able to put my head above the parapet lately and take a look around at the socio-political landscape. A more relaxed schedule might permit me to address each of the developments listed below at length . . . but time does not permit. Heck, brevity is supposed to be the soul of wit, anyway.

1. Potential Candidate Cain’s purported sex scandal. Hey, it would be a treat to have a sex scandal in which some actual sex was involved, rather like John Edwards and his campaign-trail inamorata/baby mama? At this juncture, all we have, though – is some unspecified act(s) committed by Mr. Cain, complained of by anonymous persons (presumably female) which took place in some unspecified venue, which resulted in an unspecified money settlement . . . which no one involved can talk about, because they all signed an agreement not to talk about it. At least the time frame of this unspecified action has been nailed down by our heroically working mainstream media professions to sometime in the 1990s. Ok, it’s nice to have that specific nailed down, but seriously; unnamed sources? I’m sorry, but unnamed sources, with a charge like this do not fly freely with me any more. If you want this charge to be creditable, start naming names and specifics, otherwise I will treat this matter like the gutter gossip that it appears to be,

2. At least the matter of the rock on a hunting lease in West Texas, which had a disparaging term for a racial minority painted on it, and which was painted over at least two decades ago, seems to have been dropped – er – like a rock into the well of memory. Did any of the faithful national press gumshoes actually find the damned rock? If that’s all the dirt you can find on Rick Perry . . . Look, the guy has been in Texas politics for years. They play for keeps here, politically – the brass knuckles at no extra charge. If there were any substantial dirt to be found on him, it would have been found, long since. Oh, and thanks for floating teh ghey rumor, alleging it to have been an open secret in Texas political circles for years. I haven’t had a good laugh like that since the last time I watched The Money Pit.

3. So – looking at the list of Occupy Whatever Street supporters and backers . . . including you, “San Fran Nan” Pelosi, Michael “One Teensy Thin Mint” Moore, Mayor Bloomburg, our “illustrious”* Commander in Chief, and assorted other fellow travelers, anarchists, anti-Semites and career protest ‘tards . . . you own them, root, branch and arrest records. They are all yours, even as various OWS locations melt down gloriously into Lord of the Flies territory. I repeat; all yours. Kinda make the Tea Party rallies look good in comparison, don’t they?

4. Isn’t it well past time for the Kardashian sisters’ ration of fame to be up? I mean; fifteen minutes each, there are three of the talent-free and parasitical skanks, which adds up to 45 minutes total. I had a case of mono which lasted longer than Whats-er-fern’s most recent marriage. The Cardassians of Star Trek fame were much more interesting. And realistic.

5. Finally, in site news; this weekend Brian is going to fight off the locusts that ate his day off, long enough to look at why we can’t easily post pictures on this website. I have a raft of pictures I want to put up, including a new header . . . and, well all sorts of stuff.

Sincerely, Sgt Mom

PS: The Kindle version of To Truckee’s Trail – second edition has already gone live. I am still taking pre-pub orders for Deep in the Heart, and for Truckee’s print edition. Your purchases help support me, and this blog, so . . . a portion of your consumer dollars thrown in my direction will be greatly appreciated.