Saturday, December 26, 2009

Census Decreases By Two After Suicide of Young Woman

By Sandy Bogovich and Jim Parks

Monday, December 7, dawned gray and ugly over Lake Whitney,
a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hydroelectric project
completed in 1949 on the Brazos River in Central Texas.

The dam straddles the dividing line between the blackland
prairies, the cotton and grain farms of Hill County to the
east and the rocky flint and limestone hill country of
flatiron mesas, canyons and creeks, cattle spreads and
trophy game ranches to the immediate west.

It's as if Earth's creator scribbled a meandering pencil
line from north to south and thereby decreed that scrub oak
and cedar would stud the hilltops and plateaus of the rocky
west; thence, to the east, mesquite, bois d'arc and
hackberry would fringe the creek banks and cattle tanks on
the black land where they grow cotton and wheat, corn and
milo maize.

Here the Brazos, a lazy, winding river that cuts through
burnt-orange sands and black mud along its twin tributaries
far to the north - two streams that extend like "the spread
arms of Christ" as he was crucified, the Spanish mapmakers
remarked in naming it in the sixteenth century - cuts
between chalky white bluffs of limestone that jut up from
the river's bed far below. After many years of gradually
filling, the lake extends for many miles along several
tributaries. Communities of retirees and weekenders have
sprung up on both sides of river in the past fifty or sixty
years. It's a playland for boaters and fishermen, jet-skiers
and hikers who flood the area on weekends and holidays
trying to escape the crowded conditions of the Dallas-Ft.
Worth Metroplex.

El Bosque.

The Spaniards mapped its creeks and its river system - The
Bosque, which meets the Brazos thirty miles south at Waco -
and called it that on the documents they sent back to

The Woods.

The day before, the weather had been decidedly cool, but not
so forbidding as Monday's anniversary of the attack on Pearl
Harbor. Around noon, the north wind began to blow in snow
clouds and the light sprinkling advanced across the hills to
soon become a line of driving, horizontal flakes flying in
near-whiteout intensity on some of the hilltops and in the
meadows above the canyons in the sub-freezing temperature.

A young, pretty Hispanic woman wheeled her neat, clean
little Dodge Neon into the gravel layby at the gate to the
Soldier's Bluff Corps of Engineers Park that overlooks the
dam on the west side of river. It offers a panoramic view of
the massive sluice gates that control the level of the water
and power the electrical generating turbines buried deep in
the huge concrete and steel structure.

Since it wasn't open yet, she parked outside the gate in a
little gravel area.

She left her keys in the car. Then she locked the doors. As
she took one last look at the ordinary elements of her daily
commute to a Czech bakery in West, located a fifteen or
twenty minute drive south of her home on I-35 in Hillsboro,
and walked away from her life, it was the last time she
would look at that part of her life.

There were few signs of the life she was leaving behind
forever. A partially consumed bottle of water nestled in the
cup holder; there were some coupons for SuperCuts, a chain
unisex barber and beauty shop with many local locations, and
a beaded cross swung hanging from the rearview mirror.

The next day, investigators would pinpoint her whereabouts
that Monday morning when they discovered streaming video
pictures of a lone Hispanic woman walking across the
sidewalk that runs along the top of the dam. The tape in the
surveillance cameras would fix the time at 7 a.m. on Monday,
December 7.

Eira Escobar, 20, of Hillsboro, Texas, simply walked away
from family and friends forever - and she never told them

Her mother was the last person to see her alive at 5:30 a.m.
when she supposedly left to go to work at the Czech Bakery
in the Bohemian and Moravian enclave community of West.

When she never arrived there, her employer called her mother
to find out what had gone wrong.

It was so unusual for her to neglect to call in to say she
was running late or to announce she would absent for the
day. She was a very dependable employee. That's why they
thought it was such a remarkable thing that she never
arrived at work.

Mrs. Escobar called the Hillsboro Police, who put out an all
points bulletin to lawmen to be on the lookout for her
daughter or her Neon. Then she called all her friends and
family to enlist their help in finding her.

Before the end of the next day, the family and lawmen would
have put the pieces of the puzzle together.

It's a grim story.

The loneliness, fear, frustration and confusion that leads
to self murder always is.

But in this case, there was more than one murder.

Bosque Deputy Robert Bleything cruised along State Highway
22 on that raw, blustery and gray morning as his shift began
at 7a.m. As he approached the Soldier's Bluff Park, he
noticed the same Neon he had seen parked there the day
before was still in the same place.

The dispatcher confirmed that it was registered to a woman
whom Hillsboro Police had reported missing the day before.

He started a foot search of the area and soon Bosque County
Sheriff Anthony Malott, Texas State Troopers, Corps of
Engineers Park Rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Game Wardens and Texas Rangers joined him.

Within a short time, they had located the battered, deeply
bruised body of Eira Escobar floating in the water near the
rocky bluffs at the base of the dam.

When Justice of the Peace James Zander pronounced her dead,
everyone on the scene suspected murder because of the many
lacerations and huge bruises to the head and extremities.
Suddenly, every lawman there was deeply startled when a
young man pulled up in a red pickup and told them he was
looking for Eira Escobar, his ex-girlfriend.

They detained him and transported him to the Bosque County
Sheriff's Office in Meridian for further questioning.
During a brief relationship that had ended recently, they
had been there together on dates, he said.

He also had a letter she sent him marked, "Open after I'm

He had assumed she meant for him to open the letter after
she left for a planned move to Houston. Further questioning
revealed much about Ms. Escobar that other people did not

In the letter she thanked him for being there for her during
their relationship. She also mentioned her pregnancy.

She and another young man who lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth
area had broken off a relationship after she became
pregnant. That was seven months earlier.

He said she told him that neither of them, it turned out,
wished to reconcile to raise the expected child together. He
told investigators she could not face her parents with this
sad news. He and Ms. Escobar, too, broke off their
relationship when she planned her move to Houston.

Her mother had phoned him to ask him to help look for her.

That was why he showed up there.

Authorities released him without charges later in the day.

They transported her body to Clifton Funeral Home where they
summoned her parents to identify her. Then they sent her
remains to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office for
an autopsy and further tests.

A preliminary report stated that the examiner found the
extensive bruising and lacerations consistent with a fall
from a height to the surface of the water.

Further tests later revealed her pregnancy and confirmed the
finding of suicide by jumping off the dam. There was a net
decrease in the census by a number of two.

Both the mother and her child lost their lives as a result
of her rash act.

This report is based on the reporting of Sandy Bogovich,
a former staffer at "The Bosque County News."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Red Bow

She sat the conference table, a piece of the cheap scarlet ribbon tied
in a bow in front of her, eyes blazing with hate and her head shaved
as bare as a billiard ball.

She looked like a wood block print of an ancient Egyptian queen, her
smeared makeup running in the severe morning sunlight pouring through
the windows.

"I don't know what you think you're trying to prove."

"I'm not trying to prove anything," I said.

"Yes, you are. You're trying to prove you're smarter than me, aren't

"No, ma'am, I'm not."

I didn't know what else to say.

I just sat there and stared at her.

She stared back.

It was simple enough. She had taken on the responsibility of tying
red ribbons to the radio aerials and rearview mirrors of peoples' cars
because her daughter had been hit head-on by a drunken driver. The
drunk's car crossed the centerline of the two-lane road on the rural
Florida highway.

The girl hadn't been able to avoid the collision because a steel
traffic barrier merely made her tiny car bounce along at high speed,
slamming into it repeatedly at an oblique angle as she panicked. The
pickup lurched into the path of her car even after she had left the
paved surface to skim through the weeds at the berm.

I knew.

At that moment, I knew it as well as I knew my own name.

I had read the highway patrolman's report, glanced at his diagram,
interpreted the grim reality of the measurements. The photographs
told the rest of the story in a grim black and white series of macabre
images, the hood and bumper of the little compact shoved entirely
underneath the seats, the sprays of blood fanning out across the
airbags, the lock of scalp and long brown hair still hanging in the
shattered windshield.

I still hadn't reacted. My face was a piece of stone. She burst into
a fresh round of tears.

"You didn't have to write all that stuff. All you had to do was to
write what I said to write, that I am putting red ribbons on peoples'
cars to remind them not to drive drunk. That's all I wanted."

I hadn't written much. I had merely written a cursory description of
the indisputable facts of how the collision occurred and the fact that
the daughter was killed upon impact.

The driver of the much heavier pickup truck was treated and released
from an area hospital, jailed briefly, released on bond, and placed on
probation after entering a plea of guilty to negligent homicide and
driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, the massively
armored front bumper of the truck was barely dented.

I had no words. The horror of the situation prevented me from
speaking. I continued to sit looking at her with a blank expression.
The chemotherapy had all the hormones in her body raging and fighting,
the organism itself battling the chemicals for survival while the
cancer tried to take over and throttle the will to survive.

The editor, a middle-aged ad sales lady who had learned her trade
working for an Army publication overseas, cleared her throat and spoke
up for the first time.

"Well, ma'am, is there anything materially incorrect or false about
the written report we published?"

"Yes! There is! It's wrong to just go on and on about something a
person doesn't want any publicity about, isn't it? Isn't it wrong to
just keep at it until you drive a mother crazy? Isn't it?"

"Well, ma'am, you told him you intend to sue him. On what grounds
would you have standing to sue? He hasn't said anything false or
misleading, there is no malicious intent on his part. What is the
problem? Is the problem that what he wrote makes you uncomfortable?
Obviously, no one is happy..."

"You'd better not say another word about someone being happy, lady!

She burst into tears again.

The editor glanced at me. Then she pushed a box of Kleenex across the
table toward the woman. She poured some more ice water into her

The woman slapped the glass off the table. It left a trail of ice
cubes and beads of water across the polished surface.

"Let's not do that," the editor said quietly. "I don't think that
will help anything."

She turned to me and said I could go.

I bolted from the room, spooked by the look in her eyes.

# # #

Friday, December 11, 2009


I have seen every sunrise of my life through the mouth of
the cave.

My people have been here since before anyone can remember.
At some point in the past, the people from below and above
began to accuse us of being witches. I would not know
because this is all I have ever known. I have only heard
talk from those who have gone away and returned.

The Morning Star appears promptly and proves that the world
is turning. We mark the seasons by its alignment with the
ceiling of the mouth of the cave. As soon as a hunter is
able to do this, he is ready to join a war party and go in
pursuit of game. I have made six summers now since coming
of age. Four new warriors have joined my troupe during the
last two summers. I have two women. The chief gave me one of
his daughters and I took the second one away from a fool
whom we banished to the canyons.

We live in the third house from the entrance where we make
bow strings from the sinew of antelope and deer.

When the Morning Star comes tomorrow, we will go on the hunt
for our enemy. A scout returned to tell us where he had
seen them and their number.

We have purified ourselves in the sweat bath and consulted
the holy weed. Now, we wait for the time to be on our way.
When the Morning Star speaks to us, we will depart and lay a
trap for our enemy.

It is good.

When the Morning Star has faded today, I will learn if my medicine is strong.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In The Deer Park

Creatures tamed by shelled corn and the warmth of the
morning sun, the group of does strides away from the pond
beside the road, taking tentative steps up the hill, then
pausing to look back at me with curiosity.

Their coloration under the winter overcast matches the tawny
texture of the goat weed, the burnt cast of the grass, the
outcroppings of the canyon's layers of limestone, the gray
of the scrub oaks and the contrasting evergreen of the cedar

With a sudden snort of the leading lady, they flash their
white tail flags and disappear into the brush as if they
were never there.

Around the bend, an eight-point buck, proud and secure in
his role as the dominant male in this family of his, stands
in challenge to my intrusion, walking in a half circle, his
nose point toward me on the road below, then turning in
profile as if to say he is unimpressed with any threat my
presence may offer. As I gaze at him from downwind where he
can't really place my scent, he seems to change shapes and
colors in the morning sun, becoming translucent, then
transparent, only to return to full corporeal contrast and
as I glance away to put the truck back in the gear and drive
away, he steps up, into the brush, and disappears as if he
was never there, after all.

I am sure he is still there somewhere in the trees, antlers
held erect, his eyes boring holes in my profile, ready to
flee at the slightest hint of man threat. He is gone, so
gone, so ready to join his harem that he is a part of some
realm untapped by my mind, only witnessed at odd moments.

This is the deer park, hundreds and hundreds of acres and
acres of land that climbs to a plateau over deep canyons of
limestone piled layer upon layer as if courses of the stuff
had been piled higher and higher by unseen giant hands,
trees and weeds and grass clinging to cracks and layers of
soil blown there from the prairies to the north. High wire
fences surround the area, its three tiers over the valley of
the creek below segregated by gradations that force the
creatures to wind down to water and feed on a daily basis
after their night's retirement in the shelter of brush and
overhanging canyon walls to shield them from the cruelties
of the harsh winds from the north.

Sitting amid the rocks, one finds shells of mollusks from
ancient times unrecorded, concretions in the floor of an
ancient shallow ocean that is no more.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This time I'm not afraid of what might be coming...

Virginia Lee is from the South. She lives in Memphis and takes care of her mama and she's up for a job in the music business - blues music. She had the jitters under the moon last night and wrote some things that struck chords way down deep in my soul. - Legendary Jim

Virginia Lee wrote:
...This thing about not knowing what is going to happen next? I've been living that way a very long time. There's a difference with this, however. This time I'm not afraid of what might be coming...And Roy? You, sir, are a goob.

The Legendary wrote to her about Beale Street:

There is a quality of light, the way a girl smiles, the hooting of a whistle, the clanging of a bell through the fog or the way leaves on a tree are reflected in shadows on a brick wall seen through an open window in the gusting wind that gives me a flavor, a feeling, a fleeting sensation of the blues.

Blue blues,
c'est bleu en bleu

He met me on the sidewalk, right on cue:

"See that little house, man?"


"That little house over there? Man, that's where W.C. Handy stay."


"Yeah, man, he wrote 'I hate to see that evenin' sun go down.' Dig?"


"You know why he hate to see that evenin' sun go down?"


He regarded me with mock wonder, an expression of total disbelief.

"Cause he be sleepin' on a park bench like I be sleepin' on a park bench, man!"


"Man, is you a fool from Liverpool?"


"A square from Delaware?"

"Yo, man, I..."

"Come on, man, let me show you..."

We started down Beale Street together, the tourists parting before us like the Red Sea, as if Pharaoh's chariots were in pursuit.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"It's the place where they adjust mother nature's spine..."

He mixed the Manhattans, licked the swizzle stick and nodded approvingly at his work, handed me mine
and took a seat in his swivel chair at the desk.

Leaning forward, leering down the top of my boat neck blouse and staring at my cleavage, putting his
elbows on his knees, he said, "What I'm telling you must be kept confidential - or else. I have it on the
highest authority that this year, on the island, they will be doing some experimental tuning at the gear
wrench site."

I looked at him with a blank expression. "The what kind of site?"

"Oh, that's right," he said, snapping his fingers and throwing up his other hand in mock surprise. "We've
been together so long I had forgtten you're a girl and you don't know these things - simply because of
discrimination against your gender!"

I sipped my drink, crossed my legs and smoothed my skirt. I knew we were in the deep shit this time.

He gets like this, usually in November when the air turns crisp and tangy, the harvest moon is gone and the
moon of the time when the animals rut returns.

Okay, you know about the island, don't you?

"Of course," I said, "it's the one thing around here that females who know they don't know know all about
and wish they didn't."

I shrugged, mindful that my tits were swaying back and forth in the lacy little French push-up bra I bought
when my muscle tone started to really go into high gear after the martial arts program began to take hold on
my body.

Yes, working for Smitty Mulholland had its perks. He'd turned me back into a clawing, scratching
FEMALE. What he called a "pure dee bitch," in that Okie accent he sometimes affected. "Bee-yitch."

I was ready for a fight, the kind where the combatants lead with their genitals and don't fear the
consequences. Somewhere, somehow, I dimly perceived that I was becoming - ah - dampened - and
relished the fact. My body shivered, starting at the base of my spine and going all the way to my skull. I
put a hand to my throat, breathed deeply.

He grinned. Then he gave himself a quick "where was I" shake and leaned forward again to talk to me
some more.

"Okay, the island is up in the New Hebrides. It was a distant early warning radar tracking site back during
the ICBM ugliness of the space race, back in the fifties and sixties. Top secret. That's when they found it."

"Found what?"

"The seam. It's a place where you can pull back a very delicate skin on the earth's crust and there are - uh -
well - this set of gears under there. There is a special wrench and you turn those gears and it makes the
planet - well - you know - it adjusts the axis of the planet - just enough. They steer the orbit of the earth
from there. They can control the climate, bring on or stave off ice ages..."

I looked at him dead pan. You never knew with this prick when he was being serious or just having you on.
All I knew at that point was that I wanted to get drunk with him - again. I wanted him to fuck me long and
hard and fast. I wanted his baby, simply because I could look at his face and see precisely the kind of boy
he was when he was...oh, you know, before his voice changed, when he was one of the troops in their little
tribe, their little hunting party. You know the phase of human male development I'm talking about if you
have sons or you ever had a little brother, or if you're, if you're, you know - in lust with some dude.

Because that's what he was at moments like this. He was a dude!

He grinned at me. The bastard. The bastard! He knew he was broadcasting it at me, that mojo, that all-boy
magic, that little old cave man look they all get when they know they will score. Oh, I had been there

I decided to play along. I like to play.

"What do the gears look like? Are they very big? What are they made out of?" I batted my eyelashes at

"I'll show you if you are willing to dress up like a man and come on our next trip up there. It'll be our little
secret, just you and me."

I looked at the cluttered desk, the old portable typewriter, the grimy old fedora, the anachronistic 35 mm
Leica, stacks of manuscripts, dusty old racing forms. It was his office, the place where he went to work
nights, days, weekends, holidays - any time the mood struck him.

"It's the place where they adjust mother nature's spine," he said, grinning, saluting me with his drink before
he took a sip and shuddered from the pleasure it gave him. He shrugged, said it again, "Top secret."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Man, Bird

By Jim Parks

Mashing bullets into cartridge cases filled with just the
right amount of powder, checking the overall length of the
finished cartridge - precise work, repetitive, a comfort on
a rainy day. The solid reality of gleaming brass and dull
gray lead, the shussing sound of powder spilling out of the
measure and down the spout as it rushed into the cartridges.
The mechanical feel of the press easing the bullet into the
case as it overcame the friction and tight fit. It all
added up to something famliar, elemental, a skill of the
prairies, the ships, the back alleys and saloons. The
revolver, the rifle, they must be fed. Firing the infernal
machines was only a small part of the battle.

When the kids came home from school, he heard the
refrigerator door open and close several times before the
little boy came into the back room with its windows open on
the world to check on him. It was their ritual, something,
a moment - that they both cherished.

The man hugged the little boy, said, "Me love Billy. Yes,
me do." The kid had held himself close by his side,
expecting to be hugged. He was still a little boy, only
five, in his first year of school. You could still talk
baby talk to him without making him self conscious.

All this gave the man something to look forward to, a little
something to occupy his life of bullets, pistols, bad
dreams, trying to outscheme and outwit enemies both real and
imagined, to mitigate his life of hyperawareness and cool
his overactive imagination.

The boy and his sister were not his children. They were
another man's, but he loved their mother and he raised them
as his own.

There had been friction between he and boy the week before.
The kid was not learning to read as he should. The teacher
was concerned. She had complained to the mother because the
boy would get out of his chair and lay on the floor under
the table when it came time to read, his eyes closed.

The man bought an audiotape with the phonetic drills
recorded on it and a little book with illustrations that
showed how vowels and consonants sound as written. A
picture of a stick sufficed to show how s-t sounds. A
picture of a rooster showed how o-o sounds. Rooster,
cooler, goose, loose - but not good, wood or even should.

The kid didn't like it. He resisted every attempt to play
the game. He doubled his tiny fists and hit at the man as
he tried to hug him, saying "I hate this! I hate you!"

It was an extreme action for him to take. He loved the man
and the man loved him. They both loved to play little boy
games and tell each other tall tales. This was new, a
disturbing, painful development. There were neither one
happy with it. The boy was acting out his stress. He
needed help and he showed him because he trusted him to

What to do?

The people at the school recommended a transfer to the
"magnet" school - a polite term for a special needs class of
kids bussed to a town ten miles distant, a class for
retarded kids. Maybe even medication should be used to
correct certain problems in the kid's perceptions and

He recoiled in horror. The little fellow could do much,
much better. He just knew it.

He resisted the notion, told the mother not to accept that.
He had found out how - for a thousand dollars - he could
arrange for the kid to be trained to read at a rudimentary
level at a special literacy project sponsored by a
professional school at a nearby university, a place 35 miles
distant. He had found a decent car for the woman to drive,
arranged for the lessons, the price, the budget. It would
become their project five days a week.

All this had been the subject of several mornings working
the phone, looking up facts and figures on-line. How he
loved to function this way.

Now, the two of them regarded one another at eye level, the
boy standing by his side, he seated at his grandfather's old
mahogany desk with the leather top, his arm around the boy's

"Let's play a game," the man said. He made all his
decisions - the major ones - this way.

"Let's flip a coin."

"What means that." The boy was in the habit of asking
questions by making statements out of syntax. It was his
idea of how to ask a question.

He also liked to simulate telling a joke by telling him
certain things that didn't make much sense. Then saying,
"You know what?"


"You know what?"


"Nothin', that's what!" Then he would die laughing, doing a
zombie dance around the sides of the man's desk and chair.

"It means," the man continued, his voice taking on a
pedantic tone at which the boy waved his hand around, making
it appear to be quacking like a duck, "that I will make the
coin flip through the air -like this. You call it - heads
or tails - while it's still in the air. Then I will catch
it and we will see which it is.

"This is heads," he said, showing the kid George
Washington's bas relief profile.

"This is tails," he said, displaying the spread eagle with
olive branches in one claw, arrows in the other.

He drew out his pronouncements, broadening the vowels,
making the final sounds of the words trail away into fadeout
and dropping his head as he bit off the words as if they
were hanging suspended in the air before his face.

"Oh-kay," the little boy said, grinning at this strange
thing, this funny little proposal.


The coin flashed up, catching the pale afternoon light
streaming through the windows, and while it spun in the air,
the kid stayed silent. The man caught it and showed it to

"Man," said the kid. He was starting to grin broadly. He
was catching on, having fun now. Washington's portrait in
nickel plated copper shone up from the palm of his hand.

The man flipped the quarter again.

This time the spread eagle came up when he uncovered the
coin with his hand. The kid looked at it; he said, "Bird."

"Let's try it again," the man said, smiling easily at the
kid. He didn't always catch on to things the first time.
It took a lot of patience dealing with Billy.

"Except, Billy, you know, you guess if it's man or bird
while the coin is still spinning in the air, okay?"


He flipped the coin.

"Man," the kid said.

He snatched it out of the air, covered it with his hand. The
coin came up heads.

"One more time," he told him.


He grabbed the coin from in front of the kid's face, slapped
it down on the back of his other hand, peeked at it, then
showily displayed it under the kid's nose. The coin came up

"Guess what, Billy. You win."

The kid looked puzzled. He grinned at him as he handed him
the quarter. The kid put it in the pocket of his tiny
jeans, his dirty, tanned little hand disappearing in the
denim folds as he swiped his lengthening hair out of his
eyes with the other. Then he picked up his can of soda from
the desktop and took a deep drink, two-handing it and
throwing back his head.

He belched manfully.

He grinned slowly.

"What did I win?"

"You won the future. That's what you won."

The kid shrugged. He grinned again as he turned to go, the
afternoon sun shining in his eyes and in his hair. He
looked like a little elf standing there grinning at him.

"Tell your mommie I need to talk to her as soon as she gets
home from work, okay?"


Monday, November 9, 2009

Ted - And Showbiz

Oh, I've seen some real pros working some hard rooms in my time. But the story about W.C. Fields working that beach - pretending to drown - that takes the cake.

I heard Phil Harris talk about growing up in a circus that played throughout the tank towns of the Midwest. He said back in the day, they paraded from the railroad to the fairgrounds, attracting a crowd as they went, then they played their first show that night. At the end of the show, they would tear it all down and load it up in the middle of the night - gone again. What a life.

One of my old buddies was Ted. He was a Polish Jew who grew up in a steamer trunk all over Europe. His mother and father were actors in Yiddish theater.

When Hitler invaded Poland, they happened to be in London. So, Ted spent his war there. Soon, he was recruited by the OSS because of his extensive knowledge of Slavic languages. He'd been, literally, everywhere during his childhood. Knew the customs, the dialects, the locations - a lot of the people.

So, he parachuted into various locations during his wartime service, emerging alive and very experienced at fighting.

Now, Ted liked to drink and drink he did. All day long and all night long.

He also loved women. Oh, how he loved women.

He had two of them - one on either side of U.S. 1 in Pt. St. Lucie, Florida. He had a Cadillac. He had problems. He was spending his time between women, liquor stores and jails, as it were.

I can just hear it now.

"Go! Schmuck! Go - run - to your whore, your yenta! You can never be happy with an honest woman, a righetous woman. Run away like a little boy! I'm going to call the cops, you asshole!" Then woman number one would make a run at him with the butcher knife.

Don't look at me. I have no idea.

One night he was apprehended by two of the local gendarmes as he mopped the ditches on both sides of the road with his Coupe de Ville.

While they were questioning him, one stood in front, the other behind him.

Now the one cop would push his chest with his finger and the other would shove him forward with his night stick from behind.

Ted flashed, then he went postal.

He whirled, put a karate punch right in cop two's larynx, and kicked cop one in the balls. Then he ran, screaming "Murder! Is there no peace for an old man? Murder!"

That's when he ran into a house through the screened-in porch beside the pool, through the den, and out the back door, through a hedge, across a drainage canal, then through another house.

It's all standard practice in the spycraft game.

Make a lot of noise. Attract a lot of attention. Then run to either a public building with multiple exits, or a private property with more than one exit. But keep moving.

They found him at the yenta's house, sleeping it off, the next morning.

He had been charged with assaulting two police officers. The one with the crushed larynx was in bad condition, hospitalized. The one with the crushed balls was wounded in his pride.

Ted was in trouble. Deep trouble.

If it hadn't been for his sense of humor, his gravitas, his theatrical airs, I don't think I would have survived. I think circumstances would have crushed me.

But Ted taught me a few things before he died. He taught me show biz! He taught me the things they taught him at a secret base in England. He taught me that he who survives the war is truly the victor.

I rejoice each time I think of the old ham!

The Legend

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Proud Mother Speaks To The Room In General

By Jim Parks

Moving in a flurry of activity, getting the old couple
seated, flitting about for extra napkins, a bottle of pepper
sauce, more silverware, she takes her place at the table,
turned obliquely to address the room in general.

The dull hubub of the cafeteria swells and ebbs as she talks
steadily in an amplified voice, her head thrown back at a
slight angle, projecting from the diaphram. Her tanned skin
glows, the carefully styled hair glossy, the jewelry

Oh, yes, she has gone to Dallas.

She answers her mother's questions with exaggerated calm and

It's an exciting new job. She's working for S____, F______.
Yes, it's an electronic discovery firm with offices in Los
Angeles, Dallas, Washington, D.C., New York and London.
They scan electronic files - computerized records - For

For evidence.


Yes, anything that can be used as evidence in a trial.

Most of the people who work there are retired from the CIA
or the FBI.

She sounds so proud of that. Her husband speaks in the same
affected, high strung voice.

Questioned by a stranger who said he could not help
overhearing, she admits she has no idea if the computer
scans are a result of a court order on a discovery motion,
or not.

Her expression is blank.

I don't know about all that legal stuff, she says.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

State health officials insist H1N1 Vaccine is Safe

By Jim Parks

If people wait until public health officials offer them
vaccination for the dreaded H1N1 swine flu that that UN
doctors have termed pandemic, "No one will be turned away,"
said a Texas state health department official. "There will
be no charge.

"Everyone who shows up that day will be shot."

The crowd in the Clifton Civic Center auditorium erupted in
giddy laughter.

"That didn't sound right," Ms. Lacy Sanders, a Disease
Coordinator for the Texas Department of State Health Service

"Everyone who shows up that day will get a shot."

More laughter.

Unless you have had full-blown anaphylactic shock, according
Ms. Sanders, the swine flu vaccine against the H1N1 virus is

Even those who have had allergic reactions to eggs should be
able to withstand a dose of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine, she

Only those who have been unable to breathe because of the
sudden production of histamines and other immunological
mediators that closed off their brochial passages or caused
a sudden drop in blood pressure that triggered a
cardiovascular collapse such as the spasms caused by bee
stings or an extreme allergic reaction to penicillin should
be cautious about taking the vaccination.

"It's in a preservative-free environment, so there's no harm
at all."

Has it been tested?


Has the testing been extensive enough?

Of course, said health department representatives. The
mission is to produce a vaccine that will cause the immune
system to form antibodies. Once they are present, testing
has been entirely effective and the product has been proven

Many internet bloggers have insisted that the vaccine has
been rushed into production without a proper testing period.
There is an air of panic in the among some parts of the
population, people who fear a government grab for power.
Some of them envision concentration camps into which those
who refuse the vaccine will be imprisoned.

The Texas health officials are working hard in public
appearances to dispel these rumors.

To manufacture a live virus vaccine such as the nasal spray
recommended for people up to age 45 or a dead virus vaccine
delivered by intramuscular injection involves the act of
testing the virus as it is synthesized.

"It has been tested," Ms. Sanders inisisted as she and State
Epidemiologist Gene Mikeska presented the nuts and bolts of
the vaccination program, which is meant to target the
uninsured or underinsured.

In fact, the H1N1 virus vaccine was manufactured first in
Australia because the southern hemisphere goes into the
winter equinox at the same time the northern hemisphere
enters the summer months. "They needed it first," said Ms.

Though one to 15 percent of the population can be considered
at risk for anaphylactic shock, only about one percent who
experience it may die as a result.

If the flu has entered a pandemic state, as World Health
Organization officials termed it in June of this year, why
haven't more people been sick or died?

That's simple, according to the epidemiologist, Gene

"In a business where you make things, your productivity is
judged by what you turn out...In our business, you are
judged by what you prevent." Quite simply, when there is
little or no disease, that's when you know public health
officials are really getting the job done.

How will people get vaccinated? Health officials have
started to receive shipments of the vaccine at the present
time. It is first going to private health care providers
who ordered it months ago.

"Check with your doctor," said Ms. Sanders.

Diabetics and those who are 65 or older should see their
doctors about a pneumonia vaccination, she said. Pneumonia
is a common complication of the pandemic strain of H1N1
swine flu. "Anyone with a immunological deficiency should
be vaccinated for bacterial infections."

The vaccine will become available "around the first week in

Seasonal flu vaccine is available now. It takes two to
three weeks to become effective against infection. Those
who have been exposed to flu may already be sick but not
showing symptoms for several days. By then, it's too late.

The key, then is to be vaccinated early in the flu season
and give the system plenty of time to develop the antibodies
that will fight off the flu virus.

Nasal spray vaccine for the H1N1 virus, the kind used by
those who are less than 45 years of age, takes two to three
weeks to become effective. Dead virus vaccine, the kind
used by the elderly and diabetics or other immunologically
challenged patients, usually takes about a month.

What kind of strain of swine flu is H1N1 2009? It's a virus
that is endemic in pigs, a subtype of Influenza A. However,
transmission of the virus from pigs to humans is not common
and does not always lead to human influenza. It often leads
only to the production of human antibodies.

What about Tamiflu?

It's not effective unless you have been infected. Just
because you took Tamiflu, you won't be immune from the H1N1
virus. Besides, said Mr. Mikeska, "It costs about $125 to
$145 for a five day dosage."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Private Contract Police To Fill Private Jail in Montana

By Jim Parks

If one set out to make it up out of whole cloth, the story
would tax even the most fertile imagination.

However, any reasonable examination of the facts lends a
certain plausibiity to the equation, if viewed in terms of
natural resources and historical facts.

Situated a scant fifteen minute drive from the site of
Custer's last stand, Hardin, Montana, is at the confluence
of the Yellowstone and Big Horn Rivers. It is located on
the right of way of the old 19th century route of the
Northern Pacific Railroad, which now makes up parts of the
Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific Lines, as
well as Montana Rail Link.

Furthermore, it is the place where Interstates 94 and 90
coming from Billings meet up with Interstate 25 from Casper,
Denver and points south. Most trainloads of coal roll east
to Detroit through Hardin. Wheat trains head through the
city on their way to St. Paul and Chicago.

So Hardin, Montana, with a population of about 3,500 in a
county of about 15,000, more than a third of the work force
of which is chronically unemployed, is located in the place
where there converge a half dozen excellent wagon roads that
carry diesel tractors and trailers at high speed across the
knobs, benches and coulees of the old buffalo hunting lands.
What's more, it's a hub for the rail routes that connect the
Pacific Northwest with the Midwest, Southwest and East

Big Horn County is the eighth largest producer of beef
cattle in the nation.

That is what the fight with the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne
was all about on that fateful summer day in 1876 when the
grandstander and glory hound, Lt. Colonel George Armstrong
Custer, met his maker and lost his scalp.

The Indians had a treaty granting the hunting lands - an
easy route to and through the Rockies - to them as long as
wind blow and grass grow. But it was not to be as soon as
the settlers and railroad barons sniffed out the yellow iron
in places like The Black Hills of South Dakota, a sacred
place for the plains tribes and the location of a massive
gold field. To the northwest lies Helena and Butte, high
timber country with many deposits of gold.

Then the pony soldiers came with their .45-70 Springfield
trapdoor rifles and Hotchkiss Guns, Gatling repeaters and
mountain howitzers, building soldier forts and burning out
and killing tribes all across the area.

When the surveying crews and wagon trains arrived, the
braves went on the war path. It was the beginning of the
end of aboriginal culture in North America. Following the
wars that ensued, they were all herded onto sparse and
desolate reservations throughout the west.

Hardin sits on the northern boundary of the Crow Nation.
They were scouting and fighting for Custer on the infamous
day of his last stand. They Cheyenne and Sioux were
relegated to South Dakota.

What the Twin Rivers Authority has done is hardly untypical.
In the nineties, many economic development authorities went
into hock by selling tax free municipal bonds, constructed
private jails and penitentiaries, and contracted with such
corporations as Wackenhut and Corrections Corporation of
America to operate those jails at a neat profit. In other
places such as Johnson County, Texas, the city and county,
in cooperation with the development authority and the
commissioner's court, constructed a law enforcement center
for the County Sheriff's Department to meet new jail
commission standards, then contracted with far away
municipalities such as Washington, D.C., Harris County,
Texas, and state penal institutions such as the
Institutional Division of the Texas Department of
Corrections to house overflow crowds of offenders in the
over capacity facilities constructed as much as three times
too large for just that purpose.

In one Connecticut city, the economic development authority
condemned private property and constructed a shopping mall
for a developer using tax free municipal bonds. It's all
perfectly legal under a Supreme Court ruling. Arlington,
Texas, did the same thing with a football and baseball
stadium complex.

Government's power of eminent domain is no longer reserved
for the construction of public utilities such as airports
and hydroelectric dams. It's now of extreme benefit to the
private sector.

But the city dads and the bank didn't figure on the reaction
Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer, who, through the
cooperation of his Attorney General, carried out a single
minded campaign against corrections and incarceration as a
growth industry. As a result of their opposition, a
negative AG's opinion that held that no such business could
be conducted because it's the sole authority of the
Sheriff's department to house Montana prisoners in Montana,
and then only temporarily until they can be shipped to the
Department of Corrections.

In the ensuing two years of lawsuits, countersuits, appeals,
depositions and hearings, the bond issue has gone into
default. The U.S. Bank, which underwrote the muni bonds, is
hanging out there for the full pop of $27 million plus debt
service. No one is making money.

The Twin Rivers Authority executives have even made a
serious bid to house the Al Quaeda prisoners now warehoused
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who are awaiting trials before
military tribunals, prisoners whom the President has
declared must soon be brought to the continental U.S. to
face trial. They were turned down because of the Govenor's

Then came the answer to their prayers.

Mike Hilton, an ethnic Montenegrin of the Serbian province
of what was once Yugoslavia, proposed that they enter a
contract with him to operate the 464-bed jail under
undisclosed terms amounting to a multimillion dollar
operation, as well as sell an estimated five to 10 thousand
acres for "training purposes" to his corporation based in
Santa Ana, California, American Private Police Force. It is
rumored that this is a subsidiary corporation of what was
once known as Blackwater, a North Carolina outfit that runs
convoys and performs security duty for government and
corporate types in such hot spots as Iraq and Afghanistan.

He and other company officials showed up last week driving
three black Mercedes Benz SUV's with the company logo on
their doors and the words "Hardin Police Department" stuck
on their sides with magnetic signs.

The company logo is the coat of arms of Serbia-Montenegro,
which resembles the two-headed eagle of the Scottish Rite of
Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, or the seal of the
Russian Imperial court.

This plunged the town into a cauldron of hot debate for one
reason and one reason alone. Hardin has not had a police
force now for thirty years. All law enforcement patrols are
provided by the County Sheriff's Department.

Now what? Would foreign mercenaries crowd in to fill the
jail with offenders accused of DWI, non-payment of child
support, driving while license suspended? Would they go
after unaided warrants and jail the offenders?

Conspiracy theorists sniffed out sign of the dreaded
Illuminati, suspecting an evil Masonic influence in a world
wide banker's plot to take over the planet - one town at a

For now, the contract has been extensively re-written to
satisfy the lawyers that the tax free integrity of the
municipal bonds will not be threatened in any way should the
deal go through.

As it turns out, Mike Hilton is a felon who stands convicted
of multiple offenses of fraud and spent several years in
California prisons. He owes judgments of multimillion
dollar proportions and has as many as seventeen registered
aliases on court records. His corporate attorney quit him
in the heat of battle and a public relations consultant he
hired away form the Billings "Gazette," Becky Shay, broke
down and cried when she was unable to answer questions
regarding the corporation's assets, operations or plans.

The contract is awaiting final approval from U.S. Bank, the
underwriter, and there is very little happiness in Hardin,

A chilling note regarding ethnic cleansing of muslims in
Croatia and Serbia as carried by Serbian forces:

1) Concentration. Surround the area to be cleansed and
after warning the resident Serbes - often they are urged to
leave or are at least told to mark their houses with white
flags, indimidate the targee.

2) Decapitation. Execute political leaders and those capable
of taking their places: lawyers, judges, public officials,
writers, professors.

3) Separation. Divide women, children, and old men from men
of "fighting age" - sixteen years to sixty years old.

4) Evacuation. Transport women, children, and old men to the
border, expelling them into a neighboring territory or

5) Liquidation. Execute "fighting age" men, dispose of

It all sounds a whole lot like the strategy and tactics
employed by Generals Crook, Terry and Sherman in the Indian

Another riveting detail. The Montana Firearms Freedom Act
took effect on October 1. Under that law, any firearm
manufactured and assembled in Montana that is meant to stay
there in Montana and not be transported across state lines
is exempt from Federal regulation under the terms of the
Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many other states
including Texas, West Virginia, Alabama, and Wyoming have
introduced similar legislation. It is also law in

American Private Police Force showed up in Hardin just a
week after the new firearms law took effect.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

After A Long Cessation, A Moment of Companionship

At the automatic teller machine, a tom cat trotted across
new mown grass, up a sidewalk, tail held high in the sudden
autumn breeze.

I meowed, something I am sure I have not done since I was,
oh, maybe three or four years old - five at the oldest.

Losing track of the cat, I finished my business, then felt
him brush between my legs, heard his growling meow. I saw
his dark tiger stripes on a gray coat, looked into his green
eyes, measured his whiskers, felt him dos y doe between the
legs of my faded jeans once again.



It was a matter-of-fact exchange, something between a little
old man and a little old tom cat. I bent to stroke his fur,
scratch behind his ears. He shook his head rapidly side to
side, said, "Meow" again, and began to trot beside me toward
my pickup.

As I mounted the plain jane Chevy, he squatted and left his
calling card precisely at the corner of the clipped grass,
the sidewalk and the curb of the cross street beside the
bank, said a "Meow," farewell, and wrapped his tail around his
hindquarters, licked his chops, raised his nose to the

I drove away, thinking of the price of friendship. A large
can of tuna would make us inseparable companions for life.

Such a bargain.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Scapegoat Freed In Yom Kippur Trial Setting of Billy Joe Shaver

Amid the Monday morning hubbub and confusion of an empanelment of enough veniremen to seat juries in three district courts and two country courts at law, District Judge Matt Johnson quietly announced that in a "priority setting" of the case, the trial of Billy Joe Shaver has been postponed until April 5, with a pre-trial hearing set for March 26th.

It was not unexpected. The prosecutor had earlier made it clear he was not ready for trial at this time.

The wheels of justice ground on, attorneys and defendants barely blinking as the judge continued to go down the docket with the court coordinator to touch bases with the revisions to the schedule.

Yom Kippur, the ancient Hebrew Day of Atonement, in which priests would noisily bang on gongs and blow trumpets while the ineffable name of God was uttered at low breath by a priest of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem who stood facing a wall of the Holy of Holies, the Sanctum Sanctorum, was like any other in the Court's session.

The alleged offense of assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a firearm unlawfully on premises where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed took place on March 31, 2007. Shaver is accused of the crime of firing a .22 caliber pistol into the face of an antagonist at "Papa Joe's Texas Saloon, a country music bistro located at Lorena, Texas.

The bullet, which passed through and through flesh only, fortuitously did only superficial damage to the man's cheek.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Killing In The Park

By Jim Parks

The little kids who play there know.

"Yeah, they sell drugs here," a young Hispanic boy of perhaps nine or ten says as he and his friends pause in a game of basketball to talk about the murder that took place the night before.

The one thing everyone agrees upon is that Arturo, a 57 year-old man with a family, was found with a gunshot wound to his head - dead - at about 9 or 10 p.m., just as Dahl Park is to be officially closed each night.

Situated on a leafy street at the end of a cul de sac between two frame prairie houses, the park features picnic tables, swing sets and teeter totters, basketball hoops, a public restroom and a parking lot.

The dead man was found in the parking lot, shot as he walked away from what the kids have described as having words with a little gang that sells dope there.

It's not much different than any other setup you will find in the courtyards and pocket parks of urban areas - New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles - except that here the population is only about three thousand. It's a crossroads town situated on the Santa Fe line and Texas Highway 6, a whistle stop.

A Scandinavian enclave community, the population is largely of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish extraction. Dahl Park is probably four or five acres, surrounded by vacant lots that are prone to sudden flooding in the drainage land that slopes down to the Bosque River. It's part of an extensive system of paved canals and quick runoff ditches that route the water around traffic and homes. There is a drainage ditch five or six feet deep that defines the northern boundary of the park. High wooden fences and brushy hedges isolate it from houses on its west and south sides, while a short chain link fence forms a barrier to other vacant lots to its east.

Dope dealers may easily observe from all directions while those who would choose to apprehend them must rush upon them from the narrow street, across the ditch with its one narrow foot bridge, or come through the fenced yards and over the brushy hedges of the private residences. on the southern and western borders.

Typically, according to the kids who come there to play, the young accomplices watch for uniformed patrolmen or plainclothes narcotics agents while the older kids collect the money for the crack or methamphetamine that is sold. Other small kids circle around a dumpster at the extreme southwest corner of the park, drop the dope on the ground, and the customers may pick it up in the shadows; from there, they are on their own.

According to the kids, Arturo, a man who was once employed as a gardener by the city, a local bank as a porter, and a common laborer for a variety of bosses, came to the park after a visit to a kinsman's home on the corner. He went there to find his wife and kids, it is said. Others enter into speculation that they will not really spell out in so many words. They roll their eyes and smile behind their hands. It is a mystery.

In the park, he had words with the drug dealers, turned to leave, and a bullet found his head as he left the scene. He fell in the parking lot and died there.

It's not so different than the killing of an elderly Hispanic man of tiny stature who worked as a porter at a liquor store outside of town for many years. The city is dry; no sales of alcoholic beverages are allowed inside the city limits. According to the prosecution, he was beaten savagely in the yard of some low rent apartment units during a party that turned ugly. Party goers, including his assailant, took him inside after he lay wounded and dying for several hours in the yard outside.

A jury convicted a young black man, a cousin of one of major league baseball's Sadler family, for the killing.

Three of the five who have been arrested for the killing of Arturo are legally of an adult age while two others must first be certified by a juvenile court to be tried as adults.

Under Texas law, the concept of parties to a felony offense applies. It does not matter if a 21-year-old individual pulled the trigger, a fourteen year-old boy, or a teenager of seventeen. All are equally guilty unless the prosecutor decides to extend the terms of any deal in return for their testimony against other parties to the killing.

Drug dealing is an old game in Clifton, Texas, one that has gotten worse as the economy sours and employers cut the hours and benefits available to their workers. The city park along the river bottoms has long been a site of illicit drug dealing among the tennis courts, basketball courts, the American Legion hall - a rusticated stone building, site of a former Civilian Conservation Corps mess hall, a relic of the depression. The river bottom was the place where the old high school stadium stood for many years until the river repeatedly flooded the area and the school district moved on to higher ground, as did the National Guard, which deeded the Armory to the city to use as a community center.

Another favorite drug dealing ground was the former site of a Ford Motor Company dealership, a property that cuts through from the main drag on Highway 6 to a back street one block west. Kids gathered on the parking lot under spreading oaks and pecans to talk and associate while those cruising for a bump circled around behind the place to pick up their drugs.

Other deals were put together at the cross roads of a Farm to Market Road - 219 - and Highway 6 on the parking lot of a pharmacy that is next door to a filling station and Burger King franchise. Everyone has a cell phone. Everyone uses their text messaging feature.

No one is getting rich. Everyone is living with diminished expectations.

Drugs of choice are crack cocaine and the poor man's cocaine, a savage concoction the effects of which lasts for many hours and causes psychotic reactions - methamphetamines, also known as crystal, glass, or in special preparations, ice. They smoke it, snort it and inject it.

The economic conditions are called a recession, but the old timers who live in the country know it for what it really is - a depression that is deepening every day.

Murder over illicit narcotics has come to the small towns of west Texas. It's no longer just a big city phenomenon - a Chicago thing or something that happens in Memphis or New Orleans.

Ironically, the killing took place within a stone's throw of two nearly identical red brick Lutheran churches that are situated side by side on a street near Dahl Park like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. In times past, the elders of these churches ruled with an iron hand.

In fact, one of the largest employers in the city is now the old folks's home, which is operated by a not-for-profit corporation organized by the Lutheran Church.

Certainly, there is too much money in drugs.

In these times, people as young as those in their early adolescence will scratch, bite and fight for it.

Clifton, Texas, Police Department Chief Steve Adcock issued this statement:

"On 9/23/09 at approximately 2200 hours Clifton Police Department responded to a call of a possible intoxicated person at Dahl Park in Clifton who was unresponsive. Officers arrived on scene shortly after, and discovered a Hispanic male with a single gun shot wound to the head. The deceased was identified as Arturo Chavez DOB 3/08/52 of Clifton. The Texas Rangers and DPS Crime Lab were notified and assisted in the investigation with Clifton Police Department. Subsequent to the investigation arrest warrants were obtained for Angelica Nieto DOB 03/24/86, Jennifer Dunn DOB 7/10/87, Pedro Ramirez III, DOB 8/25/86, a 14 year old male, and a 16 year old female, all subjects were arrested and charged with Capital Murder."

Monday, September 21, 2009


By Jim Parks

Kneeling on one knee, the classic posture of prayer or attentiveness among men of my ethnic type, I take up way too much floor space in the crowded Wal-Mart store.

People rudely slam into my shoulders and rump with their hips and legs in a mad dash for the cash register and their opportunity to pay, pay, pay, pay - less, less, less, less!

That faintly sick making mercantile odor of floor wax, sugary deodorants and damp cardboard dominates the air of the big box big store with its fluttering fluorescent lighting and obnoxious intermittent public address interruptions of an unmodulated decible level to actually serve as a bar to concentration,

"Merchandising associate to the electronics department. Merchandising associate the electronics department."

The truth is, I'm not really too big; the space afforded for selection of arrows is too small; because one needs to be able to consider the length and material of the shaft, the fleching, the quality of the alignment of the nock, it all adds up. The selection is really quite vast, but it's placed so low to the floor that a man must squat or kneel to be able to see it at all.

Add to the mix the fact that I have never before done any of this, that I'm a complete novice at this ancient art of sending an arrow on a path of devastation at a target, and you have set a little old man in his early sixties - a pot bellied, squat, graying little fellow with a bald spot - squarely in the way of people in a hurry, people in all too big a hurry to ridicule that which appears ridiculous.

Appearances can be so important in this world.

What of other worlds unknown to these people?

What about the art of concealment, of remaining so well blended into the texture of the forest, the brush, that even an animal with the ability to see the slightest movement remains oblivious to the danger, much less an enemy with no notion that a band of short, squat little pot-bellied men such as I lie in wait to send the shafts of arrows whistling his way tipped with razor sharp broadheads no one will be able to prevent causing hemorrhaging and subsequent internal bleeding so swift he would fall and die on the spot or be unable to quit the field without exceptional assistance?

What of bolt holes and trenches covered with camouflage where men may lie in wait to emerge upon a whistled bird signal from an observer? What of the art of stealth and planning?

The English longbow speaks volumes of all these things. To take one in one's hands and learn the technique of stringing it, to pull it back to its full draw and let an arrow fly at a target, this reverberates in some racial memory one does not understand, only experiences.

This bow is made of red oak, backed with linen glued into place to make it springy and responsive. When strung, it becomes a live thing, light and taut and singing of its efficacy with every fiber and molecule. It is as long as I am tall - which is not very tall - but this makes it proportiionate to the length of my arm, which draw determines its pull weight, a value set by law by the king's men - that is, by fish and game officials - to prevent needless maiming of animals, the buck and boar, turkey and alligator of forests public and private. It is a traditional design - a self bow with no recurve and only a grip made of wrapped twine and a carved arrow rest to make nocking and aiming easier, quicker. Like the traditional material, the heart wood of the yew, it is straight grained and its string is twisted three-strand twine eye-spliced at each end, which may be adjusted by rotating it against the lay for the desired tautness. The string is captured by precise grooves carved into the ends of the wood. It is strung by the use of another slackened cord upon which one stands with one foot while flexing the back of the bow up toward one's chin and placing the loose end of the string in the top notch of the bow.

Crossbows are reserved by game laws for those with physical handicaps, but their original advent was credited by the historians as the one geopolitical event that finally broke the back of the feudal system.

No longer could a liege lord send out "knights" on horseback to trample down a man's stand of wheat and rye, barley and oats, then set fire to the thatch of his roof, to poison his well, kill his sons, rape his wife and daughters. At least, it could not be done with impunity because the bolts thus propelled by the crossbow were entirely capable of penetrating the armor these paid thugs wore - multiple layers of leather and quilted padding, light sheet metal, chain mail.

A crossbow bolt once brought down a king who led his troops from the front; he lay in agony for days while the infection worked on his system.

These arrows come in two varieties, both of them impervious to moisture and warping - aluminum and carbon fiber. Both are light and straight and true. They are threaded to accept either the "field points" used for target practice and small game, or "broad heads," which are razor sharp four or two-bladed devices about an inch or inch and an eighth in diameter. Their fleching is made of sheet plastic.

With each rude bump and shove, I become more and more resolved to get the more expensive cedar shafts a straight-grained material of about 30 inches that resembles a lead pencil, through a mail order cataloguer, collect feathers and shave and trim them to just the right length, and whittle the ends of the shaft to just the right shape to accept the points and broadheads, the nocks. The fleches are wrapped tightly with light twine that is passed between the strands of the split feathers which have been glued to the shaft. The nocks are fastidiously checked for concentricity, as are the points. Any alignment that is grossly discrepant affects the balance, and thus the flight, of the arrow.

What else would a little old man, squat, short, balding and gray in beard and tonsure, have to do on a long winter night while he survives by the light of the fire, staves off the chill, plans for the future, keeps the wolves away from his door?

Something ancient and clean and bright and shining and painful arises in me every time I am told that I and my type are not trustworthy to handle weapons, that there is something faintly distasteful in our proclivities for the blade and bullet, the snare and pistol, the rifle and bow and all the impedimenta that hungry men use to survive and live - not exist - but live comfortably and well.

I am, therefore, resolved.

It is my faith; it is my practice. I am perfectly free to exercise thereof.

I shall.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Day of Atonement, Sept. 28, 2009

By Jim Parks

7 - And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8 - And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9 - And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.
10 - But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness
. - Leviticus 16, 7-10

Word in Court Two, the 54th Judicial District of Texas at Waco, is that the prosecutor will not be ready for trial on the twenty-eighth, the day Judge Matt Johnson set for the trial of Billy Joe Shaver.

It will be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement prescribed by the Talmud, on which the living word of God is uttered at low breath.

On Friday the 18th, during the pre-trial hearing, it was learned that there would be no deal offered for Shaver to plead guilty to one or both of the charges of Assault With A Deadly Weapon and Carrying of a Handgun on Premises Licensed for on-premises consumption of Alcoholic Beverages.

Shaver, as previously noted in these columns, shot a man in the face on March 31, 2007, for reaching across a tavern table and stirring his beer with his pocket knife. The man, a first cousin of a man once married to Shaver's former wife, Wanda, had been fussing about the fact that his cousin had turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, a circumstance his family blames on the woman to whom he had been married .

Potentially, conviction on these charges could net the seventy-year-old author of such country songs as "Old Five and Dimers Like Me" and "Fast Train To Georgia" a prison term of up to 20 years. Country luminaries such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare, Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson have recorded his songs. Robert Duvall has used him as an actor is several of his movies.

He spearheaded the "outlaw" movement among Texas singer-songwriters of the seventies. Men such as B.W. Stevenson, Michael Martin Murphy, Townes Van Zandt and David Allen Coe shared the stage with Shaver while showcasing at revues in big cities and college towns all across the state; often organized as fundraisers for PBS stations, these revues spread his fame in his home state far and wide. People learned just who wrote those songs they had been listening to on their radios for all those years. A man from Corsicana who first reached Nashville by hitching a ride on a cantaloupe truck, Shaver penned them and sold them to stars who had reached the zenith of their careers.

You might say he has not only paid his dues, but in certain ways he has kind of helped to set the benchmark by which, in certain quarters, those dues are calculated.

* * *

What kind of place is Court Two?

On the remaining docket call, after the Shaver case had been set for trial a week hence, prisoners in striped suits and belly chains, their ankles restrained by leg irons, were ushered in to sit in the jury box for appearances before the judge. It is a place of dark wood paneling under a low heavy-beamed ceiling. Natural oak furniture rims the room, enclosing the well of the court, the jury boxes, court reporter, judge's bench and witness chair. Heavy conference tables provide seating for attorneys.

A Hispanic man dressed in an orange jump suit is curtly denied a bail reduction in the offense of aggravated sexual assault.

A black man dressed in the striped pajamas stands before the judge and decries his treatment by court-appointed investigators and his attorney, men, who, he claims, "Don't even pay no attention to me.

"See, we don't be having no law library up in here that we can go to visit so we can find out what the law is on these here cases. You see what I'm saying."

The judge rests his well-barbered head on his knuckles and stares at his laptop computer screen as the man uses the phrase, "You see what I'm saying," according to a female prosecutor who is waiting to hear out the pleadings, a total of 32 times.

As it turns out, he has been convicted of multiple previous burglary offenses and was on parole when officers attempted to apprehend him for yet another traffic violation and he evaded arrest and led them on a merry chase.

He had been sentenced on two prior burglary offenses, which sentences had been suspended, and upon which the Court proceeded to sentencing when he was first brought in several months previously. By his account, the process has taken more than six months.

He is asking that the judge grant a motion made by his attorney to withdraw from the case because the man finds it impossible to deal with him.

"I don't know if I was sentenced to 10 years probation, 10 years deferred adjudication or 10 years in TDC (Texas Department of Corrections)" he tells the judge.

Exasperated, Judge Johnson looks up sharply, sits up straight and says in no nonsense tones, "You were sentenced to 10 years in TDC. I don't know how you could have failed to see that. I'm sure you see what I'm saying."

Court officials, bailliffs and other defendants smile behind their hands.

"I suggest you get along with your new attorney," the judge continues. "You will not be appointed another one."

Stylishly attired in a subdued plaid tan two button suit with a subdued red-stripe, he arises, informs a court coordinator that the screen on his laptop is hopelessly frozen and he can't get it to power down, reset or quit out of the operating environment. He strolls out of the courtroom to his chambers while she frantically tries to locate an information technologist during the rapidly approaching lunch hour.

Another attorney in a very frustrated mood, a slender cowboy type with wispy blonde hair razor cut and dressed in a Palm Beach wash and wear Italian-styled ventless suit cut like an Armani, but with single breasted tailoring, attempts to reason with the last prisoner seated in the jury box.

Clearly, he wants to get away to his lunch and back to his office.

A light-skinned black man with a shaven head, the prisoner calmly argues that he was never informed that he had been offered a plea bargain of two seven-year sentences, to run concurrently, in return for a plea of guilty on both of the charges against him.

"It's the best deal you're going to get," the attorney says, his face reddening. "I've explained all this to you before."

The black man shakes his head from side to side slowly, saying he is unwilling to serve seven years, then start serving the second seven year sentence.

"That's not what concurrent means," the attorney says, exasperated all over again. "I explained all that to you."

The man shakes his head again, then renews this pointless argument.

Finally, the attorney scoops his paperwork up from the rail of the jury box, buttons his jacket and says, "Let me go check and see what they say." His client has demanded that one of the charges against him be dropped.

He sweeps out of the courtroom, the trim tail of his Italian coat following him through through a heavy ornate wooden side exit door that leads to a tunnel to the DA's office, which is located in an annex building next door. When he returns, he is in a much better humor, ready to go back to work on the obdurate, argumentative man who has discovered a way to push his buttons and make him, a learned counselor, a licensed member of the bar, into an errand runner.

While he is gone, two sheriff's deputies serving as court bailiffs attempt in vain to explain the meaning of the word to the man. They appeal to his sense of reason. Their entreaties fall upon deaf ears. He continues to shake his head from side to side and ask murmurred questions.

They throw up their hands and say only his attorney can give him legal advice. They are merely trying to help him understand the offer of a pair of terms to be served concurrently. "Why would he tell you something wrong?" one of the crewcut men asks.

The attorney's frustration returns immediately as he returns and he and his client resume their arument over the meaning of the word, concurrent.

Finally, the harrassed professional stalks out of the courtroom into the balconied rotunda that overlooks the lower two floors in this double-domed palace of justice.

As I exit, I hear him explaining over his cell phone that his client has been charged with "attacking a public official" as the man tried to take him into custody and "evading arrest."

The precipitating incident stemmed from some traffic violation, after which he allegedly attempted to flee the officers who pursued him.

One can only speculate as to the fate of a seventy-year-old man facing a twenty year prison term. If he must follow cases like these, will the judge be in a frame of mind conducive to seeing things his way?

It's a ticklish question.

The Legendary fully intends to be there from gavel to gavel.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ramblin' Man Cuts Down On Dreadnought Guitar In Freight Yard

By Jim Parks

When Johnson woke up, we told him the radio said Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary, had died.

This was his hoo-raw; he got loud, then he played his guitar.

It was pretty easy to listen to Woodie Guthrie songs and Bob Dylan songs and Pete Seeger songs, man. Songs about marijuana and strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. Yeah.

He finger-picked this one right quick:

You can read out your bible;
you can fall down on your knees,
pretty mama and pray to the Lord,
but it ain't a'gonna do you no good.

You're a'gonna need.
You're a'gonna need my help some day, now.
Yes, you will, now.
But if you can't stop your sinnin', please quit your low-down ways! - Bob Dylan

He shouted out Dylan's name.

They did that one and it came blasting out of my little transistor radio I held to my ear when I was a'diddy-boppin' on down the street.

I heard the cotton patch; I heard Bob Wills; I heard Woodie Guthrie; I heard that lonesome whistle moan; I heard that dust cloud blowing.

I shouted redemption; I shouted out hallelujah; I drank a cold beer; I stuck my nasty old hand down some old hide's drawers and got stink finger; I rared back my head and howled at the moon and when I was through, I was ready for anything.

It was a real jamboree, one of them there shoot-outs on the plantation and guess what.


I won't 'fraid no more. I told ol' flat top he could suck my dick. I tol' old beetle brows she could kiss my red ass.

I headed out down U.S. 90 and damn near got my little ass shot off in Langtry siphoning gas out of this old boy's Jeep parked just up the hill from The Jersey Lily, The Law West of the Pecos, where we stole a cooler filled with Lone Star and burned on out across the world - headed for El Paso and points west. Man, I proved then and there that I ain't nothin' but a natural Vinegaroon.

Fuck'em if they can't take a joke. That's the way I remember it.

Yeah. I'd have done anything for the bitch if she had just smiled at me. Just one time.

Someone told me there's a girl out there with stars in her eyes and flowers in her hair.

Did some Puff and got tickled and couldn't stop laughing at everything those damn Meskins did. Then we got some mushrooms out the cow shit and really got high.

Beep beep. I'm a road runner, honey. Beep beep.

He strummed out Bo Diddley's "Road Runner Blues." Then he taken up the jug and got hisself a real healthy drink.

Later we all caught north out of Marysville, rode over the hump. He got off the train at Portland and it was the last time I ever seen him.

He won't nothin' but a natural born hootchie kootchie man. Had a high whining yodel in his voice. Somebody told me was from Virginny, but I think he was from thin air, railroad smoke, grease and magic and dust.

That's how it run.

Name was Johnson, I think.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Court Day Is Nigh - a country outlaw music legend faces serious chages in a beer joint shooting near Waco

By Jim Parks

Honey I rode a fast train to Georgia.
I wasn't born no yesterday.
I've had a good Christian raisin' and an eighth grade education,
Ain't no need in y'all a'treatin' me this way.
- Billy Joe Shaver, "Fast Train To Georgia"
LORENA, TX --The couple had been out taking pictures of local graveyards. They planned to use the in a new record album about religion and the hard changes of rural life.
They stopped in to have a cold beer under the neon moon of a roadside beer joint on Interstate 35 in Lorena, about 20 miles south of their home in Waco.

He is a country singer-songwriter with a national following and a list of hits recorded by big names as long as both your arms. Entertainers such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, John Anderson and Kris Kristofferson have recorded his songs. He has appeared in several films with Robert Duvall, the iconic character actor who portrayed Texas Ranger Captain Augustus McRae in the filmed version of Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove." In fact, Duvall participated in the production of a documentary film about the writer's career that was screened at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival.

She is divorced from him now, but his wife at the time of the shooting married him twice after his first wife died in the middle of their third marriage. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons presided over the ceremony in Las Vegas.

What happened next will be a matter of extreme controversy in a Waco courtroom.

The prosecution will attempt to convince a judge or a jury that Billy Joe Shaver, a Corsicana man who penned songs exclusively for Bobby Bare after he left caught a ride to Nashville on a cantaloupe truck, then went on to help found the Outlaw movement among Texas country musicians, made an unprovoked attempt to kill a former in-law of his wife with a handgun after an argument. He has been indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and the unlawful carrying of a firearm on premises where alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed.

Mr. Shaver's attorney will tell the court and jurors that he acted in self defense.

Aside from the fame of the defendant, the fact that he was carrying a gun as a licensee under the provision of the Texas Concealed Carry Handgun License law complicates the matter and somehow adds to the appeal.

If convicted, Shaver could be sentenced to as many as 10 years in the penitentiary for carrying the firearm into the bar, no matter the status of his license. He is seventy years of age.

Running your head about a happening in a Texas beer joint is like what old Coach Darrell Royal of the University of Texas football dynasty always said about the forward pass.

There are at least four things that can happen as a result; three of them are bad. The pass play could wind up in an interception, an incomplete reception, or a fumble. Three to one odds oppose a completion for a gain in yardage.

An appearance to answer felony charges in a court of law offers even more bleak odds. Famed attorney Clarence Darrow often told people a defendant has already lost before he ever strolls into the courtroom. Many savvy attorneys have echoed his sentiments.

Football, beer joints, guns - Texas politics, you got it.

There is nothing more controversial than these topics and Texans are no shrinking violets when it comes to talking about any of the them, in or out of the beer joint.

Though religion is a social convention that is taboo and universally considered off limits in any conversation within the walls of a cantina, the truth is that the way most Texans feel about guns, football and politics borders on certain aspects of religious fervor.

Getting back to the beer joint and what happened at Papa Joe's Texas Saloon on March 31, 2007, the bare bones facts are that when Shaver, who was 68 at the time, and his wife, the former Wanda Lynn Canady, walked in and took a seat at the table where owner Gloria Tambling and friends were seated tipping a cold one, Ms. Tambling introduced him to Billy B. Coker, a man who at the time was 50 years of age.

They talked for more than an hour and soon discovered that Coker is a first cousin to a man who left Wanda a widow after he committed suicide with a firearm.

The terrible truth is that some members of that family have blamed her for his rash suicidal action ever since. This represents the most severe form of conflict in family politics and that controversy reached a tragic climax at Papa Joe's in a fight between two men who had nothing to do with the unfortunate and tragic original suicidal event.

The evil of murder, even if it is of the self, often has that kind of ripple effect.

In the acrimonious discussion that arose, Coker took out his pocket knife and began reaching across the table, using it to stir everyone's drinks. When he stirred Shaver's beer, the outlaw musician objected to this distasteful action with strong disfavor.

He told him that a beer needs no stirring.

So, Coker wiped the blade of the knife on the sleeve of Shaver's denim shirt - three times - and from there the ugly incident escalated very quickly, according to an account Shaver gave a Houston news writer.

Shaver made a quick trip to the bathroom. While in there, he decided that he just couldn't put up with all that. The mean discussion about the former husband's suicide, stirring drinks with the pocket knife, wiping it on the sleeve of one of the denim shirts he always wears with faded jeans and boots - in his book, it all added up to way, way too much.

He made a decision to correct Coker.

He went to his car and got a .22 pistol he carries when he's on the road performing.

He has a Texas license to carry it concealed. The license is recognized in a large number of other states.

He has a demonstrated need for it. Most club owners pay musicians in cash. Often, thugs wait in the parking lots at clubs, motels and restaurants to try to steal the money back. In his professional career, an enterprise that spans almost a half century, Billy Joe Shaver has any number of times used a firearm to good effect to hang on to his money and his life.

You might say it is a piece of business equipment.

Billy Joe Shaver was ready for a confrontation.

When he went back in the bar, he invited Coker to go out the back door with him, then followed him out where he was heard to say "Don't ever tell me to shut up."

Though no one will admit they saw it, the witnesses all seem to agree that Coker still had his knife in his hand as they left.

Then, people say, they heard Shaver ask Coker, "Where do you want it?" He took aim from a short distance and fired. The bullet passed through the fleshy part of Coker's cheek and exited.

It caused a nasty flesh wound, nothing more.

A lucky man, Coker was treated and released at an area hospital within a short time. The bullet missed the facial and cranial bones; it did not affect and the jaw and teeth.

Facial and head wounds from .22 pistols and rifles are often fatal because the bullet penetrates, but is not powerful enough to pass through the cranial vault; as a result, the projectile rattles from hard surface to hard surface, glancing off and causing massive damage to soft tissue. It's hard to stop the bleeding. When the bleeding is brought under control, the prospect of infection remains; even with today's antibiotics and intensive care techniques, it is very severe.

The .22 is the weapon of choice used by hit men in brush-by shootings on crowded streets, on sleeping victims and in face to face confrontations.

There is little doubt of the intentions of an assailant who aims a firearm at a man's head and pulls the trigger. The action more or less speaks for itself.

Having left the building to get the firearm from his vehicle, then returning and leaving by the back door where he shot his antagonist, Shaver set himself up for the aggravating circumstance of malice aforethought, as well as carrying a firearm into licensed premises where alcohol is served and consumed. After all, he could have simply collected his wife and driven away.

One can only ask the question and wonder, however, as to what he would have hauled away with him had he left the bar without attempting to do anything about Coker's provocative behavior.

He is as lucky as Coker that the bullet wound was not fatal. Had his attack resulted in a fatality, there is little doubt he would have been charged with capital murder.

After the shooting, Shaver and his wife left quickly. When he went to Austin a few days later to play a concert appearance at the record store home of his label, Waterloo Records, he tried to turn himself in at the Austin Police Department, but they had no warrant for his arrest and sent him on his way. Not long after that, he surrendered in Waco, where he was charged and released on bond. Grand Jurors indicted him in September of 2008.

* * *

PAPA JOE'S TEXAS SALOON is located in a building sheathed in metal and erected on a concrete slab situated within a few yards of the roar of the streaming northbound traffic of I-35.
It is a stream of traffic, much of it involving the NAFTA trade, that rarely sees anything like the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour. Eighty, even 85 are more likely the pace.

The frame of an old motorcyle, without engine and transmission, is perched high atop the ridge of the roof. "Papa Joe's" is painted in letters at least six feet tall on the south wall of the building. Wooden lattice work shields the front door from the full intensity of the western sun and there is a small porch on the east side overlooking a back parking lot.

Inside, all is softly lit by the glow of neon beer signs and splashes of light over the pool table and jukebox. An ersatz brothel and hotel is built at the top of some steps on one wall while a tin shed is projected over the bar. The sheetrock walls are painted flat black.

The juke box is playing a recording of Prince doing "Purple Rain."

Tables built at the height 55-gallon oil drums with tops made of sheets of plywood are strewn around the floor, surrounded by bar stools.

Two signs, one in English, the other in Spanish, proclaim the rather enigmatic message, "51%".

Printed in red, it is superimposed over the contrasting text of the law regarding the most severe punishment for those caught carrying a firearm on the premises. The penalty is as much as ten years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.

A small group is sitting at the table under a pool of light.

I ask, "What the hell does that business about "51%" mean?"

A woman of an age with short hair and a face worn with decades of running a beer joint business hard by the superhighway often called "America's Main Street" speaks up and says, "It means our business is at least 51% based on the sales of alcoholic beverages. You can't be carrying no gun in here. That's the law. That's what it means."

I give her my card.

She shakes my offered hand and introduces herself as Gloria Tambling, "Spelled just like gambling with a 'T' instead of a 'G.'"

We all laugh.

"I'm the owner of this beer joint. Hell, you can find me easy. I'm all over the internet since that shooting happened in here two years ago."

The crowd laughs nervously again. She looks at me expectantly.

I explain I'm hunting facts regarding that very shooting and just thought I would drop by to see Papa Joe's and talk to her and some of the patrons. After dark, it's the kind of spot that offers live country music.

A man in a cowboy hat who is nursing an afternoon beer speaks up and says, "Ain't no one in here saw nothin'."

Horse laughs and guffaws follow on the heels of his remark.

"I'll tell you one thing for sure, man," Gloria Tambling says. "I'm plenty mad at Billy Joe Shaver and Billy B. Coker for what they done. It affected my business. It's still way off, but it's picking up all the time...Before that, we had a nice, quiet little beer joint here. This thing scared people off."

So, it develops, both Coker and Shaver did something?

She sniffs. It's clear she's through talking. After all, she is a witness, there has been a Grand Jury proceeding, and the case is still under investigation. With what is at stake, there is not much doubt that there will be a trial before a judge and jury.

She is a business woman.

"I respect that," I tell her.

She nods perfunctorily and sighs.

"Don't either one of them come in here any more. Billy Joe Shaver and Billy B. Coker just aren't customers since this thing happened."

Clearly, she got nothing in return for the violent confrontation.

Another man wearing a gimme cap, slightly toasted from an afternoon of drinking cold Budweiser, speaks up and says, "I have no interest in it. I saw nothing and I just don't care about it."

We introduce ourselves and shake hands. I aasure him I understand his attitude completely.

In fact, we all agree that what we're talking about is bad, bad for business, bad for people, something that ends by just getting on a person's nerves. In a conversation I had with a man who has been known to shoot assailants after confrontations over the years, he told me,

"Shooting a guy n the face just about always plumb takes all the fight out of a feller."

Ms. Tambling asks me what it is I want. I attempt to explain myself again. It tell her I am following the case because of its extreme controversy. There is the issue of concealed carry handgun laws, a violation of a state law regarding alcholic beverages and firearms, the right to self defense - the works. It's all there El Rancho Deluxe, in technicolor.

The man in the gimme cap speaks up. He continues explaining his professed disinterest in this way.

"Well, it's an old, old story, man. You've got two fellas with testosterone, both of them mad as hell about something. Add cold beer or any form of alcohol and see what you get.

"I think it's pitiful that a person has to become a victim before they can defend themself with a firearm."

Au contraire, I assure him. The law has changed in that respect. All persons are authorized to defend themselves with deadly force if they are not in violation of any law, they are where they are at the time legally, and are under no obligation to retreat. A person attacked in Texas may meet force with deadly force.

The concept is carved in stone.

"Well, it didn't used to be that way...I think if someone comes into Luby's Cafeteria and starts attacking people with a gun, people should be allowed to defend themselves with their guns."

So, he agrees with concealed carry handgun permits?

"I think everyone who graduates from high school in Texas should be required to be proficient with a handgun." He pauses and thinks, nods and says, "I think every high school graduate should be issued a handgun by the state of Texas and be required to show that they are proficient using it before they can get a diploma." He nods again at the logic of his pronouncement.

"Other than that, I have no interest in the matter."

He has spoken. There is a slightly peeved tone to his voice. I hand the barmaid a five and tell her he will be needing another cold beer - on me. Discretion being the better part of valor, I finish my Coke and leave Papa Joe's Texas Saloon.

In a nutshell, that is the nature of conventional wisdom and popular opinion about concealed carry handgun permits in areas where licensees are allowed to carry their guns.

Most legal authorities see concealed handgunners are as "force multipliers" for the thinly spread resources of policemen certified as peace officers.

Waiting for the cops to take a complaint and start an investigation is an option many victims of violent crime refer to as "Suicide by 9-1-1."

Proponents of going armed with a concealed handgun often say, "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."

Policemen do a bang up job of investigating crime and testifying about the offenses. There is not much they can do to prevent violence. There really are not very many of them.

I decided it was my time to leave. I escaped the neon moonlight and twanging country music, abandoning it for the glaring afternoon sun of a very hot Texas summer day in which it was both the heat and the humidity - there, outside the refrigerated and darkened den of Papa Joe's - in the blackland cotton fields in what would soon be the darkness at the edge of town.

* * *

THE MCLENNAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE is a dazzling white rococo Italianate building situated on a bluff overlooking the Brazos River. Perched on a high foundation of rusticated granite blocks surrounded by leafy pecan trees, its double domed, multi-storied rotunda gives on courtrooms and offices. The District Court Clerk's office is in an annex reached by crossing over a walkway built between the old building and a newer structure attached to the jail and District Attorney's offices.

Complaints, indictments, pleadings and the dockets of each case are kept in "red jackets" in the clerk's office. They are pubic records, so called because the manila folders in which these permanent records are contained are a flaming scarlet; otherwise, they are just like any other legal file. The area of controversy in the lawsuit is between the defendant and "The People of the State of Texas," against whose "peace and dignity" an alleged offense has been charged and an indictment returned.

The court coordinator says there will be a pre-trial hearing for Shaver on September 18 in the 54th District State District Court before Judge Matt Johnson. The trial date is tentatively scheduled for September 28 at 9 a.m. If the prosecution and defense reach a priority setting before then, a trial date will be automatically scheduled.

How would one learn of that date?

"Call," she says, smiling from behind her desk behind a counter on a side corridor in the old courthouse. It sounds like one of those ads in a gun sale circular that say "Call" where ordinarily the price would be posted for a firearm or ammunition.

Austin criminal defense attorney Joseph A. Turner has not filed any pre-trial motions.

A quick check of the documents in the scarlet folder shows that Shaver's bond was set at $50,000, that he showed financial responsibility and that he has been enjoined not to approach or contact Billy Coker in any way. He is furthermore prohibited from carrying or possessing a firearm.

I am reminded of the scene in the academy award-winning Clint Eastwood western,
"Unforgiven," when English Bob is relieved of his pistols by Little Bill, the hard sheriff of Big Whiskey, Wyoming.

"Now, Bill, you wouldn't leave me at the mercy of my enemies, would you?" mouths veteran character actor Richard Harris. This is just before Gene Hackman, who is playing Little Bill, pastes him in the mouth and stomps him into the dirt of the street.

The 19th century moniker for Waco, Texas, was "Six Shooter Junction."

Numerous fatal gunfights occurred within earshot of this same building and there were more than one lynching involving the live immolation of a man of color on the public square.

A final chilling note is that the trial folder shows the original attorney of record was Dick DeGuerin out of Houston, Texas. A former associate of the flamboyant and well-known criminal defense attorney Percy Foreman, he has been highly effective about keeping his clients out of the execution chamber.

He was the man who interviewed the apocalyptic gun merchant, Davidian David Koresh in the front door of the Mount Carmel compound following the "ill-fated" Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raid in which four agents were killed and just days before everyone who stayed inside the compound was burned alive in a sudden conflagration after the FBI smashed through the walls with tanks that filled the building with a potent form of tear gas.

It was the only time Koresh spoke with an attorney who was willing to help defend him.