Thursday, May 29, 2008

Friday Cemetery Blogging

Like almost every one else who lived in Flat Mound, Texas, Ellis Harp was a farmer. He was a good man, a hard worker, all those sorts of pleasantly positive traits we ascribe to dull, unimaginative people who are otherwise nice folks. He liked to introduce himself to new church members as a “harp workin’ plowboy”. This was usually met with a nervous chuckle and a skittish, perfunctory handshake before the new acquaintance backed away.

Maude and Ellis were married the weekend after Maude’s high school graduation. Ellis left school a couple of years earlier, having learned everything he needed to know, and worked full-time on the family farm. Maude went to work as a full-time farm wife.

They did all the normal things – joined the Baptist church and sponsored local kids at the county stock shows. Ellis wasn’t going to get rich, but they were as well off as most of their neighbors. Maude wasn’t ever going to be a fashion plate or be asked to join the Ladies Garden Club, but she was treasurer of the local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.

They were happy and when Ellis died in ’48, Maude leased the farm land out to a nephew and moved into town. She was at a bit of a loss for what to do with her time. The war effort was winding down and she wasn’t the least bit interested in volunteering at the local hospital (blood made her puke) or the primary school (children made her itch). A friend invited her to a Thursday night canasta game as a way of introducing to new friends.

Maude took to canasta like nothing she’d ever done before. She and her friend, Minerva Marie Freeman began to enter canasta tournaments whenever they could find them in surrounding cities. One weekend, while Maude was on a roll through the final rounds of the Woodmen of the World bi-annual tourney in Wichita Falls, Minerva Marie picked up a flyer for a Canasta Cruise on a river boat leaving from New Orleans the next month.

As soon as she mentioned it to Maude, it was agreed that they would take the summer’s earnings from the Farmer’s Market and finance the trip.

Maude came in third in the on-board tournament and the ladies were hooked. Maude went pro and Minerva Marie became her agent and promoter. She booked trips to canasta conventions and championships all around the country and even got Foster’s Ford Dealership and Skating Rink to act as Maude’s sponsor.

The two women went on to become legends on the canasta circuit, and were invited to headline a tournament at The Sands in Las Vegas not long after the casino opened. After their first Vegas experience, they decided it was the only place to be for a dedicated canasta professional, so they packed their bags and left Flat Mound behind in favor of a permanent move to the Nevada desert.

Maude got a job giving canasta lessons at a small, family-owned casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Minerva Maria thought family-owned meant a nice little Italian family ran the business as a means of putting the kids through college. Maude never corrected her.

The ladies enjoyed a bit of the high life for many years in Laughlin. Upon her death in 1962, Maude’s body was returned to Flat Mound for burial next to her not all that beloved Ellis, amid a dearth of fanfare.

Thanks to Mindy for giving me the word canasta!

'Cause Mindy said I had to.

Mindy has been after me forever to get me to post a picture of this painting, but the dang thing just does not photograph well. It is much larger and more...imposing, I guess, in person than it is in this photo. (It's also not as l o n g and drawn out at it appears here. Some kind of weird distortion going on!) I'd been working on this painting for a couple of months before I had the bracelet conversation. (This is the second time in less than a week that I've linked to that post. I find that somewhat disturbing...) I finished it not long after that and hung it in my office. It decorated the wall behind the chairs my probationers sit in. When Roger reported the next time, he never even saw it.

I just got the frame a couple of weeks ago. We have an antique/consignment store here that always has interesting stuff. The very best reason to shop there is that one of the boothes is owned by the wife of a world famous-ish artist and she sells their scratch and dent frames for next to nothing. I loved this frame - thought it was perfect. I paid my ten bucks for it, brought it home and spent a couple of hours painting it red. (In the rain, I might add.) It dried for a day, then Katie and I brought it up to my office on a Sunday afternoon to finish the framing job. It was at that point that I realized the canvass was not 24 x 36 after all! Oh well. Now it's a frame AND a mat - ha ha!

Last Friday I rearranged my office and now the painting hangs over my left shoulder. I really do like this painting, especially now that it no longer peers at me from over people's heads. She never said anything, just stared at me all day long and it was really starting to freak me out.

Should be interesting to see if Roger notices it this time.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I always liked that song by Devo...

Jackson and I took a break from "The Official Who's Idea Was This, Anyway? Home Repair and Improvement Weekend" and went to see the new Indiana Jones movie with some friends. The movie was enjoyably predictable and comfortingly unoriginal.

Earlier in the day, during our second trip to Wally World to buy painting and flooring supplies, I noticed the Indiana Jones action figure aisle. I made detour so I could take a quick look. It was frightfully appalling.

Do you remember when kids were tough, resilient, regenerative little rubber monkeys? I do. My parents kept an eye on us, but from afar. We had limits and rules, but we had a lot of freedom within those rules.

We didn't know anyone who owned a bike helmet and no one would have dared to actually wear one. I learned to drive a car when I was in the fifth grade. I learned to shoot a gun much younger than that. We always played with knives and throwing stars, things you can't even buy now unless you're 18 years old. We had a bow and real arrows that couldda put an eye out. One of our favorite games was climbing up on the roof of the house, with said archery equipment strapped to our backs, then shooting at the dolls laid out as targets across the lawn.

When we got bored with all of that, we climbed up on the roof of the church and tested various towels, blankets and sheets for parachute potential by jumping off the roof onto the sand dunes piled up against the side of the building.

The only major injury either of us had, that I can remember, was the time we were swinging on a rope hanging from a tree, a la Tarzan. My brother moved the bike we were swinging over, and he moved it too far. When I tried to make the jump, I landed wrong and broke my wrist. Four weeks in a cast (a plain old plaster cast - not a specially molded and fitted arm brace) and I was good as new.

Kids today are just sissies.

Wally World had a whole row of Indiana Jones toys. I checked out the cheaply made action figures, none of which were particularly impressive. Then I saw something that made me want to give the nearest child a massive and malicious wedgie.

It was a whip.

Well, not really. It was a stuffed toy. A soft, flimsy, stuffed whip toy. Cottony. Fiber-filled. Embarrassingly flaccid.

When we first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, my parents let us buy real whips. Leather lengths that cracked and popped like gunpowder flashes. I could never do anything impressive with it, but I could make it crack and, as my brother indicated in a previous post, I still have it.

Stuffed toy whip? Don't even bother.

Wussy juveniles.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Friday Cemetery Blogging

Tryphosia always wore big hats. The kind that would make Dolly Levi's ostrich plumes droop with envy. Tryphosia was all about the hats.

Her first husband, Mr. Foster, always found them a bit pretentious. There was a lot about his wife that he found pretentious once the newness wore off of their connubial union. He wished she were content to stay at home and can vegetables like the other ladies in town. There were quilting circles and the Women’s Missionary Union at the First Baptist Church that she could be involved in. Surely that would have been enough for any good Christian housewife.

But it wasn’t. Not for Tryphosia. She dreamed of glamour and glory. She longed for the theatre - spelled backwards, just like that. Theatre was rather more grandiose than plain old theater, she thought.

When Mr. Foster died unexpectedly in a freak plowing accident – they didn’t even bother with a burial, the minister just said a few words over the cotton field (that year’s harvest was one of the best in local memory) – Tryphosia used the insurance money to lure a director straight from New York City to come out to the plains to direct the “Happy New Century Musical Extravaganza” that the Ladies of Agriculture Theatre Guild planned as their first civic consciousness-raising performance.

The young widow was thrilled when James G. Scarborough answered her advertisement in the New York Times. He actually arrived before the copy of the paper with her ad in it that she had mail-ordered did. He told the assembled ladies of the guild that he was fresh from his latest triumph on the Great White Way – a musical-comedy revival of Othello – when he read the ad looking for a professional thespian willing to undertake their directorial duties. His muse beckoned and he took the first train west.

The ladies were thrilled.

Tryphosia was enthralled.

The show was a flop.

Tryphosia wasn't particularly distressed by the bad reviews and poor attendance because, by the second week of rehearsals, James G. was sneaking ever so discretely through the kitchen door of her rambling farm house every evening after dark. The Methodist minister agreed to marry them on-stage, following the first performance of the show. Rev. Simpson was new in town, having been summoned by the bishop from somewhere back east. The ladies of the Women’s Missionary Union at the First Baptist Church mentioned this as they clucked their tongues at the thought of such scandalous behavior being legitimized by the presence of clergy. Thankfully their own pastor, a long-time local, understood the impropriety of the situation and refused to participate in such vulgarity.

Tryphosia and James lived happily ever after.

For a couple of years.

Then, James disappeared. It was rumored he left town immediately after a Pinkerton detective had arrived and visited with the local constabulary. Nothing was ever proved. Tryphosia appeared heartbroken and immediately indulged in a recuperative trip to Buenos Aires as a means of rediscovering herself.

A telegram arrived a few years later, reported to be from Tryphosia’s Argentine spiritual and legal advisor, which detailed the death of Tryphosia resulting from an encounter with rampaging llamas. The wire indicated that in her will Tryphosia left a substantial sum to the municipality which was intended for erecting a towering monument in the town square to the memory of the Scarboroughs. Rumor had it the Tryphosia had been with child when she left for South America, but nothing had ever been proved and the telegram was frustratingly silent on that subject. Further attempts at communication failed and no one ever knew for sure.

The Women’s Missionary Union was charged with constructing a fitting tribute. After much discussion it was decided that the most Christian thing to do was to erect a simple tombstone and send the rest of the money to widows and orphans relief in the wilds of darkest Africa.

And that’s what they did.

Happy Memorial Day! (Or as I like to call it - Amateur Day.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Don't Know If I Have Enough Bleach.

It's been raining here most of the day. Flowers always look best in cloudy weather and I thought the honeysuckle was especially pretty against the grey porch.

Katie's birthday is next week. She has a couple of friends over to eat her daddy's cooking and spend the night. They're nice kids. Kids you can leave to their own devices without second thought. I was busy playing with some modeling clay when they came into the kitchen and said they were going out into the alley to slide in the mud. Harmless fun - they were wearing flip-flops which could be easily washed off and a few muddy feet never hurt anyone. I said "No problem. Have fun."

They had fun.

A lot of fun.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Friday Cemetery Blogging


I started this last night, but after a half hour of staring at the screen and not typing, I quit and went to bed.

By the light of day, things still look the same.

Not to say that things are bad. Not at all. This has just been a week of interruptions and busy-ness. I've had too much to do and too little accomplished. Nothing is more frustrating than starting projects and being unable to get them done because new little projects are poking their nasty little pointed noses into your bidness.

Here's hoping next week is more productive!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Friday Cemetery Blogging

It is impossible to walk rapidly and be unhappy.

- Mother Teresa

That quote doesn't have anything to do with anything, I just like it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Rain always makes me want to write.

I like to walk in the rain, but tonight mud is a bit of a factor. Still, the dog is avoiding me and she sort of slinks away anytime I look over at the leash. I've never had a dog that liked to walk in the rain. I dunno why.

Today was an interesting day. I got flowers. Well, a flower. One of my probationers brought me a red rose. I didn't have to yell at him, so I figured I could perhaps keep it without it being a bribe. Mindy and the boss were standing in the hallway outside my office when my guy left. I took the rose out to show them.

Mindy demanded to know what I had done to merit flowers. I explained that the guy told me it was a Mother's Day rose. She eyed me with a critical gaze.

"Was he younger than you?" she asked.


"That's it then. He thinks you're his mama."

I think I stuck my tongue out at her, because that's the kind of mature discourse which pervades our corporate culture. My boss took a look at the rose, nipped off one of the thorns and ate it. I kid. you. not. I asked him if the term 'oral fixation' meant anything to him. He asked if that was the big word next to his picture in the dictionary.

Then, my next guy, whom I normally cannot stand, asked if he could start seeing me twice a month instead of just once. As I tried to dislodge the gum that I inadvertently sucked down my windpipe, he explained that he was sorry we'd gotten off on the wrong foot and that he knew he had a lot he had to get done over the next year in order to get off of probation. He thought it would just be easier if he reported more often so I could keep his feet to the fire.

After I picked my jaw up off the floor and finished with that guy, the next one showed up having done nothing on his community service. None. Nada. Zilch. But the first words out of his mouth were "I wanna make a deal." His idea of a deal was to agree that if he didn't complete 24 hours of community service this month, I could send him to jail. He claims he needed some extra motivation.

Vince Lombardi could only hope for that kind of motivation.

I don't know what's going on. Maybe it's the humidity.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Friday Cemetery Blogging

"He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife."
Douglas Adams