Author Archives: mandala56

Ancients of the SW US

Jack posted this in February, 2006 but I think it was written much earlier.

The mountain I used to prospect for several years is covered with ruins wherever there is water.  Big ruins.   I used to sit on one near my camp and try to imagine what it must have been like.

One summer solstice afternoon I was sitting on the cliff boundary of the ruin watching the sunset.  In the basin below there’s a volcanic knob out toward the center of the plains.   I’d discovered a single kiva on top of it years before and puzzled over it vaguely.  What was that kiva doing there, miles away from the big houses?

But because that day happened to be solstice, I suddenly noticed when the sun went down, it vanished directly behind the point of that Kiva knob!  Yon damned Chacoans used it to mark summer solstice!

A place like that fires the imagination, and I spent a lot of time thinking of those people who lived in that ruin. Some of these groups had evidently been in the same locations for 300-400 years, and suddenly their government leaders decided they had to leave.  They probably watched and even hosted strings of these travellers along the trail until their own turn came.

Then one day they  just left.

What a thing it must have been to be one of them on that last day, saying good bye to the place your great-grand-dad, your granddad, your dad, and everyone else as far back as anyone could remember, including you were all born, lived, and mostly died.

Everyone voluntarily packed a few belongings, a medicine bag and blanket or two, a stone hatchet and a few scrapers, and left, leaving corn in the bin for those coming behind.  Abandoned pots lying around all over the place measured the things they couldn’t carry.

Sometimes sitting on that mountain early in the morning it sort of overwhelmed me, the pain and sorrow in those villagers.  Probably they all left in the morning one day, after a while of maybe being notified it was their turn.  A few weeks of  planning.  What to take?  What to leave behind.

Finally they probably finished the last minute packing the night before.  At dawn they made a line down the basin heading south, looking back over their shoulders as long as they could, feeling so sad.  Knowing they’d never go home again, wondering about the place they were going.

Remembering how it was playing on the mountain with their grandads when they were  kids, remembering the special, secret places kids always have.  Just looking and yearning to stay, and already missing that long home where their ancesters had roamed for 2000 years.

They’d have tried to keep it in sight as long as they could, each one stopping to wipe the trail dust off his face, pretending to catch his breaths.  But yearning back at the old home place, piercing the heat waves with their eyes, straining to see it one last time, maybe crying, certainly crying inside.  The kids probably screeching aloud enough to cover everyone elses grief.

As they trekked south they were joined by other groups from the neighboring villages.  The dust rose on the trail making a plume, a cloud around them.  They examined these strangers who were now trail mates and wondered who they were.

Some, they probably soon discovered had a mother-in-law, or uncle who came from their village.  They got to know one another better there on that hot, sad, lonesome trail away from all they they’d ever known, and they shared the hardships of the journey together for a long time.

Today, it’s just piles of rock, potsherds, holes left by scholars and other diggers for spoils.  The land still falls off across Johnson Basin, sun going down over that volcanic nub that once measured the time to plant.  Cow men ride their motorized hosses across the old trails, cows stomp around looking for grass, making the pottery fragments even smaller.

But sometimes late at night when the wind howls down the mountain a man might hear, or think he hears an echo of the chants, the drums, the night mumbles and whispers of lovers, the ghosts of lovers.  Pulls the bag tighter around his ears and wonders.


Orion’s Phallusy

 Orion yearned those Pleiades


In endless stellar chaste pursuit

Loved them as no mortal man

Ever loved a woman

Who ever caught one


Orion never had to gnaw off that starry arm

That held the club

To let her sleep

While he got out

The morning after


Orion never had to say,

“I’m going out for smokes

I’ll be right back,” at 3 am

When she said,

“I think I love you.”


From Poems of the New Old West

Copyright©2002 Jack Purcell

I was an outlaw motorcycle mama and other historical anomalies


Jack wrote this in March, 2006:

Hi blogsters:

Sometimes trying to piece together our lives can be quite a chore.  Peaceful Warrior posted something on one of the groups about the way his name has been a problem to him, got me thinking about it.

I was given a name at birth that nobody since was able to pronounce.  They followed that with another one nobody’d ever heard of.  So when I exited that berg at the age of 15 or so, I left those two names behind and became Jack for most purposes.

But as a struggling young writer in the late ’60s I found myself needing yet another handle…. I was writing for the hairy chested men magazines… Men, For Men Only, a genre of magazines that vanished by the mid-1970s.

They usually had a picture on the cover of a Marine with a machete struggling with python wrapped around a half-naked woman in some jungle.  That sort of thing.

Well, fact was, in those days I thought there was half-a-chance I’d want to be president, or try to get a decent job sometime.  Didn’t want stories like, Viet-Cong Seductress, or The Half-Million Dollar Sex Salon The Texas Rangers Can’t Find following old Jack around the remainder of his life.

Adopted the pseudonym, Frank C. Riley, which worked well enough.

Then the market collapsed for hairy chested men stories.  Best paying hack-writer market left was something called ‘Confession‘ mags, which must have been read by the mothers of Romance Novel readers of today.  I figured, what the hell.

Popped out, I Was An Outlaw Motorcycle Mama, sent it off, got a nice letter back telling me there was a middling amount of what they read they liked, but that I needed to work on my female perspective a bit.  Eventually they published it, but they never bought another, though I tried.  But unless I’m mistaken, Motorcycle Mama was the only time I ever succeeded in passing myself off as a woman.  Only time I really ever tried, during that confessions market thing.

Amazing the things a man will do for money.


Ask Old Jules


Harper, TX 2010 123
For a long while, Jack occupied his time on a Q&A site that gave him lots of entertainment as he looked around for questions to answer. I saved some of the more interesting answers just for this opportunity to post them.  I have scheduled this kind of post for a couple of times a month, but it’s hard to imagine how this looks to an outsider, so comments are welcome as always.  Some of them are hilarious, and some may be perceived as offensive, but I plan to stick to the interesting ones that feature his unique personality that shows in his writing and thought.  For this first post  I’ve chosen shorter answers.

Old Jules, are we entering a new dark age?
I haven’t seen any evidence we ever came out of the last one.

Old Jules, what’s your definition of an idealist?
An idealist is a person who locks his teeth into the ankle of an abstraction and doesn’t let go, doesn’t look for another ankle, doesn’t look closely at whatever’s above and below the ankle.

Old Jules, if you have truly forgiven someone, should you be free from the pain that person caused you?
Not necessarily. Sometimes you have to do it repeatedly for a long time. Forgiveness is close to magic, but not quite.

Old Jules, why/how is the Ego good?
The ego provides a pantheon of ways to make you feel good about yourself in every facet of your life without having to do a single thing.

Old Jules, where do we see examples of Darwin’s theories today? Are they positive or negative examples?
I’ll give you one example: bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. Evolution, plain and simple.
Positive or negative? If you’re human, it’s negative. If you’re a bacterium, it’s positive.

Old Jules, what does it mean to say that evil doesn’t exist?
If good and evil exist they ought to involve a cultural and historical consensus. They ought to be vulnerable to universal definition. They don’t and they aren’t. There are larger reasons they don’t exist, but those might be subject to argument. That one isn’t.

Old Jules, what is actually the purpose of recording history if we still repeat the same mistakes?
It serves as a means of anticipating the mistakes we’ll be making in the future.

Old Jules, if an atheist knocked on your door and said, ‘Don’t believe in God’, what would you do?
I’d do the same as you. A good horselaugh while I spewed my coffee.

Old Jules, when will religion not be a major war issue?
When humans are able to admit they went to war over power, resources, or territory owned by someone else without dredging up religion as an excuse.

You Stole my Flag


US Border crossing byo2

Fresh crisis ideas welcome. No return on empties.

Jack wrote this in June, 2006:

Not too many decades ago,

a person who venerated the ideals enshrined in the US Constitution and

respected the ideas incorporated there, and loved this land,

while recognizing human weakness and failure,

could proudly fly and salute the stars and bars.

Today that banner’s been stolen.  

The flag of the US, today, has come to mean that the person flying it believes in:

  • An America with the power and will to attack sovereign nations without being attacked,
  • A population cheering for a chief executive who pre-empts the powers of the US Congress,
  • A country where due process does not exist,
  • A country burgeoning with prisons filled with prisoners convicted of crimes without victims.

I will not fly that flag.

I will not salute that flag and what it’s come to mean.

I refuse to respect those who do.

Those who love what the stars and bars have come to represent should carefully fold that banner along with what it once meant to those who venerated it.   Folded as tradition suggests, it should be burned, the ashes buried with the ashes of the US Constitution.

Flag wavers of today are waving the wrong banner.  The one at the top of this entry’s far more appropriate for them.   (Note from Jeanne: I no longer know which photo he chose for this blog, so I picked this one).


I can’t stop illegal aliens, but I can slow you down, old timer


Jack wrote this in June, 2006:

In 1961, I joined the US Army for three years with the intention of killing young Russian men to keep this from happening in the US:

Saturday, I joined the throngs of US senior citizens crossing the International Boundary to trek a couple of blocks into Mexico to buy prescription medications.  The reason we were all braving the hot, the skyrocketing gas prices, the long drive and the short walk?

A block south of the border, prescription meds cost a tiny fraction of their cost a block north of the International Boundary.

But that’s another issue for another time.

Coming back waiting on the US side behind a line of oldsters in the US Border patrol station, the fun begins.

Guy with a gun, a uniform and a Hitler mustache:  “Do you have anything to declare?”

Elderly lady pushes through the turnstile to stand in front of his table.  “I have this.”  She holds up a bulging plastic bag.

Guy with a gun, a uniform and a Hitler mustache:  “I didn’t tell you you could come through the turnstile.  Go back to the other side.”

She goes back to wherever a person is when on the other side of the turnstile.

Guy with a gun, a uniform and a Hitler mustache:  “OK.  Now you can come through.”

She goes back through the turnstile, stands in front of him.  “Do you have anything to declare?  Medications, anything?”

She holds up the bag again, but before she can speak, elderly hubby, the other side of the turnstile, holds up a bag.  “I’ve got the medications here.”  Pushes part way through the turnstile holding up the bag.


Old man, startled, backs into never-never-land, turnstile clicking.

Hitler mustache to woman:  “Do you have anything to declare?  Medications?  Anything?”

Hubby across the turnstile to wife:  “God Damn it!  I told him I have the medications over here.”

And so, ad infinitum.

Mr. Uniformed Mustache with a gun never came out and said,

“I am one stupid son of a bitch here to give elderly US citizens a hard time when after they have to walk into another country to get their medications at a reasonable price.”

He didn’t need to.


Riding the Rap – The Adventure of Being Wrong

Jack wrote this in October, 2006: 

One of the the ways youngsters in Portales, New Mexico, used to entertain themselves summer days was hopping a freight train for a ride to Clovis, twenty miles away.  We’d hang around a while doing nothing, then hop another back to Portales.

Bums hanging around the Clovis yard would tell us which trains not to catch.  A kid wouldn’t want to be on a mile-a-minute diesel locomotive as it went through Portales and end up in Roswell, 90 miles west, wondering how to get home without the war department discovering what he’d been doing.

It wasn’t quite a decade later, summer, 1964, I was in NYC hanging around Greenwich Village thinking I was a beatnik.  I decided to head back to the desert Southwest.  The easiest way of getting out of the city appeared to be to hop a freight.  Seemed logical that any train I caught ought to be going South, or West, or Southwest.

Sometime after dark the train stopped at and and two cops had their pistols pointed at me.  Handcuffs, fingerprints, paperwork, and off to the slammer.  Rochester, New York, awaiting an arraignment so’s they could decide whether to charge me with the NY felony of riding freight trains and send me off to the pen two-to-five years.

That Rochester jail was the first place I ever heard the phrase, ‘riding the rap’.  Prisoners used it to describe what happens when you’re caught (the rap) and sentenced (serving your time – riding it).

Considering how frequently we humans are wrong about almost everything, and how seldom we’re right, it’s a mystery.  We go to SOOOO much trouble convincing ourselves we’re right.  Once we adopt an opinion about how things are, we hang onto it with hair teeth and toenails and ride it.

At the beginning of the 20th Century a consortium of top-scientists announced to that all the major discoveries science would ever make had already been made.  Human beings all over the world believed them.  They’ve continued patting themselves on the back from then until now.  The airplane, the atomic bombs, moon landings, plastic, computers, tubeless tires, television  and quantum physics were just tying up loose ends.

In our personal lives this brave new century is a time to pick something safe, something that will stay on the rails.  Something that won’t provide us with any growth experiences.  Safety nets.  Insurance policies.  Spectator sports.  World news.

We might be bored to tears, but by-damn we know who the Bulgarians ought to elect for their president, and by-damn, we know who killed John Kennedy and what’s the best ball team.

The only rap we have to ride is knowing our lives are slipping away without our having done anything but a little flag-waving.  Whoopteedoo, watched the Super Bowl.  Whoopteedoo went to a concert.  Whoopteedoo got a car.  Whoopteedoo died of cancer.

But by God, I was right.  Knew, by-damn, who the Bulgarians should have elected for their prez.  Knew which ball club was best, win or lose.

Life flashing before the eyes during the last minute of life, I wonder if a person gets to thrill again the 1999 Super Bowl.

Or whether he might wish he’d chosen some other rap to ride.  Chosen a life with more risk, more flair, so they wouldn’t write his epitaph, “He knew everything already and played it safe.  Sixty times around the sun and he never fixed a flat tire.”


Thoughts About Trust and “Knowing” Other Humans


Jack wrote this in October, 2006:

Maybe this is all bull, but it’s the most painless way I’ve ever found to view reality and my human co-conspirators here in this lifetime.  Riding the mudball around the star and watching the two-legged critters wade around the muck beside me hasn’t caused me to admire us as a species.

As for knowing other humans, we mostly don’t allow ourselves to ‘know’ anyone. Instead, we construct them as we wish them to be, assign a set of behaviors required of them.  Often the people we’re trying to hammer into our mold haven’t  agreed to try to satisfy these requirements.  Still, we count it a violation of ‘trust’ if they don’t perform according to the rules we created.

But, even if they told us they agreed to be what we wished them to be, (and they might have meant it when they did it) obeying contracts of that sort just aren’t part of the usual human machinery. The flesh is weak and time and circumstance erode the best of intentions.

Trusting human beings based on unrealistic contracts probably leads to more heartache than simply abandoning the concept of ‘trust’ and the demands that go with it, and adopting a consistent readiness to forgive and continue loving them. (With no joint checking accounts or shared credit cards)


Young Man and Old Man (from Poems of the New Old West)

Old man and young man

Sit, gaze at far reaches

Of valley and desert

Spanning to horizon


“How’d I get to be this old?”


Old man smiles, serene .

“I wonder sometimes myself.”


Young man: “I’m serious.”


Old man sighs and leans

Against a rock.

“You’ve already

Heard the parts about

Cheating, lying, and stealing all

Your life.

Those can shorten things


Could have mine.

Those are things you need to

Keep in moderation.”


Young man frowns.

“You’re joking..”


”No. Just being

Completely honest

For once.

But those are more

Likely just to ruin

Your life than

To end it.”


Tosses a flat rock

Into the void

Eyes follow

The long descent

“I never killed myself

When I wanted to.


Never threw myself

On my sword over defeats

I can’t recall now.

Never flang myself

Off a cliff

Over scores of women

I no longer remember.”


Old man digs his pocket

Pats his other pockets

Looking for his pipe.

“I never gloated sufficiently

On my amazing successes

Over the efforts of others

(Those escape my mind

These days)

To make anyone want

To kill me enough to

Actually do it.”


Tamps the pipe

Frets with a match

“I was astute enough

To recognize early

When you bed

Another man’s woman

She’ll eventually tell him.

She mightn’t say who,

But she’ll always say what

And if he’s smart

He’ll puzzle out the who.

That’s a worthy thing

To keep in mind.”


Pipe bowl sparked

Glowed, smoke

Curled around him

“I’ve always lived hard

Pushed the envelope

Hung it out over the edge.

I’d rather have died early

Than not done that


But I always kept good tires

On whatever mechanical

Critter I was depending on

To get me back

Always kept the brakes

In good shape.  And

I was damned lucky.”


They sit silent

Watch the shadows

Crawl into arroyos

Far below



From Poems of the New Old West

Copyright 2002©Jack Purcell

Bypass on the Great Divide

For several months after Jack moved back to town after y2k, he had a night job as a hotel clerk at a Travelodge where modern country music was constantly piped in and couldn’t be turned off. I recently found some papers that came from that time and found something he had written during his shift. I’m copying it exactly as I found it scribbled:

In the last 45 years baby boomers have been the driving force behind music sales. They brought us bop, then rock and roll, R&B, the Beatles, folk, folk rock, acid rock, and outlaw country. Then they began to drop the ball and the younger crowd began to take over– ended up with endless rap, and Country fell to wailing love ballads.

Baby boomers tuned out in a tragic replay of the 70’s, but this time they did it in the musical manifestation: they turned down their hearing aids.

The result has been the drivel incessant caterwauling that dominates the airways today– effeminate men and hairy-chested women proclaiming endless love. No more cheating, getting drunk, hopping trains, going to prison, missing hound dogs, dying in car wrecks, remembering mama.  No more low sentiments and lower experiences. All whining through orthodontics.

If we don’t want to spend our golden years listening to this trash we’ve got to get back into the driver’s seat. We’ve got to get some music baby boomers can identify with. Pull those teeth out of the water glass and tune back in.
So I wrote this song- seed corn for the next wave in C&W. I call it “Bypass on the Great Divide.” Cock your head so you can see through those bifocals and hum along:

Westbound on the interstate
Out on the Great Divide
Our Winnie overheated
So we pulled off to the side.

The sagebrush and the redrock
invoked our reverie
While the engine cooled I thought about
My bypass surgery.

You can have your diabetes
and your special brand of “C”
But when heat-waves blur the mesas
I’ll take bypass surgery.

We’ll be turning off at Flagstaff
for the fairways to the south:
My third ex-wife will meet us
with my grandkids and her mouth

Those two eggs up on whisky toast
and home fries on the side
she always made for breakfast
were my downfall and her pride.

You can have your diabetes
and your special brand of “C”
But when heat-waves blur the mesas
I’ll take bypass surgery.

So we’ll take the brats along with us
and camp somewhere below
the International Boundary
buying meds in Mexico.

Cause it’s not the margaritas
nor the senoritas sweet
It’s the discount pharmaceuticals
that tug these flattened feet.

Now the engine’s finished cooling
and the wheels begin to roll
and there ain’t no bloody stool
in the RV commode bowl.

You can have your diabetes
and your special brand of “C”
But when heat-waves blur the mesas
I’ll take bypass surgery.

Now. Let’s get busy and hear some songs about ’49 Fords, Joe Stalin, moon disks and fender skirts, the Korean War, the Berlin Crisis. 6 volt car batteries and flathed V-8s. Skirts with hoops. Saddle loafers. Cushman eagles. Red Ryder BB guns. Let’s argue whether Roy Rogers or Gene Autry was the king of the cowboys. Scandalize the grand kids with Roy and Dale, travelling salesmen, and Johnny Fuckerfaster jokes.