Category Archives: News

General news posts that aren’t categorized

June 27/23

It hardly seems like June with the heat back again full force and this seems to have brought out the scorpions. Here’s one under blacklight — ewwww. But it’s the only way I have found to get rid of them. Go out after dark and look around with blacklight flashlight and spray them with Raid Wasp and Hornet and they thrash around and die horribly, all in glowing blue and it is a gratifying sight.

They glow very brightly. They all seem to congregate on the west-facing back outside wall, the hottest place. I stepped on one getting up in the middle of the night which I regret extremely and have for the past three days.

But other than that, wonderful visitors including Susan Paddlety-Dunlap, Kiowa from Oklahoma, decorative artist and unofficial ambassador for the People, who tells me her mother was a cousin to Scott Momaday and said Momaday had a beautiful reading voice, and I mean to find him on Youtube so I can hear his voice. Although she’s not a horsewoman I saddled up Jackson and she made a great picture seated on the palomino. We had a good day. She brought me one of her favorite books, The Ten Grandmothers plus she had made me a wonderful bookmarker. She brought back my old copy of A Quaker Among the Indians by Thomas Beattey which, although it has the attitudes of the 1890’s still has useful information about the Kiowa plus very good lithos of various tribal members, which I intend to have framed one of these days.

We had a great visit! I only get to see her once a year when she and her husband come down from Fort Worth but it’s always a delightful and informative time even if it was 100 F.

I said, “Oh wow, is that a Johnny Was shirt?”

“No, but it looks like one, it’s a Johnny Wasn’t.”

The heat has hovered around 106 and more every day for more than a week and I am keeping my elderly horse Buck up in the front corral shelter with a mister on him. he stands in it all day. I put up a box fan for him but he doesn’t like it.

I texted this to my cousin in Missouri and she replied that she loved the sunset picture — I said, ‘That’s the sunrise! And hot already!’

Buck standing under the mister.

June 24th was the PRCA rodeo here, I went down to see what was happening and saw friends Hattie Barham, the wonderful photographer, up on her stand as always, sat by Robin Moore bank clerk and her husband and kids. There was bronc riding, calf roping, breakaway roping for women, and barrel racing. Everybody trying to make points to continue on the competitive circuit toward the NFR in Vegas this fall.

As soon as they announced the bull riding, the pickup men and clowns gathered instantly. On guard, on watch.

My photos are terrible and so is my little camera, Hattie of course will have beautiful images. She was a professional journalist photographer and traveled the world for quite a few years, for AFP and others. She and her husband now own a well service company here and are very busy with all the new people moving in since Covid.

Then yesterday Michael and Naomi Nye came out from San Antonio — they had been to the Flato ranch near Rocksprings, and I was so delighted to see them again! I had not seen them since they lost their beloved son to Covid. We had long talks, good lunch at the Lost Maples cafe and a visit here at my house. Naomi (world’s greatest poet) brought me a splendid book self-printed by a historian of letters from the 1860’s to 1880’s a real treasure, as it will have a wealth of details from that time period. Michael took some pictures which I will put up later on as he hasn’t sent them yet. A very special time with them.

And that’s it for June 27th

6/18/23 Cormac McCarthy RIP

He had such a liberating influence on my own writing…that is, All The Pretty Horses did. The book was a surprising, even shocking discovery. He threw away all the conventions of the literary novel — passive, over-sensitive protagonists, the urban environment, intricate social treachery, status attacks and ambushes etc. — and yet it was a ‘literary’ novel. Or as Northrop Frye would define it, a romance, which is related to the tale, the story. Things happen. Everything is at stake.

foto NYT

So from there I went on to The Crossing and Cities of the Plain, Sutteree, and these went back to the passive protagonist novel, which is difficult to read, complicated to excuse, and boring to slog through no matter how gorgeous the prose and his prose was nothing short, sometimes, of miraculous.

I subscribe to Lincoln Michel’s substack Counter Craft and in his tribute to McCarthy he notes the stylistic shift from the early Southern Gothic novels (which he prefers) to the later southwestern books (Pretty Horses, No Country For Old Men, The Road etc.), remarking that his prose became more stripped down and spare. Respectfully, that’s not altogether true. What happened was that his main characters, his protagonists, begin to show up moving, doing, fighting, thinking ahead, with the plot evolving and smoking around them.

I’ve written about this problem before on my blog so I won’t go into it except to say a writer has an increasingly intractable problem with a passive protagonist as his/her work goes on in that you have to have more and more horrible things happening to your main character in order to keep the work moving forward. The reader gives up in frustration as Protag cowers and suffers yet again. There are many, many articles online concerning this aspect of character-building, just type in ‘passive protagonist’ and don’t let me bore you any more with it.

This is what the screenwriter did with the character of Captain Kidd in the movie version of News of the World — he robbed the Captain of all intelligence, all agency, all instrumentality. The Captain just seemed to get stupider as the movie went on and all the work fell on the shoulders of a poor, traumatized ten-year-old girl. It made Jefferson Kyle Kidd seem lazy if not actually devious; a taker. A parasite.

So McCarthy stepped out of this snare with Pretty Horses and the book — the romance — is a masterpiece. I admire it enormously. Plot matters. And as in the best literature language becomes a kind of life-form, independent of the writer with its own eternally evolving parameters of tension and pressure and density and perilous beauty. As in a summer thunderhead.

If you look carefully at the character of Gene Harrogate in Suttree you will see that McCarthy knew he was too good to abandon and that he was as yet unborn or undeveloped and so he appeared later in Pretty Horses as Jimmy Blevins, but far harder and a born criminal. He was perfectly drawn and utterly believable.

However; one tires of the endless depictions of glossy, breathtaking violence in Blood Meridian and of McCarthy’s bottomless fascination with rotting bodies, decay, wet garbage and the startling effects of unchecked disease upon eyes or teeth. It never goes anywhere. He kept this in the lower registers in his later southwestern novels and that, along with the assertive, intelligent character of his protagonists is what makes his later novels so great.


Yoga Kitty

You can tell I am desperate for some subject to make a blog post with (dangling participle) when I put up silly cat pictures.

Yoga Kitty says, stay organized.

Do not despair. Despair is for those who are disorganized and can’t find their socks or their notes or their place in the Universe, even though the Universe is directly outside their windows knocking, knocking, knocking on the glass. Be here now, says Yoga Kitty, because being there then is …I forget.

Never mind.

The uncorrected galleys, the Advanced Reader’s Copies, are out and a box of twenty was mailed to me and I am giving them away like sample medications that your doctor hands to you instead of you having to pay $500 per bottle. Chenneville is restorative and hypnotic, you’ll never be the same again.

It’s going to rain again.

End of totally mindless post.

Memorial Day May 28 (not exactly but…) ’23

Since it’s Memorial Day I always put up some remembrance of my dad’s cousin;

(this is not him; photo from Brave images of the landing at Anzio Beach)

James Marshall Jiles

Texas 36th Division

Killed at Anzio Beach Italy

March, 1943

5/19/23 The McMurtry book is out

U of T press has reached pub date on their collection of essays, Pastures of the Empty Page; Writers on the life and Legacy of Larry McMurty . My essay is the second one, ‘The Boy With the Lamp’. It’s a goodlooking book and George Getschow worked very hard on it.

Whistle story

So I keep my whistles in a wooden tall vase with blue glass beads in it to weigh it down (picture above with Mason Jar so blue glass beads can be seen) when we perform, so they’re sitting there beside the mike ready for when Mark or Kim lean over and say ‘Get your G whistle. This song is in G’ and I can just fetch it out and start tootling. So I had the tall wooden vase in the front seat floor passenger side.

I turned a corner and heard the most alarming rattling. I thought “Good God there’s a snake in this truck!”

I pulled over to the side and the rattling got worse. The vase had tipped over and was spilling its blue glass beads, sounding exactly like a rattlesnake.

Scares like that are not good for your blood pressure.

The ribbons are for quick identification. The C whistle has a purple ribbon, the D whistle a yellow ribbon, A has no ribbon, the B-flat is the only metal whistle I have, and the G is so big there’s no mistaking it.

It is the nature of pennywhistles that they play in only one key at a time so you have to have one for each key. Sometimes they forget to tell me or pastor John has a new song unidentified as to key and so I go tentatively through on or the other trying to find the key. Fun times.

Uvalde, a changed town April 7 2023

This was yesterday. The occasion; a speeding van full of illegals, mainly Hondurans, gunned it right through town and ended up crashing into several other cars. Nobody killed this time. this is the main square of Uvalde, and courthouse, this is where the memorial for the massacred children was set up. Pic from the Uvalde Leader-News.

This stuff never happened before. I mean before the last two years.

This happened on March 24th/23 (UL-N photo) on the Highway 90/southern pacific rail line on the way into Uvalde. Highway 90 was shut down for two hours. (I will learn how to do screen shots soon…) I used to go into Uvalde all the time to shop — the AT&T store, hardware and paint stores, Walmart, a good feed store, an HEB, a good hair and nails place…I never go there any more. You never know when 90 is going to be shut down, or suddenly you hear/see sirens/lights coming at you or coming up behind which means you really should get off the highway altogether because there is , somewhere near you, a madly speeding out-of-control coyote vehicle full of mainly Hondurans.

After the horrible event of last year, May 2022 — in fact four days afterward, there was a shoot-out of some kind on this very same town square full of flowers and memorials to the massacred children, and four people were shot dead. Three had Hispanic names, one had an anglo name but then a lot of people in Honduras/Guatemala have anglo family names. Somebody told me it was a drug gang fight. I had NO IDEA that this little town had drug gangs, much less gangs willing to shoot each other dead right in the town square. Among all the memorial bouquets.

(from the Texas Tribune)

This kind of overt, public violence is recent.

Then within days after that, June of 2022, yet another speeding out-of-control car full of Hondurans slammed into the back of an 18-wheeler, once again right at the square, and more Hondurans were killed. I think it was three deaths.

Sheriff Nolasco has said he is overwhelmed. It’s happening 24/7.

And by the way, think about the reporters at the Uvalde Leader-News. I think they’re extraordinary. They were small-town reporters before all this, with the news being mainly what the high-school sports team and drama club were doing, church services and activities, what’s happening at the rodeo and the Thursday cattle auction, events at the wonderful El Progreso Library. And now they’re plunged into the midst of international drug traffic, the unspeakable school shooting, shootouts in the middle of town, corruption in the Uvalde city and county governments revealed, and yet they maintain a strictly professional approach, as good as any reporting I’ve seen. They’ve risen to the challenges like champs.

Look at a map and you’ll see that highway 83 starts in Laredo and goes straight north. It crosses 90 in Uvalde. 90 takes you to San Antonio, where there are big markets for drugs and prostitution. Keep on north and it will take you to major highways leading to Dallas/Forth Worth. Stay north you’ll end up in Abilene and then on to Kansas, Oklahoma. 83 is an important, if somewhat narrow route to the north.

(Photo by me)

This is old Fort Clark, near Del Rio and north of Laredo, one of a string of forts which served to secure the border back in the early part of the 20th Century. My husband’s father and uncle were assigned to this unforgiving landscape with either the 3rd or the 12th Cavalry, I think it was the 12th, for a year or so. At that time there wasn’t any fentenyl or meth coming across by the ton, or children dragged across for child prostitution, or pedophiles skipping happily over the Rio Grande and into Texas. It was just revolutionaries escaping other revolutionaries, a few gun runners, illegal liquor. How innocent, how artless, how harmless.

Myself and the others hauled our horses to Fort Clark to ride the Springs and stay in the old Fort barracks (now luxurious hotel rooms) shortly after the massacre happened, and when we came to Uvalde, we were held up there just the other side of the square at the light. It was a funeral procession, and I could see a small white casket inside and I knew it was one of the kids.

More on Uvalde and it’s history in another post. So where do I go for supplies etc.? Well both Uvalde and Hondo are forty miles away, both towns in Highway 90 south of here in the flat country. Bandera is 30 miles away by a mountain road and Kerrville is 60 miles away, a much larger town, and it’s in the hill country north of here. So I usually go to Bandera or Kerrville.

This is not to slight our wonderful General Store! The best ever!

Volunteer Madness

Easter is two weeks away and already demands on musicians are piling up. There is an Easter Cantata group formed but I am not going to join it this year. Not just hip replacement post-surgery twinges and aches but my music group has been asked to play at Wayne Chism’s memorial service, which I am very happy to do, but it requires at least one rehearsal, Mark is having a memorial service for his parents, which again I am happy to be with the group and play for it, because I’ve met his parents and liked them a great deal, do and then Sunday services and then a lovely child is having a birthday for which we sing “This Little Light of Mine” and we’ve got to figure out something for Easter. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’ve been happy doing it and I think we’ve made other people happy, and lightened hearts and smoothed over hard times. I have learned so much about music. I think music is what makes human beings different from all other life on Earth, even more than language.

Wayfaring Stranger

It’s been so long since I wrote for this blog that I feel like a complete stranger to all the bells, all the whistles and the do-dads and new gizmos. It’s been four months since hip replacement surgery and am still not quite right. At some point, spending most of the day in bed, I just stopped reading the ‘news’ on my tablet. I gave it up.

At any rate, I will try to catch up. Last night did a performance with the music group and one song was ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ and as always Tom was terrific on the fiddle.

He had texted, “I am coming straight from work for rehearsal, no time to change, hope you’ll overlook this’.

So of course when he rushed in carrying his fiddle case everybody held their noses and gasped and staggered backwards. He’d been operating the big blade machine all day, the one that uproots cedar.

Above, Mark on guitar and Tom on fiddle.

Also work on the new book — finally the Harper Collins strike is over and so the novel is back in the pipeline again. Here’s the cover. Most people like it. At first the image of the rider did not have a hat and I insisted that they put a hat on him which they did.

I had wanted to complete my post on visiting the Contreras family last August, and so finally am getting to the photos from the Museo de Antropologia de Xalapa, a most beautiful building. Elvia and I went there and spent the day. It is a beautifully designed museum. Long terraces sloping downward, all under glass of course, and the collection of Olmec clay sculptures were amazing. Elvia talked the young ladies at the entrance into giving us a discount on entrance fees — she being a retired teacher and me too, apparently!

These are all so human, so personal and yet universal. So alive! They are the early Olmec sculptures, full of life and work and faces you seem to know. This old fellow is apparently the divinity of fire — he makes fire in the basin. This is why he’s wearing mitts. Observe the missing teeth and the jolly, jaunty do-dad on his hat. A world-wide figure, the one who makes fire, like blacksmiths the world over, he handles magic and sparks and light.

There is no way to know what these figures signify so one is reduced to wild guesses. The one on the right is clearly unhappy and looks savage with anger but who knows? Maybe it’s the dog paws instead of hands. The one on the left seems to be taking a deep breath, and the dog/human figure in his/her lap (the figure seems to have rudimentary breasts) has a peculiar little hat with ears, one up and one down. At any rate, you know people with faces just like these.

There is no way to know for what purpose this figure served but he seems to have just set himself down after a hard day’s work hauling rocks for the latest temple. He’s wore out. He could really use a big mug of pulque. But again, he is so alive, so vernacular and expressive. This was one of my favorites.

And here’s Elvia in one of the photographic opportunities provided! I made myself amazing and attractive in another one but she took it on her phone and has forgotten to send it to me.

Here is the text re; the Olmecs, it’s in Spanish but easy enough to read. And one of the famous ‘baby face’ stone heads.

I will try to keep up from now on.

Coatepec and Rain October 1/22

A return to that beautiful town in the eastern Sierra Madres of Veracruz state, and the amazing Contreras family. Jim and I met them when we went there in the early nineties — we had just picked out the town of Coatepec at random — up in the mountains above Veracruz — and rented a hotel room while we looked for someplace to rent. One day during the almost-daily rain Jim ducked into a doorway and Elvia (biology teacher, escuela segundaria) opened the door and said ‘Come in and get out of the rain’! This story has been told many times.

There are four brothers and a sister, all of them very accomplished —Julio the architect, Elvia, a teacher, Jaime with his doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Fermin, also an engineer, Jose Luis who has gone into insurance (I think). And Ramiro, also an architect, who died twenty years ago RIP. At any rate, back then we were all in our forties and fifties and now we are all in our sixties and seventies. Such a great reunion! They know all our family, we know all their family …I flew down with my stepson Jim Jr. and DIL Nadine

Dinner and Luz and Julio’s house —Luz in in orange, she’s a dentist, and Elvia to far left.

They had been many times to visit us in San Antonio, and this was a time when Jim and Elvia and I drove out to west Texas and ended up spending Christmas eve in the Catholic church in — I think — Van Horne — no it was Sanderson… the priest was Vietnamese and incomprehensible and I kept asking Elvia, is he speaking Spanish? many years, many crazy adventures …

Elvia and the brothers’ dad was alive when we first knew them and we ended up going to sit at his wake… a wonderful man..

Elvia inherited the Contreras villa and lives there now, Julio (the architect) designed this beautiful library and stairs for her

(Library above — Elvia with our picture below)

And their kids have grown up, our grandkids have grown up, all starting families of their own — Julio and Luz’ kids, Mariana is a lawyer and married with two kids, Julio Joven is a veterinarian working for Pfizer in Canada, also married with two kids, Cecilia is the principal of an elementary school in Coatepec … time has gone galloping on like a racehorse. Jaime’s daughters — one is in England and married to an Englishman with a new baby, the other is in banking — they were tiny when we first met them. Jaime worked on Mexico’s only nuclear power station at El Farallon, this was 20 years ago, we got to visit him there, very interesting, great people.

But, back to this visit — I got to stay in the beautiful Ortiz villa (Luz’s family) just across the street from the Contreras villa and Mariana told me the most delightful stories about the place.

This is it— repainted and reconditioned except for the second story which I will get to directly.

This was my room — so restful!

Here’s Julio, at the Ortiz finca. Julio Joven and I rode out of there twenty years ago up into the mountains, on a couple of lovely Arabs, pictures of which I will include another time.

This is Orizaba in the background — 19,000 feet, volcanic cone, exceptionally beautiful.

And Elvia found this picture of me in an album which I am including because it is so flattering and I am a sucker for flattery. There. I said it.

More tomorrow on the mysterious and ancient Ortiz Villa, The Pink Palace, which Luz and Mariana insist is salmon and in fact it is indeed salmon!

Beautiful Gala, Mariana’s oldest daughter. She was waiting while we were getting some coffee ground. It’s like a Vermeer painting.