Monday, March 30, 2009

Memories of Madisonville

Madisonville is best known as the home of the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen's Association. One year I decided to put them to the test. Instead of riding a western horse with a ranch saddle and cowboy boots and a big hat I arrived riding a mule and wearing a derby and an English style coat and some high topped boots. Sure enough they threw me into the water, but not into the trough at the courthouse, because this all took place at the fairgrounds. Theythrew me into a tank that contained ice water for the ice tea drinkers. When I sloshed out of this tank I could see an unsavory clump of mud, hair and fecal matter floating on top of the ice water. People were still lining up to drink ice tea, using water from this tank. But I decided that I would have a beer instead. One of the cattlemen told me I was lucky. "Some of us wanted to throw you and the mule into the Trinity River," he said.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Early Texas Anglo History

And so, Texas north of the Rio Grande became part of the United States. Santa Anna returned to Mexico and was still in power. It took a while for the state to dev elop. The teritory west of the Colorado River still belonged to some of the Indian tribes, and the land south of San Antonio was still open. Later on, this land to the South became the King Ranch. The Northington Family in Wharton County not only raised cattle but they also raised some fine horses. Later on, George Northington III took over the operation of the Red Brick Ranch. Texas became to home of Longhorn cattle, which were driven to market by the thousands, and sold in the stockyards at Kansas City. It was the King Ranch which developed a new breed of cattle, known as Santa Gertrudis, which were peculiar to South Texas. All this wide open cattle business was supplanted in the 1920s by the oil companies. The discovery well of the Permian Basin was drilled a bout two miles west of Big Lake, Texas, in Reagan County. Since then the Permian Basin has reached to New Mexico and to the Big Bend and north to Big Spring, thousands of acres leased first to the ranchers and then to the oil companies. The royalties from the Permian Basin have made it possible to create a major university, the Universit of Texas at Austin, and to upgrade Texas A@M university at College Station.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Red Brick Ranch

One of the landmarks of early Texas is Red Brick Ranch at Egypt, Texas, in Wharton County. This ranch was established by the Northington family in 1842. George Northington Jr. set up a museum near the ranch house. The first mention of Red Brick Ranch involves something known as the Runaway Scrape. This happened when the Mexican Army invaded Texas. People fled in wagons, buggies, horseback and on foot. The Mexican Army, headed by General Lopez de Santa Anna, met little resistance as it marched through Texas. The history of the Battle of the Alamo is well documented. From there the Mexicans marched on to the LaPorte area, and set up a large camp at a place known as San Jacinto. At this point the Mexicans were relaxed. They had captured a mulatto woman, a freed slave, at a plantation near LaPorte. This woman was turned over to Santa Anna. It was then that Sam Houston and a ragged army of Texans invaded the Mexican camp during the siesta hour. Santa Anna was in bed with the mulatto woman. He made a soldier give him a uniform worn by peasants. This disguise did not save him and he was captured by the Texans. Many in Sam Houston's army wanted to hang Santa Anna, but Houston thought it was better to have him as a captive so he could be used as a bargaining tool. That was what happened, and Texas was declared free of Mexico. Santa Anna was released and sent back to Mexico.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We were all working hard at the Institute, getting ready for Hemisphere, and things were going well. The leader of the California hustlers had called on the governor who rejected him. Then we got word that Bulthius (yes, that is his name) was coming to Austin to check on us. He was the one who called George Washington an Uncle Tom. So I talked George into buying a doll at the variety store that looked like Bulthius. Then we went to the department store and bought a hat pin. We put this doll on a table in our lobby and stuck the pin in his leg. A few days later we heard that Bulthius had been speeding down the boulevard in Los Angeles in his sports car and had turned over and broken his leg. But he was still coming to Austin, although with his leg in a cast. It sort of shook us up, but in the press of business we forgot all that and went on with our program. Bulthius arrived and was transported to our offices. No one was there but the secretaries. He was wheeled into the lobby and when he saw our voodoo doll he went into hysterics. He called for a taxi and went to the airport to fly back to Los Angeles, never to return to Texas. Apparently he believed in voodoo stronger than we did.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More About George

So we came back to Hemisphere and George Washington regained his confidence. He bought a yellow Mustang and started being a man about town. He lined up some people for the black exhibit. One of them, of course, was Barbara Jordan, who was in the Texas Senate. He and I went to Prairie View University where we ran into some opposition from a faculty member. Finally we went on without him. Meanwhile I went to Red Brick Ranch in Wharton County and lined up some early Texas stuff. It was a busy time. Boss Shuffler was tied up with some of the higher ups so we had to improvise. Considering the time involved I think we did a good job.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lightning Hopkins

Lightning Hopkins was born in Crockett, Texas. He could strum a guitar like no one else. He came down to Houston and began performing in the Third Ward. He was sucked into a deal to go to the West Coast. When he found out he had been screwed he became bitter and also suspicious of all white agents. I persuaded Lightning to play for a movie I was making at the Institute of Texan Cultures. This led to performances at Rice University and the University of Houston. His wife was only five feet tall. She had long hair. She became jealous when Lightning began getting calls from other women. In order to keep her happy, Lightning had the phone disconnected. To reach him you had to go down into the Fifth Ward in person. I remember watching Lightning perform at Rice University. He gave a noisy performance which was unique. There was no one quite like Lightning. His material was home grown, peculiar to him.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mance Lipscomb

Mance was living on a plantation in Central Texas and not getting ahead. His wife suggested he ought to try the real world. Mance decided to do so and he began playing and singing everywhere, including the East Coast festival. Mance made enough money to buy a house in Navasota. I brought Mance to the Texas Pavilion in San Antonio during Hemisphere. He had a distinctive style and he played songs that went way back. We put Mance up at the Texas Pavilion because he did not want to rent a hotel room. Mance really enjoyed strumming his guitar and singing old songs. There was no musician in Texas quite like Mance. When he came to Hemisphere he was wearing an overcoat. Someone made fun of the coat and he replied: "You are just jealous because you don't have an overcoat. Actually, he was getting old and the coat kept him warm. Mance would play for hours. He lived for music.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw had settled down into a bourgeois existence in the Austin area, but after talking to him for a while he agreed to show me some videos. In his youth he had been on the whorehouse circuit, playing the piano in the lobby where visitors came to pick out one of the girls. After the doors were closed and it was time for the music to stop two or more of the girls would fight over who got to sleep with Robert for the rest of the night. He asked me to be careful about what I wrote because he was now living a respected life. I told him we would send him to Washington, D.C. to represent a part of Texas life on the mall there. It was Shaw who told me about night life in Kansas City. "This would be an eight story building," he said. On the first floor you could walk in and buy a beer and look around for a girl." As you went higher up you had to be recommended in order to enter. The top floor was really exclusive. Shaw played me some of his music. It was not at all rowdy, it was sort of dreamy. Shaw went on up the circuit, from Texas to Chicago, paying his way by playing the piano. Finally he came back to Austin and settled down. He was the only man I ever met who really did play the piano in a whorehouse.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Los Angeles Hustlers

One of the first things we did was to cancel the contract that some Los Angeles hustlers had negotiated to handle the black exhibit at Hemisphere. Shuffler had told the governor he was going to fire these people, and it was part of his deal. Shuffler sent me and George Washington Jr. to California to fire them in person. George and I checked into a downtown hotel and went to see the hustlers. Right away I realized that George was on tranquilizers. He took several pills when he first woke up in the morning and was agreeable all day long. It was like he was floating on a cloud. We met with these people and they started entertaining us royally. One morning Shuffler called me and asked for a progress report. I told him I would take care of it. I did something that was highly irregular. While George was asleep I stole his pills and threw them down the fire escape. When he woke up he could not find them. I asked him what was the matter and he said "nothing." We went to meet with these people. George was cold sober and business like. I notified the group that they were terminated and then called on George. He pulled out a document and said that he had studied this from a legal point of view and that the contract was invalid. One of the hustlers called him an Uncle Tom. I told them the meeting was over and if they wanted to sue us they would need to consult the Secretary of State in Texas as he was our legal representative. Then we went out and hailed a taxi. George began breathing heavily and I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack. The taxi driver became nervous, so I told him to pull over to the nearest tavern. We went inside and I had a bourbon and bought one for the driver, and a double bourbon for George. After a second bourbon, George recovered. We went back to the hotel and began packing for our return trip. I called Shuffler and told him that everything had been accomplished.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Henderson Shuffler came to see me. He had been appointed director of the Texas exhibit at Hemisphere in San Antonio in the Sixties and he needed to build a staff in a hurry. There would be 26 different categories. I agreed and accepted the black exhibit plus four others. Money was available and time was short. I went to Dallas and recruited George Washington Jr., the first black man to graduate from the University of Texas law school. Then I went to Austin and talked to Barbara Jordan, who had been elected to the senate of the Texas Legislature. Then I went to Prairie View A&M in Waller County, the black branch of A&M University. It was a time of change in race relations. To give you an example, I was in Dr. E. B. Evans office at Prairie View and asked to use the rest room. He sent for a freshman to escort me to the white restroom on the other side of the campus. After that I just helped myself to the rest room in the administration building. There was opposition from some white groups but on the whole the state was being integrated. The people we chose were what you would call bourgeois, blacks who had a college degree and were either teaching school or practicing law or appearing in public ventures such as sports.

Friday, March 13, 2009

There will always be an England

While I was in England I decided to fade into the crowd and listen to the talk around me, so I went into a pub and lowered my voice and ordered a beer. While I was sipping this beer I noticed that most of the people around me were looking at me. Finally a man nearby said to me: "Hello Yank, what part of the States are you from." I told him Texas and then I asked him: "How did you know I was from the United States?" He laughed and said: "It's your four-in-hand tie, mate." I looked around and noticed that some people did not have a tie and others had a bow tie. But no one else had on a tie like mine.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fancy Dress in England

While I was in England I was invited to a formal gathering in Manchester, which is a primative society. I had a tux, but it was a bit oldfashioned compared to some of the guests. We were joined by some government representatives from London. I was chatting with one of the government men, who was quite proper, when a gushy and overdressed matron from Manchester approached our group and addressed us. "We are so happy that you are here from the States," she gushed. The gentleman from London flushed up. "Madam," he replied frostily, "I am an Englishman." The woman disappeared in the crowd.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jolly Old England

The boss sent me on a junket to England. The plane was filled with rival reporters, so when we got to Manchester I played sick. Then I met my escort, furnished by the British government, and we went to the airplane manufacturing plant. I was met with some hostility but I confirmed that the Rolls Royce engines were not to blame -- it was the weakness of the fuselage that had exploded over Rome, killing 200 people. It was this disaster that prompted Eddie Rickenbacher, the president of Eastern Airlines, to cancel a contract for planes. I rejoined the tour and suffered through some embarassment about my weak stomach. But I had my story. When I got back to Houston I called Rickenbacher and he confirmed the cancellation. Then, to my chagrin, the lawyers for the newspaper cancelled the story, saying it was unsafe. All that time wasted. Six months later, a New York newspaper published the story. All of this led to reinforced fuselages on airplanes. It made it safer to fly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

La Grange

Once upon a time there was a whorehouse at LaGrange, Texas, which served the students at Texas A&M University, which was not far away. After a football game, particularly if the Aggies had won the game, the students would load up a bus and head for LaGrange. Outside this popular brothel the Aggies would line up and wait for their turn. The slogan was "Get up, get on, get off and get gone." After the weekend rush the prostitutes would get a little rest on Mondays. The story goes that an urbanite went to the LaGrange house on a Monday and complained to the girl that she had not done enough for him. "I'm sorry Buster, but those Aggies were here this weekend," she told him, "and they damn near fucked me to death." This house, which was one of the best known secrets in Texas, was exposed to the world by Marvin Zindler, an investigative reporter in Houston. The sheriff was furious, but the governor intervened, and the house was closed, at least for a while. This led to a Broadway play, "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." I took my wife to see it in New York. The only flaw was that the madam was portrayed as the sheriff's lover. I suspect that the sheriff loved only the payoff money.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More Casablanca

I really enjoyed being in Casablanca during World War II, in spite of the fact that I did not see Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart. You could stand on the sidewalk in downtown Casablanca and hear 18 different languages being spoken. The city was a refuge from the Nazis. However, like most soldiers, I enjoyed the sex that was available there. There were all sorts of women, natives, European refugees, black, brown, white and half breed, young and old. It was a mixtof cultures. On one occasion about 12 of us soldiers helped outselves to a bus and went on the outskirts of the city. Here was a native bordello and the women were young. Try to visualize a large room with five or six soldiers and an equal number of young women, all young and uninhibited. A few dollars would buy a lot of sex. I did not see the movie until several years after the war. I hate to say this, but the movie underestimated the terrain.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wartime Memories

I was stationed at Victorville Air Force Base during World War II. I was not married and I had been overseas in England, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. I had good luck at this California Air Base and was assigned a building with an office, a teletype, an Associated Press machine, and a bedroom. I also was assigned a WAC secretary. Her name was Phyllis. After she had been with me for several weeks, helping me get organized, I smuggled in a bottle of whiskey and offered her a drink. One thing led to another and she ended up spending the night with me. When it came to sexual relations Phyllis just could not get enough. During the months that lasted until the end of the war Phyllis and I had sex nearly every night. Because of the war I was confined to the base and so was Phyllis. I expected to be shipped overseas into the Pacific Islands and so I decided to enjoy Phyllis while I could. When the war ended I chose to go home and Phyllis chose to stay in the military. And so we parted.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Visit to a Prison Farm

On our way home after taking my grandmother, Kate, on a tour, I stopped off to rent a trailer and buy a load of hay. As we approached Richmond, a large dark cloud blew up. My grandmother was not afraid of anything except storms. I decided to take refuge with my friend, Byron Frierson, formerly of San Angelo, who was now assistant prison director of the rural farms in the state penitentiary system. We pulled up and explained the problem and Frierson had my trailer load of hay pulled inside a barn. We then went inside and had lunch with Byron and his wife, which had been cooked by inmates and was served by other prisoners. The food was good and the service was excellent. Later on, the storm blew itself out and I hooked my trailer up again and started home. My grandmother said, "Son I believe you must know everyone in Texas." This was not true, of course, but I did know thousands of people.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Partlow Family

A fine oldfashioned family named Partlow lived in Liberty, Texas. They kept milk cows and chickens laying eggs and although they lived in the city limits they were exempt from regulation because they had been there before annexation. At noon they served anywhere from 12 to 24 people for lunch. Mr. Partlow was the official surveyor for the county. I met his son, Sam, on the Salt Grass Trail. I was in Liberty with my grandmother, Katie Mims, and she refused to eat at the local cafe. And so I went over and invited us to join the Partlows for lunch. They graciously accepted us, and we joined more than 20 other people. The meal was properly blessed and was up to my grandmother's standard.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Personal Comment

I skipped a day and the reason was that I had a tooth pulled. Like nearly everyone else I hate dentists. However, the tooth had to come out and so I went ahead. The visit to the dentist office was a study in human nature. There were young people and old people, there were men and there were women, there were married couples and in some of the married cases there were wives accompanying their husbands, and vice versa. Needless to say I am glad this is over.