the true stories
When I was fifteen one summer in Houston a neighbor lady very dear to me phoned and asked me if I'd do her favor. She fed me on her pinto beans and wisdom all through my childhood. They were and still are the best to be had from Houston across the Llano Estacado and clear to Arizona. She let me smoke at her kitchen table and never told my folks. She drove me to the doctor when ever I required stitches. I went over to have a bowl or two and to hear the details.
On my second bowl, she filled me in. Her daughter-in-law who's husband was away in the Army and the girl needed to go to San Antonio to see her mother. We marry young in Texas and the gal needed a chaperon. I'd spend two nights there and meet up with another daughter-in-law who was also very young and chaperon her back to Houston.
I agreed and bought a ticket to San Antonio and back to Beaumont, so I could go get some gumbo at my grandma's before returning to the big city. I planned to bring my guitar since I'd have a captive audience of pretty girls. I'd finally get to see the Alamo!
Next day I met up with the first daughter-in-law and we got on our Greyhound. She was a bright cheerful girl with just a touch of seriousness about her, mostly brought on by the prospect of seeing her mother. We chatted and had a good time down the highway all the way. She was from San Antone and knew her way around. In no time we were relaxing at her mother's house.
I remember the old lady went into her closet and pulled out a dusty 1940's Martin guitar that had belonged to her husband. I played the two of them a few songs on it and soon the old woman nodded off in her peach-coloured Lazyboy. I was hot to see the Alamo and was given easy instructions to get there on public transit by my hostess who had some business to take care of and couldn't accompany me.
Next morning after a nice bacon and eggs breakfast with biscuits and grape jelly I said goodbye and headed off to see the Alamo. On the way, after I was off the bus and walking, I realized I was clean out of yerba buena. I saw a couple of likely lads and inquired as to availability and cost. I was most pleasantly surprised at the reduction in price that the extra miles west had garnered me.
The two Chicanos had me follow them to a little cantina not far from the Alamo. I was to wait with one bato as insurance while the other one turned my dollars into Michoacan. We waited and had a couple of beers. The bato with me checked his watch and said his amigo should have covered the distance by now and should be coming through the door any minute. He excused himself to go for a pee.
When he didn't return, I went to the tiny washroom and saw the low window, well worn from many such capers as had just been pulled on me. I learned that the term “con” really stands for “confidence.” The engagement of the mark's imagination is another key factor. This is done through “conversation” and once the victim is visualizing something they want and feeling secure with the faux insurance happily provided by the twister, they are functionally deaf, dumb and blind.
It wasn't the first nor the last time. I used to get pretty steamed up over getting burned but time has taught me that the bullshit artists of this world are a necessary part of any healthy system. They keep the rest of us sharp. If governments and other oppressive control freaks pondered this for a moment they would realize that they are steadily working their own eventual ruin. After all the gullible innocents have been put through the fire, they will be left trying to manage some smart, tough cookies.
I know I haven't forgotten my lessons more than a few times. When we are tired or greedy we're most susceptible.
Only last night, I had a call from my mom seeking advice about an e-mail she had received from a woman pastor she knew. The lady had been robbed in Manila and was seeking some emergency funds. I told mom to type “stranded in Manila scam” into her search engine and that she would see millions of variations of this same letter. That being done, I cautioned her to always stop and think before reacting to e-mails. I told her that a friend or relative would always call in person.
I was feeling pretty good about helping mom avert a financial calamity. While I was telling my wife that she married a genius, her cell phone started to vibrate. It was our nephew in the Philippines. He had been diagnosed with gall and kidney stones and was seeking financial help in order to get treatment. Synchronicity. Keeping things legitimate and balanced.
Meanwhile, back at the Alamo I saw where Crockett, Travis and Bowie had fought to the bitter end. I saw the bullet holes in the adobe. It was an important cultural location after receiving Texas history lessons in grade school. After a while I went outside to trace the walls so as to better visualize the actual approach of the Mexican troops and the siege. At night the only sound would have been the no quarter song, Deguello that the Mexican trumpeters played.
The historical “coward of the Alamo” was Moses Rose. Aka Lewis Rose, aka Luis Rose, aka Luis Roze, a man who was said to have been born in France and to have fought for Napoleon. He was said to have been illiterate but he spoke English and was fluent Spanish. He alone opted to jump the wall after the line had been drawn in the sand by the Colonel. All the other combatants were slaughtered.
He later opened a meat store in the new Republic of Texas and although no one other than himself could verify that he ever set foot in the Alamo; he signed various legal documents to help families claim free land awarded by Texas for their relative's participation in the battle. He did this by witnessing their presence at the Alamo although none of the female nor child survivors could testify to seeing him there or knowing of him.
The walls were no longer there. I asked around the street and a man told me that they were marked in part. He pointed to a large grocery store across the street and said to go to the meat department in the back. I did so and there on the linoleum in brass was a line marking the original walls of the Mission. The primary “witness” to the line in the sand scene at the Alamo was Moses Rose the meat-seller.
I wondered if that meat store had a line drawn through it to help a person visualize a legendary line said to have been drawn in the sand by a guy who didn't cross it, escaped to tell the tale and opened a meat store?
The next morning the second daughter-in-law came calling and we were both driven to the bus station. She was striking for her long copper-bronze natural red hair. She was from a place near my Houston neighborhood where the houses were bigger. Her daddy was rich. She seemed very preoccupied, tired and nervous. We took our seats in the back.
It was clear Red didn't want to talk so I asked her if she'd like me to play my guitar. She brightened up at the suggestion and I asked the bus driver if he minded. He asked the busload of people on his microphone. They said to get after it. I played a song by Greg Allman called Multicolored Lady. It was about a sad young lady and reminded me of my traveling companion. Then I played Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan. She requested it about six times and wouldn't listen to any other song. I put the guitar away and watched her sleep all the way to Houston.
Waiting there in the station was a big biker. I had never seen him but I knew him by reputation when Red called out his name. He was clad in black leathers and wore engineer boots with chain decorations. Red ran up to him and hugged him. The act seemed more fueled by desperation than affection. She told me that he was her ride home and so I shook his hand. I watched them leave and bought a soda to take on the bus.
Soon I was in Beaumont and I called my grandma to come pick me up. First we went to the Piggly Wiggly Market and loaded up on good things to eat. Then we went home and had a beer and some robust ham sandwiches. I stashed my guitar and told my grandma that I would hop over the back fence to see a buddy of mine from when I used to live there.
She said that he had recently started to drive and would likely want to go joy-riding. She told me that she knew I'd always do the right thing and that she wasn't worried in the least. I kissed her and headed off to see my friend. Just as predicted, he called a few gals and two other fellows and soon we were bombing east along the highway out of town.
He said he knew a swimming hole. I asked him if it was in a public park. He said no, it was called H's Pond and everyone who was anyone swam in it. He said my mom probably had swum in it when she was a girl. I asked him about Mr. H. He said that the homestead was way across the pond and deep in the pine trees, so there was no problem.
We parked in the trees and changed into our shorts. After a short humid hike to a hole in a barbed wire fence we came to a pond about seventy yards in diameter. There was a rope swing hanging from a cypress tree on our shore. The shore was all muddied up and smooth from many people like ourselves. It looked OK. I didn't see any water moccasins or gators.
The girls tried out the swing and splashed around the shallows giggling and gossiping. My friend tried a daring swing on the rope and due to his bulk, collided with a cypress knee that poked up a few inches above his arc and did some real damage to his sacroiliac. I bet it still troubles him to this day.
After that nobody wanted to use the rope swing and I got bored. I suggested a transit of the pond. The other fellows could hardly say no in front of the womenfolk but were clearly against the idea. I asked my neighbor if he had a little beer cooler in the car. He did. I suggested we push that in front as a flotation device. If any man got winded, he could hold it and catch his breath. No one had to drown.
The fellows pondered this over and finally agreed. Off we went. I am not a champion swimmer but I am not afraid of the water and I felt like testing my limits. Besides, there were girls to entertain. We stroked on and had made it halfway across before anyone grabbed the cooler. We taunted him and stroked past. There was a lot of whooping, laughter and cheering from the gals.
As I got in shore close enough to gain a muddy foothold, I saw them. Three men with shotguns. The old man H. and likely two of his sons. The patriarch was in the middle and the eldest was on his right. The younger son was on the left flank and it was the sound of him loading his shells that made me look up. They came within twenty feet of the shore out of some dense pines and stood stock still.
The other fellows were splashing ashore now and each one noticed the militia in his own time. The old man spoke first and asked who the hell I was. I told him my name and that of my family in these parts. He then asked who the others were. I told him. The eldest son asked me what the hell we were doing on their private property and why didn't we read signs. I apologized and said we had seen no signs. This made the three of them angry. Some of our guys started to fidget and this made the situation worse.
I said that we meant no mischief and pointed out the gals waiting for us on the other side. (who were witness to what ever was about to happen) I remember reading the Manifesto of Marx when I was quite young. In that recipe book of evil, the family, private property and all religion were to be abolished. Here before me was a Christian man with his family of warriors, defending their private property.
I told the father that we would be on our way and never return, adding that I respected their point of view. I repeated that we had seen no sign and assured him that if we had, we would not be there. The father looked me up and down. He knew I was being sincere. The elder son spoke softly to the old man and the young son shifted back and forth. He looked to be dying to shoot something that day.
I took the initiative and told the three guys with me to come hike back along the shore to the gals. I picked up the cooler and slowly walked while watching the three armed men. I figured that every step away made us harder targets. Once we were in the pines we had a good chance. My companions apologized to the Hargraves and got in line like ducks.
“Wait a damn minute!” said father Hargraves.
I stopped cold and looked at him. The young son was really keyed up and it was worrisome. I expected the worst at this instant.
“You swam across my pond and you can damn well swim back. Now get in the water and swim.”
“Start swimming boys,” said the eldest son as he raised his gun.
“Yeah. Get!” said the young one fingering the trigger of his double barrel.
I tossed the beer cooler in ahead of myself and walked into the water. The other guys looked at me, looked at the three men and then at each other. They strode into the water and soon we were pulling for the far shore. We barely used the float on the way back. I had never had a swim at gunpoint before that time nor have I since. There were some happy girls when we reached the cheering section. I think we gave them an interesting day.
When I got back to my grandma's she looked real concerned. I figured she had felt some of the vibrations I must have been transmitting on the Cherokee telegraph. She told me sit down, that she had something to tell me that was going to shock me. This coming from her got my immediate attention.
“That little gal you rode the bus with, did you see her leave with somebody?”
“Yes Ma'am. I did.”
“Did she say anything about any trouble to you?”
“No Ma'am but I could tell she was worried about something but she didn't tell me about any of her problems. That man she left with is from our neighborhood. He's a bad one but she's hugging on him all the same.”
“Mike I'm afraid she's dead. I just got a call from Houston right after you went to see your friends.”
“The man who picked her up said she jumped out of his car on the freeway. Some are saying he probably kicked her out of the car. You are the last person to see her and talk to her.”
I didn't tell my grandma about the incident at the pond. I stayed a few days and reluctantly boarded another Greyhound for Houston. When I got there I went to see my neighbor. She said we were going to the funeral chapel that evening. I said I didn't really want to. She insisted that I go. Then she said that there were two bodies down there. I asked her who was the other. She told me that the day after Red's death, her little brother had overdosed on heroin. He was seventeen.
I can tell you that no one dies before their day and no one escapes their day. To understand this is to walk the path of responsibility. On that road, a rich daddy is no shield and a gun is only an inanimate object.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.