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Monday, May 14, 2018

Lured By Grace

Grace: Unmerited favor.

The new Cushman home.

In less than a month my wife and I will be completely moved into our new home in Bell County. We will say good-bye to Navasota and our wonderful Victorian home of 28 years. In fact it was a home we planned to live in until the end of our days. But last spring something happened that began months of dialogue and searching that ended in a surprising result.

For months previously I had suffered significant anxiety over consternation about Raegan, our only child. Now past 30, she is single and alone in Temple, in Bell County, but well employed, and recently she purchased a beautiful new home there. And as she was putting down intrepid roots in her chosen community, we suddenly had some of our imaginary roots severed. I was made aware that cemetery plots we had always thought were assigned to us and our family (for almost forty years) in Grimes County had been sold to others, and that because of changes in the association's policy, new plots, and not near or adjacent to my parents, would be kind of pricey. In a strange spiritual way, we were more free than ever to think of calling a new place “home.”

Meanwhile, my art career had taken some bizarre twists and turns. Commissions seemed to often go sour, and there was an uncanny re-flux after (and sometimes BEFORE!) several jobs. It all started a couple of years ago when the State Legislature decided to require criminal background checks for all school contractors. That I understood, but they also required egregious contracts which gave authorities unprecedented invasion if not violation of my Civil Rights, and easy access to ruin my life. "To protect the kids..."

I wrote my Representative a furious letter and bowed out of a twenty-year career doing murals in Brazos Valley public schools. My mural career was screeching to a halt. A year or so later, a seemingly cursed mural project, the center-piece for an ambitious, if not ill-fated water feature in a public park, was completed with minimal interest and no celebration. Designed for a non-profit organization in Kerr County, a twenty-five foot Texas rain cloud scene was created a midst a budget crisis and subsequent change in Board vision and priorities, which left its future in doubt. In other words enthusiasm over my Hill Country "masterpiece" fell FLAT.

Another customer completely reversed himself after the completion of a large monumental sculpture installation on private property. In short order five life-sized horses (and a baby one) were sold off at a loss and removed. It had been a gift for a wealthy person, but the giftee was not amused.

Then a madman attacked another of my recently completed public murals with spray paint, writing God's judgment on either me or the establishment I had adorned, or maybe both. Really!

It seemed that after a wonderful and envious art career, the public, even my patrons, were beginning to spit my art back at me. No, not all of them. But I had never felt or experienced so much hatefulness and rejection since my painful Grade School years. What did all of this mean? I prayed about it... and came to the conclusion that MAYBE the person who had brought me to Navasota was telling me it was time to move on. That I might be needed elsewhere.

That person who brought us here was God. It's true, I would never have moved to Navasota, except God made it plain we were supposed to. We had found a beautiful old home near downtown, and said... “...like that one!” It sat on a picturesque corner and was surrounded by giant pecan trees. But God had already picked that wonderful Navasota home for us, and had kept it from selling for months until we found out it was for sale and the owner even owner-financed it. Weeks after seeing and coveting it, I “accidently” met the daughter of the owner of this 1881 Victorian cottage, who arranged a fateful meeting which led to the purchase of the home we had admired and now would raise our child in. We had been lured to Navasota by His unmerited favor; God's Grace. And it was the “best years of our lives.”

 So far. But now we were feeling unmoored. And we drifted instinctively towards the love of our lives... our only child. I left out the part that simultaneously, Linda's father, (our last living parent) passed away, further freeing us from the area, and leaving us with the money which would make a move fairly smooth (financially).

I told Linda what was on my mind, and to my surprise she was soon looking on Zillow.  But once again, God had already found us a new home, around fifteen minutes from Raegan, out in the Texas Hill Country, on top of a mesa overlooking a beautiful valley that featured Temple, Texas on the horizon. He had been holding off other buyers for over six years! A stone home that will need little maintenance, on 2.6 acres in a gated community, on an oak and juniper covered caliche bluff, teaming with birds and animals, once a Native American arrowhead factory. We knew it was our new home when we saw a little Carolina chickadee, (one of our favorites) in the bird bath. We get up every morning to see the sunrise, and greet the birds and God's gift of life. 

As I write this, my wife just showed me a news headline. In an incredible, unexplainable series of tragic accidents, Brazos Valley Young Life leaders or their loved ones have been killed over the decades. I was a Young Life leader when John and Kathy Hays were killed on Hwy 6 one rainy evening, perhaps twenty-five years ago. They were the first. Since then four other Young life leaders have either been killed or lost loved ones in tragic vehicle accidents that have left at least four more dead. The evil one hates what we have been trying to do here. An old career Young Life leader recently admitted to me that the spiritual warfare in Grimes County has always been as hot as any place he has seen (my words). That is why we were brought here. After two heart attacks, I have been granted a furlough.

Jesus told his followers, to just follow him and “Let the dead bury the dead.” He wanted his followers to keep moving... to never stagnate, to go when and where He sent them. To not let familial or social ties constrain His vision for their lives. To follow the breadcrumbs of His infinite Grace.


At our new home, there is a boulder on the mesa cap rock where I sometimes pray and meditate. I will continue, as I have for many years, to pray for Navasota, which will always be home, no matter where I lay my head. And I will remember the battles won and the battle still raging. It is an interesting and engaging place. It can be a wonderful place to plant your life. Perhaps God will soon bring someone to Navasota who can finally do His bidding. Someone who can unite the town... under the Grace and Love of Christ.

When you are working for the Lord, it is guaranteed to be the best years of your life. Even if they might be short and you are required to make the ultimate sacrifice. It was not required of me or mine, and I am so grateful, but I would have so given with complete satisfaction for the honor to suffer for Christ. And in my own way I have. And poor Linda has been there to patch me up and hold me together, all while laboring in her own harvest in the public schools. She gave it 110%. You might say we have walked the gauntlet together.

But He has something else, one more errand, maybe one more community for us to serve in building his Kingdom. Or maybe it is the little sweetie who used to give me back rubs and make my stress evaporate, now coping with stress herself. And then maybe the mission is me. Whomever, whatever it is, it is in Bell County.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Finding Myself... and Vindication

One of my favorite opinions is that History eventually settles all arguments. Nobody can escape the verdicts of history...

Whereas art, my first love, has been a random race among an elite, disparate mini-minority, and its results irrelevant to justice, History is the closest thing to ultimate justice. Perhaps that is why I have strived so much in the latter, so as my passionate investment in the first might be guaranteed relief from the second. And so ironically, after a lifetime of creativity, and investigation, and communication... Voila, surprise, History has been more kind to me than my first love.

Bits of me, as championed by the writings of others..

When that first author, Glen Alyn recognized, in print, my contributions to his manuscript about Mance Lipscomb, I was shocked, as it seemed my contributions had been inconsequential. Over time however, I began to value an author's acknowledgment... in this competitive world of brass ring-grabbers and thankless whelps. And lately my name in print has come to mean something far more than an ego-boost or a public relations chit... but plain old vindication. The kind that comes only with History.

The picture provided above is a collection of 12 books that all have one thing in common... my name can be found within. Five of them are because, as might be expected, I had done the cover jacket or provided illustrations. Among these are my father's book about the American legend Jesse Chisholm. Four books I illustrated, with art or my antique image collection, for my friend, fellow Grimes County historian, Dr. Robin Montgomery. 

But more interestingly, five of them are shown because research I had done and subsequent knowledge I attained on a particular history topic had been used in the content of the book. One which I am the most proud of is a magazine of local origin where I was asked to write our local history in Navasota, Tx. Another book appears because the commissioning of one of my monumental bronze sculptures had been a turning point in a woman's life struggle, where she discovered her own human potential. That situation was as much expensive grieving therapy as it was fine art, so we will call that one a split decision. But as much as art, if not more,  researching and writing about history has been a major achievement of my life.

The most recent addition to “my” bibliography is Texas Clay, a collection of essays published in 2015 by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. I had been told that the book was coming out, but frankly could not afford it. 

Now a couple of years later I have obtained a copy on the secondary market... to verify what several friends had told me, that I was mentioned as a source a couple of times in the book. Most importantly, my blogs about the early slave potter Elix Brown, and the jug made by him which I found here in a yard near Navasota, had become part of the foundation for establishing my find and the Republic era potter, Elix Brown as “a thing.” Now after many years of research, writing blogs and arguing with the gatekeepers of the Texas stoneware network, my suggestions have been VINDICATED. Of course, it did not hurt that a few years ago one of the Elix Brown vessels I wrote about sold for around $7,500.00 at auction, and probably because Texas stoneware collectors were reading my blog and making up their own minds... and history was decided. And now it is in print. Settled. By the MFA. I am once again humbled by the Museum, and in its debt, as it was there my art talent was first recognized and nurtured as a young teen by an art institution.

Since then Art has not been so good to me. I jousted and lost with my college art professors for legitimacy in the '70's, during the social revolution when I was considered an anachronism. I struggled for respect with art galleries in the 80's who saw me as too diverse and thus unpredictable. In my home town I had to negotiate with local artists who were jealous and sometimes ruthless in protecting their turf. Always out of step, I was promoting “Plein Air” in the 80's way before it was cool, (now there is even a Plein Air magazine!) and lost most of my students in the transition. Still Art History will show that I was, in spite of everything, eventually recognized by the public, for a season, as the “Best Local Artist” in my little hamlet. But in a nutshell the call never came, the one where a major publisher or gallery or collector decided to make me the next big thing. I was always “almost famous” as one of my students prophetically branded me three decades ago.

If I am known in the art world it is for one reason. I persevered. And if I persevered it is for one reason, my indulgent wife, who made that possible in many ways. When you drive past my public murals and sculptures, every time you do, you are looking at the love and patience of a hard-working woman. And more obviously, the love of a man and his woman for a town and a state. And its history. And besides my wife, history has been good to me.

Where my diversity had been a problem in art, it was an asset to history. These books by 8 different authors cover a range of subjects, from the Old West, to blues music to early Texas stoneware. Mike Cox graciously used my bronze of Marshal Frank Hamer in his book on Texas Ranger sites, and used some of my blog about Ranger Jeff Milton in a chapter about him.

But more to the point, local history will reveal that I did not just write about history, but once hooked up with Bert Miller of Navasota, now the longest serving mayor in Navasota's history. We served together on the city council which oversaw what former Councilman Peter Canney envisioned as “The Navasota Miracle.” Through frugal if not fortuitous management led by City Manager Brad Stafford, we righted the city's ship of finance and reinvented the downtown. A new city hall was conceived and built, the city's airport expanded, industries prospered and the tax base was increased. We were able to improve Navasota's image and infrastructure during the worst economic times in recent history. 

And after I was forced into a resignation from the city council, because of unavoidable conflicts of interest (art jobs for developers), Mr. Miller graciously saw to it that my name was inscribed next to the names of other councilmen, and councilwomen, on the new edifice that we conceived years before. I am very grateful to him, and proud of our many accomplishments. History was very kind to us.

And then there was the life-sized sculpture of former City Marshal Frank Hamer, commissioned by the city council which has brought me some attention... as the book in the illustration above attests. It was my love and knowledge of history, not local politics, which made me the sculptor who could and should make this monument of one of the greatest rangers of all time. That was proven beyond question in another book where I contributed a small part, Texas Ranger, by John Boessenecker.

Another of my favorite sayings, and it is mine, is that “Everything you have ever done, everything that has happened to you, good and bad, God will use to prepare you for the next thing He has for you to do.”

As I look into my future, which is a bit shorter than my past, I am aware that my first love will always be my first love, but I also acknowledge that people rarely achieve their highest goals and often leave little or no legacy behind... but thanks to History, I enjoy an immense sense of satisfaction, and at least a modest legacy, reflected in the generous acknowledgments of a few obscure books... where perhaps I contributed in a lasting way to my second and oft neglected love... which has provided me a noble and enduring consolation prize.

There may be another nugget of truth here. And that is an artist, no matter what his genre or medium, must have something to say... something in his gut that needs exorcism. As I followed my passion for history, it gave me a platform, which grew from art to photography and verse... and museum exhibits and digital art and even this blog.  Relevant artists are not just about mental or emotional ejaculation, or decoration, but about communications of the heart and soul. Those things can be represented by music, or cinema, current events... or in my case, history.

Perhaps it is not too late to switch my priorities... and make art my second love... and spend the fourth quarter of my life focusing on history. After all, kindness begets kindness. But it is not a question of either /or. I once told fellow artist David Woods, in all earnestness that to be any good at anything, you had to focus on it. You had to pick the main thing in your life, and everything else had to bow to it. David was torn between art and music. I had few other skills then, and had no problem focusing. But over the years my writing and passion for history have created a similar conflict. And being a bit tired, it is easy to announce a shift. 

I am officially retiring my mural and monument career. I'm still going to paint... when I feel like it, but no more commissions. None. My physical health demands this decision.

Linda and I are moving someday, perhaps in the near future to be near our daughter, Raegan Joy, who lives in Temple. Hopefully, a fresh outlook will help me discover what God has been preparing me for. I may write a book about an exciting discovery I have made while wandering in the antique image auctions of the Internet. Meanwhile I am slowly gravitating to that which has been the kindest, and that which has often been, although sometimes frustrating, in the end, the most fair and rewarding. 

Through perseverance, what started as a random race in a subculture has led to a great deal of public art throughout the Brazos Valley... and through my restless mind and insatiable inquiry, my name and passion will be nestled in historical volumes among the quiet shelves of knowledge, in libraries all over the world. And at least for the time being, some of my talent and scholarship has been vindicated.

With some peace of mind, we can look forward to semi-retirement and living just minutes away from our baby. And it will be hard for any of my art works, or credits, to ever compete with that.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


History and MYSTERY lovers, 
Former Texas Ranger Bob Connell
 and I talk about things we can't prove.
 It's a long list.
It's a charming, somewhat humble thing. And it has a wonderful story which requires some suspension of disbelief in order to fully enjoy it. It is an old engraved mirror, and if only it could reflect back to us what it has seen. 

The Barrow Mirror.

The other day I was chatting with a retired Texas Ranger, a man who would have many stories to tell if there was time to listen. Bob Connell was once the interim Police Chief in Navasota, and is not just a former Texas Ranger, he is a man who has spent his life collecting the legends and lore of his esteemed law enforcement agency. He is the proud owner of a rare Texas Ranger badge, once the property of Ranger Captain M. E. Bailey, that was dug up by a Navasota citizen in his flower bed. History randomly coughed up the brass relic of one former ranger and former Navasota City Marshal in 1912, into the hands of a man with the same relative titles one hundred years later! But that is another story.

And people have given him things.

The subject that day gravitated to “great stories we could not prove.” There are lots of them. The old badge had Bailey's name inscribed right on it, no problem proving that. But time and circumstances have erased the traces of provenance that have reduced otherwise sensational things... into the seemingly ordinary. And Bob has one such frustrating item.

The story goes that he had an uncle named Audie who lived in Dallas, and Audie once worked as an ice delivery man. Yes, once men delivered big blocks of ice to homes, back in the 1920's, '30's and '40's. The people would put a little placard out in the window or on the porch if they needed ice. The delivery man would stop his wagon or truck and bring it right to the doorstep with a pair of giant tongs. People kept their blocks of ice in ice boxes. They would use it to cool their perishable food, and would chip or shave ice off the melting ice block for drinks. Everybody had an ice shaver and an ice pick in the kitchen drawer. 

Anyway, one of Uncle Audie's customers was Mrs. Cummie Barrow, faithful mother of the notorious Texas gangster and cop-killer, Clyde Barrow. One day, for some reason, perhaps to pay her ice bill, Mrs. Barrow offered Bob's uncle a little treasure in lieu of payment for her ice service. She had this old mirror... and the story goes it had been given to her from her infamous and bereaved son Clyde. And Audie the ice man took the mirror and kept it. We are going to assume he took care of her ice bill, in trade for the mysterious relic. 

The story goes... that young Clyde, before he turned to a life of crime, had worked at United Mirror & Glass Company at 2614 Swiss Ave., in Dallas, believed to be the very glass company where the mirror had been made, and Clyde quite possibly had helped in the manufacture of it... sometime between 1926 and 1930... as the story goes. One has to believe it would have been a serious sacrifice for Mrs. Barrow to part with such a useful keepsake. And one has to believe that this vintage mirror has no little significance in Texas law enforcement history... and considerable value to collectors, if the story could only be proven.

The mirror had been left to Ranger Connell's parents and thus to him. Now he owns the mirror and its story, and has done all he could as an experienced investigator, to establish the connection between the mirror and Clyde Barrow. Absolute proof is impossible. 

But belief is. It is, that is if you accept the oral traditions of a family that preserved not only the mirror and its story, but a Texas lawman with a stellar career.

Personally, I think it is good that Ranger Connell cannot prove his family's most controversial icon. If they could have, it might have been sold decades ago. The money would now be gone, the story lost to some packrat collector and never told or shared. The mirror would be hanging in some oilman's man cave, a casual conversation piece, always explained by, “yeah, I probably paid too much for that thing...”

It is because he cannot prove his story that Bob still has it and is still talking about it. It's probably the find of the century, that could be worth thousands. But is more valuable to all of us as a story. In the end, to me that kind of story is worth more than money. It captures the imagination where cold cash just lays there with no life, no mystery, no anticipation. 

 When I looked into the mirror for the first time, I saw (in my fertile imagination!) Bonnie and Clyde looking into it as well, and back at me. It gave me the creeps. It made me think about old lady Barrow tearfully handing over the thing to her ice man. For a second I was inside that glass... my reflection was sharing space above the silver with them all. 

How much is something like that worth? Well an old ranger and I think it is priceless!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nemesis: Facing Our National Demons

The older you get, the more precious are your childhood memories. They may be growing faint, but they are the last vestige of the innocence and trust born in your heart which have not yet been violated, a safe place in your personal hard drive where you still nurture those all-American hopes and ideals.

And heroes.

Peter Evan's 2004 revelation called Nemesis took my long-protected bubble of innocence and hammered it into an urn of ashes. I accept that it happened, but I am always mad at myself when I am the last to know...

But maybe there are some others who like me missed this story... some incredible way, probably THE BIGGEST STORY OF THE CENTURY. Peter Evans seems to have quietly answered all of our suspicions and fears, and many of the lifelong mysteries around the Kennedys... and nobody bothered to acknowledge his accomplishment. Some tried to call it rubbish and even an outrage, but it seems to have survived the test of time.

Evans wrote an authorized biography about Aristotle Onassis and then was told by several people very close to the famous husband of the former First Lady, that he had completely missed the real story. It was the story that Onassis took to his grave. It was the story that others closest to him must never admit. And in the telling of it, Evans takes down many of our lifelong American icons.

I found the book by accident after watching Bill O'Reilly's killing book made into a movie, made with tunnel vision, Killing Kennedy, where one scene grabbed my reclining intellect as I enjoyed memory lane. Jack and Jackie are cuddling and consoling one another after losing their third born, and President Kennedy says sweetly and trustingly, for her to go ahead on that Mediterranean cruise with that Onassis guy... to get some rest and enjoy herself... and come back to him so they can go to DALLAS... it was all so wholesome. And right then I knew that O'Reilly had done another slick spin on history as he wants to sell it. But I was unsure why I felt that way...

Perhaps it was because, no matter how much skeptics have dismissed the lingering suspicions about an assassination conspiracy, even as a nine year- old I knew that it was too much of a coincidence that Lee Harvey Oswald JUST HAPPENED TO BE EMPLOYED in a building right on the parade route which would give him maximum visibility to shoot the president. Too much of a coincidence that Oswald was found quickly hiding in a theater, where he gave himself up as if he expected an escort out of the country... Too much of a coincidence that a Dallas strip club owner was able to walk right up to him and shoot him LIVE on national television in the police station... Too much of a coincidence that Texas Governor John Connolly, once the trusted hatchet man for Lyndon Johnson, discreetly changed over to the Republican Party... knowing he had no friends left in the other one...

What did Connolly know? Perhaps he learned as I did from Peter Evans that Jackie, fed up with the Kennedy brother's sex-capades, wanted out of her Kennedy farce, had found a new champion in Onassis, a longtime nemesis of the Kennedys. And Onassis was a man that had no moral compass and was admittedly the most ruthless man on the high seas. Perhaps he found out that one of Jackie's trusted confidants was also a trusted confidant of...

Lee Harvey Oswald.

I just knew from Killing Kennedy that IF Jacqueline Kennedy was floating around with Ari, before the assassination, that fact opened up a lot of possibilities for the causes of future events. For more “coincidences.” And as it turned out, Peter Evans had been trying to tell me and you for a decade. Yes I am a conspiracy nut. Every mother's son from my generation is to some degree. We all knew growing up that the Warren Commission had been a whitewash to cover up the truth about the Kennedys, the assassinations, the ugly part of our national soul, and we would probably never know what happened. It was too big, too dangerous, too earth-shaking. And then Peter Evans dumps it out like moldy old gym shorts from a forgotten locker room. And damn it stinks.

And there are answers, and reasonable explanations, and yes, even confessions. In the end, none of the players is left standing, least of all Jackie O, our uncrowned queen.... our forever national widow, fallen from grace, and with Peter Evans's investigative skullduggery, she morphs into OMG, the wicked witch of the west.

Evans's account is scrupulously footnoted and backed by numerous first- person accounts and testimonies, and yes, tons of hearsay. But the bottom line is that it has the ring of truth. Onassis had volcanic hates, and irrational obsessions, and multi-layered sin scum at the bottom of the sea, and Peter Evans manages to dredge up just enough to make us beg him to drop it, for God's sake, back to where he found it.

But not before he has convinced me and others that he has uncovered the ugly truth about the Kennedys and “Camelot,” and the political forces behind their destruction. In the end, it all makes sense. The unexplained coincidences of the premature deaths of Marilyn Monroe, the Kennedys, Oswald, and others. Anyone who could hurt Jackie. And arranged by the ones who would avenge her. And then they tried to destroy each other. In the end she walked away with her reputation intact... and with much of the money.

But new questions emerge. How could the Media and our whole country for that matter, ignore this book and its implications? That question, and the possible conspiracy behind it is far more daunting now. How could O'Reilly make such a flacid regurgitation of old news, and perpetuate Jackie's spin of “Camelot”? To do that, his co-writer had to step over a lot of dead bodies. One wonders why, after all this time, and Evans's revelations, we are still nursing those childhood fantasies...

But I'm sure O'Reilly sleeps better at night, than those of us who have faced our national demons. We all have to choose between Peter Evans's noxious humus, the staggering corruption and decadence which was the cornerstone of the Liberal wing of our society, fifty years ago, or continued ignorance and bliss. It is obvious, America has already made its choice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The SCANDAL about Lottie Moon that every Baptist should know...

Lottie Moon was a nut job. Born in 1829, she was the beautiful daughter of a prominent Virginia doctor, who relocated his family to Ohio. At one point she almost married a man named Ambrose Burnside, (future Union General) but jilted him at the last minute. During the Civil War she fearlessly smuggled messages for the Confederacy across enemy lines, gallivanting around with Union brass including President Lincoln, and took her nuggets from eavesdropping straight back to Confederate HQ. She was not terribly religious... or at least her lying and treachery would not support that assumption... and she never went to China, as a missionary or anything else.

That's right, Lottie Moon. Right about now a lot of folks are reaching for the phone to call the preacher... ;)

Well, it turns out, as history would have it, there were TWO Lottie Moons, during the same period in history. And sadly, plenty of quasi-historians have melted the two together, thinking they are adding something to history. Some have taken great delight in exposing a great perceived weakness in the SBC traditions inspired by Lottie Moon. You, know, one of those “REST of the story” revelations like Paul Harvey used to do on the radio. Plenty of would-be historians are erroneously claiming the famous Southern Baptist missionary was a Confederate spy. I am happy to report that our more plain-faced Lottie Moon spent the war helping to manage her family plantation in Virginia. She did get a wonderful education, spoke several languages, and helped to provide medical assistance during the war. And yes, she followed her sister to be a missionary in China when 32 years old.

But wait a minute Southern Baptists... you are not off of the hook. My research has discovered something just as troubling... 

Baptists do not agree on what our Lottie Moon looked like... and there is great discrepancy there. It appears that somebody did not like the visage of the old Lottie, and replaced it with a sexier 1920's Lottie in recent times. That face has caught on, and appears in many of the Lottie websites, and even on the cover of a book! 

So I have provided my expertise and some pictures to help set the record straight.

 The REAL Lottie Moon, about 1875

You can see for yourself, there is definitely a problem... and since truthfulness and accuracy are paramount in our Kingdom cause, I thought I would try to puncture the new improved Lottie as best as can, before more damage is done to history.

 Lottie is pictured in the center, much older, and on the right about the time she embarked. Lottie Moon (Sorry Lottie!) had an enormous chin... and protruding lower lip, probably from dental issues.

Bottom line, there are several key points to observe, with these facts in mind. Faces do change over time. The ears and skin and muscles may sag, eyelids and lips as well. Noses might get somewhat larger... jaws wider, face and neck broader... but the bones stay the same. So we compare faces with the constants... cranium, nose bridge, chin... jawline, and to a less degree the variables. More importantly we study the relative ratio between the eyes and nose bridge... and the hairline and the cranium. Beyond that, similarities are only similarities. The new improved Lottie is an impostor. 

   The pretty lady on the left has a classic, large cranium... hairlines do not get lower wit age, but maybe higher... Faux Lottie also has a very short nose bridge (which also does not change), and her ears lay back almost flush to the head.  Overall, a very pretty lady. The Lottie photographed in China is actually quite different... especially the hairline, and those extremely arched eyebrows. But they could be mother and daughter. But they are not...

How can I be sure? That is easy. Lottie Moon of Baptist missionary fame was born in 1840. The photograph of the new improved Lottie is of a young woman... say around 30.
That makes the portrait having to be made around 1870. (Lottie was dead by 1912). The new improved Lottie is wearing clothing and hairstyle from around 1920 to 1935. She would have been born around 1890- when Lottie was around 50. There is no way that photograph used on the cover of the book was made in the 19th Century. It saddens and scares me to think so few have noticed or cared, or knew better.

 These two Lotties line up perfectly (vertically). She gained mass with age...  (on the left) her face much wider, actually making her face more pleasing, not unusual at all for someone in their mid-sixties.

Baptists do have universities who might have been able to establish these simple facts and prevent all the confusion and misinformation. Instead we have to save Lottie's reputation as the Queen of the Knights of the Golden Circle!

We can do better than this! Can I get an Amen?!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ready to face the machine guns... of Mo McMorrow

SIX years ago I ran home to write my weekly music blog after a wonderful singer-songwriter performed at the Corner Cafe here in Navasota, and in a rare instance, I experienced writer's block. I'm sure now I was afraid I had lost my objectivity, and sure I would be too much in love with the performer to be credible... And also painfully aware that my take on her music might be appreciated by her the least... (I had gotten some angry feedback at that time from some of the visiting musicians who hated my reviews...)  So I let it brew awhile.  

And then I forgot about it. Sorry Mo! I am ready to face the machine guns!

I do not believe in re-incarnation. But sometimes a song comes along which seems to connect me with an eternal, primeval chain of souls who reach for me from out of the past-  and possesses me- hand-in-glove, through the singer. And I have to admit that when this happens, it is usually some kind of music which is derived from Irish traditions.

Sure I love folk and country and rock and roll, and I'm learning to appreciate blues. The first time I felt this supernatural Irish effect was listening to an Eddie Rabbitt 8-track. He sang a mystical song about Ireland like he knew and loved it with all of his being... and as I listened, I too became Irish. Man I went there! An exceptional musician can do that. The same way Blind Willie Johnson and Al Green baptized me African American, and Merle Haggard brought me into the brotherhood of ex-cons. It is something wonderful and spiritual and completely a divine fruit of the imagination. Music is a way we can all celebrate the brotherhood of man... and YES woman... I am a woman whenever I listen to Jewel, or Crystal Gayle.

But when my daughter introduced me to Steeleye Span... I was a goner. I became Irish in my soul of souls, and the rest was just quaint cultural exchange. I was grooving to words I could not even understand. You Tube then fed me an infinite dive into “my past.” The crying fiddles, the driving rhythms, and tenor ecstasies... and sometimes bagpipes that choke me up when they just begin to whine. They reset my emotions instantly. 

(Click below for Cam Ye O'er Frae Franc by Steeleye Span... several versions, I love the shorter studio version the best, second from the left, but all worth listening to)


When I discovered the anthem Erin Go Bragh (Ireland forever!), I was sure I was hearing the caress of my ancestral heartstrings...

When they sing FACE THE MACHINE GUNS for Erin Go Bragh, I am so ready! 

Still, I had no clue what these folks were so mad about... But it was inspiring to be exposed to such conviction, such unanimity, all shared through soulful poetry.

 Mo McMorrow

So if you understand or even relate to any of this you will probably enjoy Mo McMorrow... a darlin' lass of Irish extraction who sings here in Texas like a passionate angelic missionary. And you will grow to love her recordings like Irish Gold from across the sea. I heard her first in Schulenburg, Texas at a downtown festival... She had commandeered a beauty parlor for the evening and won everyone's hearts... and most of them were of hard-core German extraction. I played her first CD (Excellent: Mona Lisas Don't Cry) until it had so many dings in it that it became irritating... I had to find another one... That led me to her next album.

McMorrow's album called Hangin' from a Nail (2013) continues her weaving of American and Irish traditions, and within she does her own version of the Irish standard, Spancil Hill.

Just twenty-three, Michal Considine wrote this song in the 1800's while dying in the gold fields of California. A native-born Irishman, his gaelic impetuousness led him to seek riches in a faraway land. And there he perished. But before he passed away, his adventure over, his gift of Irish poetry captured his epic regret as he realized he would never see Ireland, or the love of his life, again. He sent the song on where he could never go, to say good bye to everything he loved about his beloved home.

It was a very sad song, full of poetic, cultural pride and ethos. Thank goodness, the Irish loved it, and it has become a national anthem, if not a warning to NEVER LEAVE, ever since.

 Spancil Hill is the site of a traditional horse fair in County Clare.

You see, Irish music traditions are built on the same foundation as blues; Oppression and depression and the human struggle to endure. The music is large, hearty, focusing on the “small” people with huge loves, hates and passions. It is a catharsis for its audience, salving their hurts, but finding oneness in corporate self-pity and identity in a people chained to their own negativity. Like blues it will never go away as long as oppression (and Ireland!) exists. When you hear this music you remember your own pains and sufferings, and find comfort and community in the music. And it is good every once in awhile to free this stuff, which we tend to internalize, out of our systems. Thus Irish music has a very liberating effect.

So the Irish will always be the proud custodians of bedrock melancholy and discontent. Maybe it is in their DNA. Thankfully some of us have escaped. Mo is one, one of those exceptional musicians, transforming her passion for life and lore into soulful, engaging, inspiring performances.

But some of us have never escaped, or even sadder, never known what we escaped. But if you want to know... If you have a restless, wandering soul, if you are feelin' a bit Irish... Get Hangin' on a Nail, and especially Spancil Hill... but fetch your box of tissues first. Click below to have your socks blown off!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"HERE is a way" - The Logic of One Pilgrim

 A couple of Cushman-Plymouth souvenirs.

My people have been in this land for almost four hundred years. Yes, my ancestors came over on the Mayflower. And after starvation and suffering from exposure and all kinds of suffering, the “Pilgrims” at Plymouth found gratitude beneath their blanket of hardship. What WERE they thinking?!

We should care what they were thinking, because no other migration ever set into motion the wealth of Providential events we have seen on our continent over the centuries. Largely under-utilized before its “discovery” by Columbus, the New World soon provided much of the food, inventions and progress which blessed mankind ever since. We as Americans have lived and celebrated the greatest, most advanced and prosperous nation in human history. So it is easy to forget that it all had a very ugly start.

A full half of the pilgrims died the first year. Those who survived shared homesickness, starvation, exposure to the elements and unbearable grief.

There were no doctors, or stores or letters from home. The Natives watched from the treeline and pitied them. Soon they were bringing them essential help. The first miracle God provided was a Native American in this remote wilderness who spoke English, and who could and would help them get through those first months.

At the first harvest on their primitive plantation, they instinctively threw a festival of sorts, and invited their aboriginal neighbors over for a thanksgiving feast! WHAT were they thinking! They could have been easily massacred right then. But their faith was strong that the worst was behind them, and God was in charge. Strangely, hardship and mortality bring us closer to our Maker. Instead of cursing God for their painful saga, they were singing God's praises. This suggests that a happy, prosperous people (like us) will never grow towards God, but away from Him.

A short while later the pilgrims held their first worship service led by one of their elected shepherds, (and my ancestor) deacon Robert Cushman. Cushman had helped expedite their adventure and originally embarked with them on a separate ship, the “Speedwell” which almost sank, and was forced to turn back. He had just arrived from England with supplies and welcome news from their homes. And he gave them a prepared sermon, recognized as the first (recorded) sermon delivered on American soil, in December of 1621.

It was a warning to avoid self-pity and narcissism, or “self-love” as he called it, and he challenged them to think not of themselves but the ultimate success of the colony. Deacon Cushman commanded them to be heroes, and nothing less. And this is why: Cushman had looked down the road at their home in Europe. A great deal was at stake. He wrote in the dedication of his historic sermon this rationale...

And if it should please God to punish his people, in the Christian countries of Europe (for their coldness, carnality, wanton abuse of the gospel, contention, etc.,) either by Turkish slavery, or by popish tyranny, which God forbid, yet if the time be come, or shall come (as who knoweth?) when Satan shall be let loose to cast out his floods against them, here is a way opened for such as have wings to fly into this wilderness...” He saw a grand strategy at work, and these pilgrims would serve an essential role... so a light may rise up in the dark.

To Robert Cushman, the world was going to hell in a corrupted European handbasket, and the fate of Christian civilization (and thus mankind) could very well have rested in those hands which cupped this “candle in the wind” in the New World.

Robert Cushman was right about Europe... long before Napoleon and the so-called “Enlightenment” and apostasy became the backbone of European intellect. America did carry the ball for Christ for the next few hundred years... and it all started with great sacrifice and discipline like that in Plymouth.

In hindsight, most of us would agree that it was worth it. We are the most fortunate of peoples to live in a land established by God's hand-picked heroes of Faith. And there is no secret as to how they accomplished this amazing legacy. The slogan “In God We Trust” had deep origins rooted in blood and tears.

The pilgrims were not just a random assortment of boat passengers. Even from the beginning, they were representatives of two very different lots. The leaders and believers in Christ were called “Saints” and the rest of the people, workers and sailors, were “Strangers.” The pilgrims understood that they must partner with and work alongside strangers who did not share their beliefs or value system. They kept their faith and obeyed God and let Him sort things out. That partnership gave birth to the greatest nation on earth.

Today we must remember how and what and WHO got us where we are. Humbly. Gratefully. On this Thanksgiving, as our country slips into cynicism and self-sufficiency, Americans must ask themselves, if they want to enter the next chapter in our history without the guidance and support of a God who has blessed us so greatly... Because without Him we will be no better off than most other countries in the world. And they had a huge head-start on us, but can never match American exceptionalism

And unlike in Robert Cushman's paradigm, there is no next place to fly.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The First Bag of Deplorable.

Normally I try to stay out of political discussions. And I enter this public fray only to try to encourage those who are afraid of President-elect Donald Trump... to not be.

First of all let me share a very personal moment. When President Obama was elected, I remember visiting with my father, very ill at the time, once a huge political activist, (both Democrat and Republican) and telling him my disappointment in the election results. I felt Obama did not have the experience or the leadership qualities to lead our country out of our financial or military mess. My father never hesitated... he said “I think you will be surprised... I think he may turn out to be a pretty good president.” Smiling, he went on to explain that Clinton had been a much better president than we (as Republicans) wanted to give him credit for... and Obama might surprise a lot of people.

My point is that many so-called “racist haters,” Republicans, were willing to give the man the BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. The fact that he was black was immaterial. I am serious. He won the election, and he had only to prove himself. I feel that my father represented most voters, because that is what Americans do. We fight hard for what we believe- then we support the results of the system. But the system has gotten uglier and uglier for decades...

The bag in the photo is a souvenir of my childhood. In 1964 my father took us to “volunteer” to work in Barry Goldwater headquarters in Houston to help get him elected as president. We worked hard for him. I remember licking stamps and listening over the radio to Ronald Reagan nominate him at the Republican National Convention. Reagan stirred my ten-year old soul. I tear up just thinking about it. Goldwater was a pretty boring guy, and I could not wait for then Governor Ronald Reagan to run for president!

Barry Goldwater was a distinguished Senator from Arizona. He was a man with an excellent record and highly respected by both parties. But President Johnson's campaign made a despicable TV commercial. It showed a little girl out picking flowers on a spring day, and then BOOOM... she was blown up by an Atom bomb. The world as we knew it suddenly came to an end... NOTHING like this had ever been seen on national network television.

The Democrats said that this might happen if Barry Goldwater was elected. We were all going to die! This strategy worked and they have been doing this ever since. Since then their commercials have shown all kinds of monstrous expectations from Republicans, including pushing helpless people in wheel chairs off of a cliff... Today they have young people stirred up with many outrageous accusations about Republicans, now led by Donald Trump, as if they are all maddened war-mongers who hate everyone who is not male or white or Christian. Don't let them make you a hater, who judges and persecutes people because they disagree with your political agenda. Ironically, it is Democrat extremists out beating people right now because of their beliefs...!!! The epitome of intolerance! The Democrat party ruined Barry Goldwater, and they have now almost ruined our country with their ruthless propaganda. Our country is mired in the worst class and race tension I have seen in my life.

Even Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest Americans and a stanch Clinton backer, has said that Trump will not have the kind of negative impact which drives so much fear in Hillary Clinton's supporters. Like my father was about Obama, he is willing to give Trump a chance. He understands the damage that could come from youthful over-reaction. These are young people doing what many jobless, disenchanted young people choose to do... act out their anger and frustration. But almost everything they are doing is either against the law or against civilized society... pure anarchy with a flimsy excuse.

Many of us on the Conservative side have endured President Obama, not liking his politics or his effects on this country... but we never acted out in anger, never called anybody names... I have even defended him at church because he was our president, and we are taught in the Bible to “honor the King.” The real intolerance, hatred and prejudice is coming from where it has come from all of my life... inspired by ruthless politicians who say anything to win and have no conscience about what they stir up in the process.

Donald Trump was not my first choice, but he will emulate Bush and have the most inclusive cabinet in history. He will be the most effective president in decades. He will do the most ever for the underprivileged and Veterans and yes, Blacks and (American) Hispanics. WHY? Because he is a problem solver, an experienced achiever, who is accustomed to having to deliver the goods... who does not enjoy the benefit of the doubt... (mostly due to his own misbehavior and democratic fear-mongering). He will eventually prove himself, and that will be the end of the Liberal stranglehold on this country. And that is why Harry Reid and others will relentlessly continue their uncharitable partisan attacks. They are going down... this time for good. Conservative Americans are tired of being called names, tired of the Democrats rallying votes by impugning our intelligence and humanity.

Get smart, see through this class manipulation. STAND DOWN, watch and listen as Pence and Dr. Carson and others join the most effective Cabinet in history... and maybe you will begin to understand that we are not “deplorable” haters or racist or whatever, and in fact we love YOU and this country and only want the best for all of us... and we know how to get it done!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Boessenecker: The Long Arm of the Law... and the TRUTH

The LAST thing I needed was another Texas Ranger book. At last count I had around thirty and stacks of related publications... Then John Boessenecker, hereafter referred to as “The Boss,” recently published his long awaited epic on Ranger Frank Hamer, boldly titled TEXAS RANGER. If you thought you knew about Frank Hamer, you don't. I sure thought I did. I have written a lot about my favorite Texas hero... he has been the subject of two of my bronze sculptures, and even a couple of my videos, but anybody can read books and summarize with colorful jargon. 

I am a history buff, Boessenecker is a historian. It is the difference between my seeing the historic moon walk LIVE on television, and Neil Armstrong.

I can do decent book reviews when I choose to... but I cannot even fake objectivity about this. I have too much personal involvement with the story. All I can do is offer by deepest thanks to John, who has written a beautiful, worthy book about a magnificent lawman. After a good cry, yes, even real Texas men cry, I raced to write this while the lump was still in my throat. There IS Justice, but sometimes it takes a long time.

This time it took too long. It irks me a little that it took a danged Californian to do that which some faithful son of Texas should have done decades ago... But maybe that is OK, since it helps me to see Californians a little differently. In truth, Frank Hamer and his story belongs to all of us.

If you have read any of the Boss's other fine historical books, you know that he is a dogged, objective researcher. A real history detective. He cuts it straight. This time he reached out of his traditional focus, across the Rio Grande, as he tells, and it made me nervous all this time waiting and worrying, the true story, warts and all. Frankly I did not trust anybody from California to give the legendary, controversial ranger a decent break. Few others ever have. 

But the Boss was fair and thorough, and what's more, debunked a lot of Hamer myths that we Texans have treasured for generations. We need to thank him for that. What we have here is a new, restored, impeccably factual Texas Ranger, and the good news is Frank Hamer stands as tall as ever. And Bonnie and Clyde, Ma and Pa Ferguson, Lyndon Johnson, and a cast of rowdy thousands... not so much. This was the book Ranger Frank Hamer, “...the greatest American lawman of the twentieth century,” deserved.

And now, thanks to the Boss, a man from California, Hamer's amazing story of courage, dutifulness and sacrifice will be told to all the world.