Monday, November 28, 2016

Strange Fruit Blooms in East Texas Woods...

Strange fruit. That's a term that's been around. An old college room mate might have looked in an old nasty fridge in an old filthy trailer we lived in and said something like "What strange fruit is this?" I did not have an answer that day and I still do not have an answer for things I don't know about. The past week I spend quite a bit of time in the great outdoors enjoying the fall season and I noted some things in the woods that should not be there. People that litter are bad people. 

I think of littering like I think of smoking. I seriously doubt that you could find anyone that does not know smoking will kill you. I seriously doubt that there is anyone who does not know littering or dumping is bad. I noted this item on a walk down a country road a couple of miles from my house. There was also the box the new one came in as well as a paper cup from an upscale fast food restaurant about 10 miles away. The pictures of those were not as artistic as I think this one is.  

If we are to talk about bad people, not littering the woods, old trailers and times gone past I guess we need to talk about the song Strange Fruit. After I left that nasty fridge and filthy trailer of my college days and landed a good solid blue collar job paying long green I began some serious record collecting. Maybe 35 years ago I purchased a double album of jazz singer Billie Holiday's greatest hits. It contained a song written in 1937 by Abel Meeropol called Strange Fruit. It's Meeropol's protest to the photo of the lynching of two black men in Indiana in 1930. A little internet research tells us that between 1885 and 1942 there were 468 lynchings that left strange fruit hanging in the trees of the state of Texas. I'm sure there were people that spoke against this just like I speak against littering, smoking, what ever but it took a while to catch on. 

Speaking of nasty fridges here is one I found laying in the woods of the Big Slough Wilderness area. It's not the one from the old trailer. It's about 2 miles down in the woods from the nearest parking This area was set aside as wilderness in 1984 and the few roads that allowed access to the place this was dumped were blocked that year. I'm guessing 70s vintage? 

Another find not to far from the fridge. Again it had to have been dumped before 1984. I actually have an old hot water heater marked on my GPS as a way point but I think it is another one as the last time I used the way point one it was almost covered with pine straw. 

Yeah, let's all go litter, lynch, whatever. I'm feeling that kind of thing is not going away. It's alive in the land tonight. 


Sunday, November 27, 2016


From today's Lufkin News hot off the AP wire. A news source not, some made up fake news thing like Big Butt Conservative Chicks for Trump.  

Looks like a man of my wealth and fame is going to be ok. Sorry about the rest of you guys but I'll stand down for now at least till he decides to come for the tuba players. 


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Lot To Be Thankful For...

I think the past week fishing, playing music and socializing with friends says a lot about how thankful I am. I spent time with family, very old friends, playing music and a lot of fishing and hunting. I am not just thankful for these things but I am tankful for all the things in my life that have taken me down the path to where I am in a place to receive these blessings. 

There was some fishing with Darwin. It's an old friendship going on 4 decades now. Darwin recently told me when he first laid eyes on me it was at a party and I had on a funny hat. He said, "I bet that's an interesting person." I still get to wear funny hats to a party if I let my wife screen them first. Darwin is still hanging around so I guess I am still interesting. To all my other old friends I hope we get to have the time to renew our friendships as I am thankful and remember the past as fondly as Darwin does. 

Thankful for music and for Cathy as a collaborator in creativity. We played a lot of music this weekend.. There was downtown music, a Quinceanera and the usual Sunday church. 

We played the music for Dianna's 
Quinceanera. She is a choir member and plays mandolin and flute. Her sister Marlena plays guitar. Good kids and the heirs apparent to keeping the bilingual choir in operation at St. Patrick's when me and Cathy get old and lose our chops.   

Thanks for brother in law Matt. We had a great time fishing with you this weekend. 

Thanks for time to get to know all my friends better. 

Thanks for the catfish that bite. 

What a life it is we have. My prayer for today is that all in the world have what I have been blessed with. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Howlin' Brothers...

I don't know where you were Sunday night, maybe skinning catfish or something but I was the Old Souls Super Secret Party with special guest the Howlin' Brothers. You may remember them. They have played the Standpipe Coffeehouse at least three times, they have a big time record producer, they have recorded at Sun Studios and they get written about on this blog whenever they are in town. 

With music this good, the food has to be good. Tom and Mike of Old Souls Food Truck did the meal. It was ham, ribs, pulled pork with grits and greens on the side. Great stuff. 

The Bros are a three piece band, old time kind of music with a few twists. 

This guy does tap dancing on the platform. I guess you would call it an Appalachian style or maybe even buck dancing.   

A man after my own heart. Slide banjo with just a little wah pedal. I talked to him afterward and he said he added effects "not just to be doing it." Right on man, right on. 

Good thing about the Bros is that you get to talk to them and they are really nice people who go out of their way to play for good fans in Lufkin. Now you may prefer Miley Cyrus or even Donald Trump but I have not met them to know if they are nice people or if they would go out of their way for a Super Secret Party here in Lufkin. 


Happy Wedding Anniversary Rose and Juan...

It's assassination day. Some may recall where they were on the day JFK was shot in Dallas, Texas in 1963. I was pretty little then and have some faint memories but I remember pretty good where I was on this day 2003. I was with Rose and Juan when they were getting married. 

Sorry that Mary and Miguel are in this cropped photo but it's the best on I could find. Best one of you guys. I have seen better of the Zamoras. 

If you think about it Mary was also pretty little this day in 2003 and Miguel was unknown. 

Time passes, we go on, happy anniversary.  

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Hunting the Big Slough...

So it seems like folks have been intolerant of each other lately. I hope no one is intolerant of me because I hunt ducks and I kill them. Specifically I hunt wood ducks, the ducks I grew up hunting with my dad and my favorite way is hunting them on old creeks and sloughs. I always remember what he told me about the Indian and the wood duck. The Indians thought the wood duck was the perfect creature. They flew in the air, swam on the water and nest on the land in hollow trees. The wood duck was a creature in all planes of existence. May be that's what we need to be, creatures in all planes of existence.  

Here are some familiar things. My shotgun and a limit of wood ducks I killed this morning and the Big Slough that I have been hunting on since the early 1980s.  That old shotgun was a Christmas present when I was 18. I actually have a couple of other shotguns, my dad's old almost worn out Model 12 Winchester and a single shot 20 that I hunted with as a kid and is still making hunts as Mary's duck gun. That's on thing that's different these days, so many guns out there we forget how useful a good all purpose shotgun is in the woods.  It's a thing to last your whole life.

I did not take any waders as it's been a dry fall but the big slough runs deep year around. To keep my feet dry and fetch a downed duck I climbed half way across this fallen tree. Later on I crossed completely on a different more solid log and was able to retrieve a duck from the other side. I also hung head down from a steep bank over the water to get the third one. A fun hunt but a rough hunt on an old guy. My knees report this evening that I did crawling and climbing today.  

One thing to note about wood ducks is that in the early 20 century they were almost hunted out. This resulted in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which saved the population. This act set a precedent for the government to be involved in environmental protection and conservation. They have done a great job as I see it with regulation being a good thing. You can kill 6 ducks, but are only permitted 3 woodies in your bag. That's up from only 2 allowed a couple of years ago.    

Nice photo here of some kind of gravel ore shallow on the slough. You could easily cross here with hip boots. Might hunt from this side sometime. I also found a place where I think I can carry the canoe down without too much trouble as long as I have a young person helping me. 

Someone told me the other day they hunted ducks but quit when the realized they did not like the taste. They need to see Cathy. She cooks the breast chicken fried with rice or potatoes and makes gravy.  

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Fishing With a Super Hero...

The perceptions of a child are always interesting. Mary confessed that as a child she thought one of our friends had a super Hero name. That friend goes by the alias Darwin Mann. He went fishing with us yesterday. We caught 38 catfish. Here's the photos.

I like this photo of Darwin. In the back ground you can see my rod bent with a fish. 

Better than average fish. There was one spot we got in where I bet I caught 10-15 little blue cats that were throw backs. I was fishing to the side of the boat while Cathy and Darwin fished from the front No one else caught a blue cat and as far as the channel cats go there were very few of them undersized. 

Darwin swings one in. 

That's what I look like. We did take a shot at shallow water but no bites. My blog shows us fishing the flats with slip corks this time of year in the past. May be what happens after the front passes. 

Darwin and Cathy with the results. 

That turned into 9 pounds of fillets. We have decided that we need 50+ pounds for the next fish fry. That's how much fish we cooked and it was all eaten and if the no shows that assured us they were coming had arrived we would not have had enough. There is 15 pound of catfish in the freezer now. We have probably eaten less than 5 pound of what we have caught in the last month or so. 



Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Write About a Favorite Word...

Freshman English assignment time. Write 500 words about your favorite word. That should be easy because of two things. One is that I made a pretty good grade in freshman English. Not that first or second time I took it but that third time I did really well. Second is that I picked my favorite word really well. It's fish. That makes it easy. I like to talk about fish, catch fish, eat fish and of course, now I write about fish. 

A few weeks ago we played out at Stonewall Studios for the M.D. Anderson cancer Benefit. Part of the fundraising was that they sold fish plates. There was a very good emcee, Mark who announced between bands and like any good show barker he pushed the fish plates. I liked to hear him talk about them. He said things like:

"There's fish." 

They way he intoned it the word just lay, like a Spanish Mackerel jerked from a green flowing Texas surf to lay on the dried boards of an old gulf coast fishing pier. After being said or caught it moved no more. 
 On a recent European vacation if we saw a fish somewhere we usually made a photo. Here's one that Cathy made. It was in the Spanish Hall at Schloss Ambras Castle in Innsbruck.. 

A recent winner of the Nobel Prize Prize for Poetry, Bob Dylan even wrote about fish. In one of his longer songs from the Blond on Blond album I cite the tune, "Visions of Johanna." There is the line:
"The fiddler steps to the road
He writes everything's been returned which was owed
on the back of the fish truck that loads
while my conscience explodes."

We could analyze, but this might become NSFW reading and besides I have always enjoyed driving down the highway and seeing the refrigerated trucks with the word "Fish" in large black letters. This is only seen in Texas. If you have fish on the truck, you are ok. If you don't have the word a game warden has the right pull your truck over without a search warrant and see if there is fish in there. I know I have a photo of the back of a fish truck somewhere but I don't know where. 

If you are on facebook you get your "memories" notification each day. Usually I am doing one of two things in these messages from the past. I have spent the day fishing or playing a gig somewhere. Sometimes the gigs smell like fish.

By the way I did have fish for supper tonight. 

And then there is this. A Tattoo by the Tiny Tattooist. It's her interpretation of a 13th century plate I saw in a Munich museum. Three fish. It's a symbol found in Christian, Celtic, Turkish, and Norse imagery. Fish is everything, everywhere. 

 I figure with this I have all the bases covered and am pretty close to 500 words.  I did not count the ones by Dylan. .  


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Here's Some New Mudbelly Creations...

A couple of weeks ago I got busy in a workshop that finely cooled off enough to work in without dripping sweat from the end of my nose in a steady stream.  There are some fresh horses in the mudbelly primitive guitar stable and they are for sale. 

A pretty typical cigar box build. Three strings, I like open E tuning E, B, G# and it's electric. Plays with a slide and neck is extra long so it will play an octave above the 4th and fifth chords. Don't know how I managed this but it is a small box and as you will see with one of the others something entirely different happened. This is for sale $70. I have a demo I'll post on facebook. 

Here is a Red Man Chewing Tobacco Tin made into an electric one string guitar. I like playing the one strings. They are deathly giant sounding with some distortion, delay and reverb. Playing a one string is a bit like a percussion instrument. The strum pattern has to be rhythmic.  

I'll take $40 for this guitar. 

I think this is played best in your lap kind of like a lap steel guitar. It does play with a slide. I have another red man tin, slightly different that I think I will make into a three string that will be held like a conventional guitar. 

I have had these Red Man Tins hanging around for a couple of years and it was my original intent to make them into little 2 watt battery powered amps. Since I have made three amps but only sold one There is not too much demand for these. I'll just use them myself.  

And now the Elvis guitar. Three strings, tuned to E plays with a slide and is electric.  

That tin goes for $13 on ebay. It's official Elvis Presley Enterprises gear. There is some kind of motion or light activated device that plays a snatch of an Elvis song that I had to take out of the tin but I saved it and will include it just to keep it from driving me crazy every time I walk into my guitar room. 

Seems that Elvis made one of these every Christmas and Valentines day. Not sure when he stopped but I would guess that by mid to late 60s It was not so cool anymore. 

Now here is the weird thing about this guitar. The long box and the short neck throws the 12th fret area up around the Kings left ear on the box front. Not what I like but after fooling around for a while I have decided that this thing will make you find new ways to play your tunes. Sometimes your playing gets stuck in a box and to play this rig you have to beat your way out of the box. I'll take $60.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Reflections on the Election...

I need to give someone credit for this joke because in this day and age of stuff spreading by social media I like to get my sources right. I heard it or read it somewhere, I forget where and I think it's really appropriate today. It was about the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Say you are broken down on the side of the road with a flat tire. A Republican speeds by and does not stop to help. A Democrat stops to help but in the act of changing your flat he or she accidentally sets fire to your car. I think last night the car got set on fire. My horse in the 2016 Presidential election lost the race. 

I don't think I have been in shock as some I have talked with today are. Maybe that's because I was an alternate election judge yesterday and worked the polls helping people vote. To do this I had to be an American and not of a party. So this is not a story of how I feel after the election but what I did. Some surely tire of this blog because there is a lot of "this is what I did" but since there were questions about voting and some misinformation of the process I think I can speak to that by telling of my experiences on election day working the polls, observing other humans and maybe add some facts which I hopefully will explain correctly. 

First off I think Angelina County gets it right. Good support and training from the Tax Assessor Collectors office. 

No votes were changed by a voting machine.

Which ever party got the most votes in the last governors race determines which party will supply the judge. The other party supplies the other judge. I was the alternate judge and the two clerks were from the other party also. This is the second time we had worked together as a team and we work together well. 

Angelina County does not use paper ballots. It's a county by county choice and just across the line our neighbors may use them. There is a provisional ballot and while it is printed on paper it is not a paper ballot. There are reasons for a provisional ballot such as the voter insists on voting and you can not identify him as eligible or maybe he's not in the right place but wants to vote where he is so he does get to vote but the judge must inform him that a provisional ballot will probably not be counted.  One gentleman came in and while I did not have to deal with him the clerks commented he was rudely demanding a paper ballot. Just wanting paper is not a provisional reason.  Turns out he was in the wrong voting location and got sent on his way. Another young man wanted a paper ballot because he desired to write in a candidate. As I explained the provisional ballot and how it would not be counted he said "my write in vote is not going to count anyway." I showed him how to write in on an electronic machine. His vote was counted but he needs to be more specific. It did not matter.  . 

After one young man voted he said "That was easy, I thought you had to tell why you were voting for the person." I bet he has an interesting facebook news feed. 

Some people needed a good bit of assistance with electronic voting. It's pretty easy. I can only imagine how much assistance would be needed for paper ballots that used a real pencil. 

Because people needed assistance I often saw how they voted and made sure they got the results they wanted even if it meant starting over a few times. 

We had one of what's called a spoiled ballot. The person clicked on the wrong language and had to start over as a new ballot. 

When working the primary election there is a table for each party so it's easy to identify your handiest opponent. I have seen folks direct rude comments to the party they don't like. As there was only one table at a general election and you could not tell them apart, other than the one man previously mentioned all were polite. 

One man that required a good bit assistance with his ballot only voted for president and sheriff. 

Some people were not registered to vote. Seems that if you registered at the DPS office when getting a licence there was a delay in getting your name on the list and you could not be verified as an eligible voter. Texas also purges voter lists. Seems that if you did not vote for governor and then skipped the primaries you get dropped. The state does not know what happens to you. Moved, died, not interested all good reasons to not be an eligible voter. All these people other than the dead were registered on the spot by our clerks and will vote next time. 

Our polling place was a church hall set up like a 50s diner. At least two people asked if we were serving food. 

If you got an absentee or mail in ballot you need to turn it in unused if you are going to vote electronically. We know who you are so go back to the house and get it.    

There needed to be a vacuum cleaner in the polling place. Lots of muddy boots. 

402 voters in our location. The clerk thought that as many as 40% of the box early voted. Good to see so many participated. Hope they keep it up. 

While there had been a pretty brisk pace all day things slowed a good bit by 5pm and at about 5 minutes till 7, closing time, a young lady arrived with two documents that almost but just did not quite qualify her to vote. Her name was on the polling list and trying their best the clerks called the county office. The county office thought that the Texas Secretary of State office should be called. With phone calls across the state and with at least half a dozen people putting their heads together it took 20 minutes but was determined by the folks in Austin she could vote. I helped her do this and due to the amount of help required by me I did see how she voted. It was the simplest choice, a straight ticket. 

I locked the door at 7 as the young lady counted as being in line when the polls closed even though it was well after 7 when her vote was cast. One person was turned away by the locked door. 

So there, the day did not end like I wanted and the other guy gets a shot. I helped people and did not set anyone's car on fire. Maybe I got something started. 




Monday, November 07, 2016

Cooney Pop Fest Weekend...

Various family gathered in New Waverly at Bill's house to celebrate his 85th birthday with an event called Pop Fest. This is a party that has been staged several times but this year as with any good festival it had it's own t-shirt. You know you are getting there when you have shirts. 

This shirt was designed by Miguel. Rabbit by Mary. No, it's not a tombstone but a tenor banjo headstock. The rabbit symbolizes that the Cooneys were rabbit farmers in Ireland and since the location of the fest is what we call "the land" you see the tall pines. 

Here's the crew, a various collection of in laws, out laws and friends. 

lots of fun at this festival. Four wheeling, fishing, food and music playing. 

You have heard of guitar face. I think they call this banjo face.

Here's a band what am a band. Cathy has her finger ou calling it like Babe Ruth. "The hook on this tune is going to land right over there amoungest ya'll." 

More folks at the party. 

Morgan made a family tree going back several generations for all of us at Christmas. He made another for Pop. It's a pretty impressive thing and the one we have probably gets more attention than any of the weird stuff we have handing around here. 

Plenty of memories shared. Katie cracks open the heirloom packing of Grandma Linda's wedding dress. 

Here's to many more Pop Fests in the future. 

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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

A New Guitar, A Story...

I have some quirky electric guitars. Probably anybody that's seen me torturing 1 to 3 strings on stick of wood is not going to be surprised. I do have a couple of Stratocasters, regular electric guitars that you might see a guy playing on TV One's an old one and then there's a new one that's a far east import. Both have been Ry Cooderized in various ways to be my slide guitars. I have a full hollow body, a DeArmond that can scratch a western/blues/rockabilly itch. There is the Eastwood baritone that plays like a guitar, is almost a bass but whatever chord you play sounds a major 5th higher and brings heavy surf/flying saucer/spy twang. It's probably the most powerful guitar I have but everyone wonders what itch I'm scratching with it. Ok, Ill answer that here, the loud as piss itch. The new guitar I have is a reissue Danelectro 1956 U2 that I won in a charity auction at the Stonewall Rockers/M. D. Anderson Cancer benefit a couple of weekends ago. I think it's going to fit real well with these others. 

You have probably heard Dano products on records for years. The produced amps for Sears and Monkey Wards beginning in 1947.  In 1954 they started to make electric guitars, some in their name and some for the catalog companies.  Their goal was well make affordable instruments. The original U2 was made of a poplar frame with a Masonite top and back. the now famous "lipstick" pickups were made from WW2 surplus lipstick tubes. Why GIs need lipstick tubes and why they had any left over is another blog post. Here's a photo. 

This is an autographed guitar. I am afraid I am going to rub some names out because I am going to play this little guitar so take a good look here. You can make out Harlem Slim, then a name no one can read, Wes Jeans a Hendrix kind of dude from Marshall, Tx. who dated his 1999 so that's probably the year of the guitar manufacture, Mike May, who has played in Lufkin but I can't seem to find on the internet and then there is Don McManus and his sons Ricky and Doug who I think are Memphis pickers but I can't find anything about them either.  

I have seen Wes play. He started pretty young to a lot of fanfare and is still on the road. I remember when I saw him it was a lot of Hendrix and Albert King tunes with real sensitive dynamics. He was also a member of an internet music forum I had joined but he was not so sensitive there and his outspokenness and attitude got him banned from participation. He's older now, maybe better.  

I have a funny story on Harlem Slim who seems to have been last mentioned on the internet about 2010. In the early 2000s I had had my resonator a few years, was playing pretty good and somehow Slim, who was based in Houston picked my email address off the internet somewhere and I got on his mailing list for his gigs and stuff. We might have even trade a personal email or two. He was doing pretty good, some kind of  rep for Gibson and National guitars. He invited me and everyone else on the list to a National Guitar workshop at Fuller's Vintage guitar in Houston. Turned out most of the people that came were middle age white guys like myself but they were taking lessons from Slim. They sat around hacking at Robert Johnson songs on brand new resonators  in the halting way folks that have not been down on their all fours barking like a dog after drinking poison whisky tend to do. 

I played my usual stuff and while I did not purchase an expensive National guitar (there would be no story here about quirky guitars all these years later) but I did pay Slim by purchasing a slide and a cd and the music store through the purchase of strings, picks and other small items I needed. Here comes the funny part of the story.  I never heard from Slim again. From my posture playing this guitar his name, though not on purpose, just mechanics will be the first one to be rubbed off.  

Here's a clip with a looped drum track and a homemade electric washboard box drum. 


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