Category Archives: Uncategorized

Black Plague and Plague Crosses

About the time the light you see when you look for Orion and see Rigel was beginning its 800 year journey to rendezvous with your eye, these small lead crosses were being poured and carried as a protection against Black Plague:

These are found all over Europe, probably many from mass grave sites.  But during modern times they’ve become available to collectors.  Gale’s accumulated these over several years.

He uses them to make molds in his silversmithing work, casts modern, Sterling Silver plague crosses from them:

I planned to say a lot more on the subject of Black Plague, plague crosses and Gale’s silversmithing but my eyesight’s been giving me fits for the last few days and this screen’s mostly a blur this morning.

Maybe some future post.

Old Jules




Insult to Injury – Stealing Blogs for Re-sale to Students

I just received notification that the survival book posted here, Desert Emergency Survival Basics, is being offered up for sale to students to help them cheat on term papers, research papers and Professional Essays:

Professional essays and research papers – we offer only the best writers of performers, that provides a only guarantees great results term paper . Recommended Reading – buy term paper on-line unique content quality ensure! Bomba Writing Com”

There’s an irony here.  The book was accepted for publication by the mass market publisher for books of that ilk in 2006, but we couldn’t arrive at an agreement on various contract details, mainly the advance and royalty issues assuring I’d get paid something for my work.

These folks have cut out the middle man, but only after it’s being offered free here, though I hadn’t considered the possibility students might use it to slither around course requirements.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Old Jules

I Don’t Know What A Homophobic Is

But I wouldn’t want my brother to marry one.

In 1967 I was working 5.5 days a week doing hard physical labor, taking night courses at the University of Houston and having an urgent, compelling romance with my wife-to-be living in Port Lavaca, 150 miles away.  Every minute I could spare I cranked up that Metropolitan and headed west to spend a few hours with her.  Even for a young man exhaustion built and I had a lot of difficulty staying awake while driving.

Picking up hitch-hikers was one of the ways I stayed awake.  Just having someone to talk to on that endless road was a major asset.

1967 was a year of serious racial tensions and polarization.  During the years immediately previous a gradual mind-opening of tolerance was manifested in a brief cliche, “I’ve got nothing against blacks, but I wouldn’t want my sister to marry one.”   For a while a person heard that at least once a week.

One day as I was leaving Houston I stopped for two black guys hitching at an empty stretch of highway.  As they ran up to the car they saw the University of Houston sticker on back and without moving to get in they took on a grinning, belligerant-but-joshing attitude.  “You go to U of H?”

Yeah.  Where you guys headed?”

Still no move to get in.  “We go to Texas Southern [a black university in Houston].   You a queer?  The last guy picked us up went to U of H was a queer.  Dumped us out here ’cause we didn’t want none of him.”

 “I’m not a queer.  I’m going to Port Lavaca to see my girl friend.”

They relaxed and squeezed into the Metropolitan, joshing about the klutzy car, how tight it was, how they didn’t want to be seen riding with a white guy.  “Anyone sees us riding with you they’ll think you’re queer.  They’ll think we’re letting you queer us.”

  As we reached highway speed I grinned and looked over at them.  “I’ve got nothing against queers but I wouldn’t want my brother to marry one.”

Both of them gagged on that, double-took me, one another, trying to decide whether to be offended.  Finally one of them guffawed.  “Hey man, that’s a good one!”  Held his hand up to be slapped.

Turned out to be fairly nice guys headed to Corpus Christi for the weekend.  The drive to Port Lavaca went by fast, once we decided we were just three young guys not needing to fight, fear, or scrutinize every word for some slur or threat.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much times have changed.

Old Jules

Oak Wilt, Firewood and Sawmilling

Two years ago these were healthy trees.

About a year ago the trees in the vicinity of the cabin began dying.  I’d been fairly certain it would happen because there’s a grove immediately above about 100 yards that had all died off two or three years ago.  It appears to have started at the power line easement atop the hill and is making a path of dead trees moving east, or downhill.

Conventional wisdom is that it’s Red Oak Wilt, or Red Oak Disease.  There aren’t a lot of certainties about it, no preventive measures or cures anyone’s aware of.

Over the space of about a month they lost all their leaves and the bark began separating from the wood.  One of the problems with trying to get them down is the abundance of wasps making nests between the wood and the bark.  Hundreds of wasp nests and clouds of angry wasps.   The temptation is to wait for a cold day.

There was a certain amount of urgency about trying to take some of them down because after Oak Wilt kills a tree the first strong wind often brings it down.  Evidently the disease rots the root system long before anything shows above ground.  Several of the dozen-or-so trees dying immediately around the cabin and outbuildings actually have large limbs hanging over roofs.

But the nights are cooling enough to send the message it’s time to begin building a pile of firewood.  It won’t take much hauling this year.  Some of it I could almost cut and allow it to drop down the chimney pipe.

The larger trunks are going to be a major undertaking to split, so I’m thinking I might sawmill any of them with potentially good lumber left.  Sometimes Oak Wilt rots out the center too badly to leave anything worth using except to burn, but sometimes it leaves the heartwood almost untouched.

If there’s enough capable of being sawmilled it might provide enough oak for a project I have in mind cut relatively thin into planks usable for building a structure.  But in any case it ought to stay toasty inside the cabin this winter.

Old Jules

The Price of Wealth

Hated Saturday nights;
Being third to
The bath-water
After Mom and Dad
But before the older kids
Felt poor;
He thought he was.
While down the road
His buddy, Joe Cordova
Didn’t have to feel so poor
Because the family
Didn’t have a tub.
Lucky Joe.

Old Jules

My Genes Apologize to Your Genes

It’s become popular during the past few decades for individuals believing they have come connection to a group of dead men judged by hindsight to have harmed other groups of dead men, to apologize for the offending activities of the deceased they believe they’re responsible for to living people it didn’t happen to.

My granddad had a cap and ball pistol he inherited from his granddad.  The butt had a lot of notches carved into it, which probably meant the weapon had been the instrument of the untimely deaths of a good many people who might otherwise have lived longer.

Genetic karma?

The man pictured above owned slaves in his lifetime, fought in wars and feuds.  He was the great-grandfather of the man below, my biological father.

But his daughter was the mother of this man:  Cole Younger.  Killer, bank and train robber, rider with Quantrill during the Civil War.

Meanwhile the same genetic pool was spreading itself across the continent like some sexually transmitted disease.   Cherokee, Choctaw and other tribes sneaked into the mix.

So here’s the problem: 

I want to make all this right with all the people in the gene pool derived from the dead people who were wronged by the dead people within my own gene pool.  I’d like to offer them an apology for the ugly stuff those who share my gene pool did to them.

For instance, the guy with all the hair on his face was part of the ugliness perpetrated against the Cherokee and Choctaw and the Trail of Tears.  Naturally, if I’m to rid myself of the overwhelming guilt I need to apologize to some group of living people those painful things did not happen to.  Cherokee and Choctaw, preferably.

But, whoooowah!  The people on the Cherokee and Choctaw side of my gene pool are me.  How can I convey my regrets to the Cherokee and Choctaw in me from the guilt-laden Anglo side?  And can I assume without fear of error that my Cherokee and Choctaw genes don’t include someone who did something to some other group I need to absolve?

Is there some living group of people out there seething over something that didn’t happen to them, but happened to their ancestors as a result of some offense committed by holders of the Cherokee Choctaw genes?

And what’s all that turmoil and guilt churning around in my gene pool doing to my cells and whatnot?

Just to be on the safe side and try to set things right I think I’d best give myself a present as a gesture to calm things down.  Yeah, I think I’ll eat an orange or banana.

Old Jules


The Leaves That Were Green

Coming back from Fredericksburg yesterday I spotted this sitting in a field 100 yards off the pavement.  I felt an immediate kinship, made a U-turn to go back for a closer look.

The first new vehicle I ever owned was a 1970 F150.  Standing here looking at this one too-long left in a pasture, flat tires, dents and proud sign I flashed a brief, joyful memory of driving mine back to Austin from the dealership in Luling. 

Someone did the same with this one from some other dealership.  I wonder if he remembers the day, wonder if he’s even alive to remember some piece of geography he shared with this heap of steel, glass and rubber before me.

The young don’t know enough
About being young
They squander youth
And never know ’til later.
Any lad of twelve will testify
An eight-year-old can’t even qualify
To be a child
At eighteen our own ignorance
At fifteen is finally written
In language we comprehend:
We know the score
Reality’s the icing on the cake
Of youthful fantasies;
When the young grow old
They know a lot
About being young
But almost nothing
About being old.

But trucks know
Trucks have the dents
Worn bearings
Frayed seat-covers
Holding a thousand
Passed-gas kisses
Spilled drinks
Forgotten miles
Of those who forgot.

Old Jules

House Coon and Cat Houses Update

Brother Coon and I couldn’t come to an agreement about the availability of indoors as acceptable behavior for a coon with a long life expectancy.  Whatever I did to keep him out, half an hour later he’d be poking around trying to find a way in, eventually leading to success.

Last night I’d had a bellyfull of it.  I brought the live trap in and put it down next to the sack of cat food, then went to bed.  Around 3:00 am I heard the trap slam shut and a lot of ruckus.  Transported trap, coon and angry all outdoors to await arraignment, trial, conviction and final disposition.

Original story here:  Wake-up Call – Coon in the Living Room

Cathouse Success

For once I predicted something and it came to pass.  That ice chest I salvaged out of the grader ditch actually has proved itself the popular cat-hotel I hoped it would.

Cathouse urgencies – 6:30 pm Grader Ditch Hauls

Another exciting day forming up in the Middle of Nowhere

Old Jules

Mobs, Violent Protests, and Riots

I find my views about rioting to be possibly artificially drawn away from magnetic north by several personal experiences with them, as well as having been an adult during the giant city burning episodes around the time of the MLK killing. 

From personal observation and experience I feel a high level of certainty that every riot since the 1960s was and is heavily infiltrated by police or other government provocateurs, pushing, inflaming and instigating to direct events toward violence.  I’m not suggesting the riots wouldn’t have happened without them.  The riots would almost certainly have happened anyway.   I honestly don’t have a clue why they’re doing it.

But my first experience with it was Halloween, 1960, in Borger, Texas. During the days before Halloween the kids in high school were all gearing up for it, but I was a newbie in town, had no reason to anticipate what they saw as the normal way to celebrate Halloween. Wild and wooly oil-field worker traditions combined with a boys-will-be-boys tolerance on the part of adults left the options wide open.

The newspaper the next day described it as a quieter than usual Halloween with the main damage being someone starting a bulldozer at a construction site and driving it through a house, nobody hurt.

A few hundred teenagers drunk on main street armed with eggs, veggies, rocks, jars of gasoline, cornering police paddy wagon with barrage after barrage, following them back to the station house and setting fire to the lawn was just a beginning.  I never saw anything like it, even during the riots at the University of Texas I was a part of a decade later.

My point is, rioting is fun, it’s joyful, it’s seductive if the anonymity of a mob can be maintained and when there are no consequences. It doesn’t take much to get people rioting under those circumstances.

On the other hand, the day after Kent State and afterward throughout the remainder of the Vietnam War the temptation to riot was always there so long as it was someone else stepping off the curb into the street. The police and a lot of the rest of the country made it plain by word and attitude they felt tolerance for what happened at Kent State and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

I recall what a letdown it was when I realized I wasn’t the gutsy hotshot I had people thinking I was, that I was just a loudmouth coward when it came to offering myself up for what I claimed I believed in by making myself a target for all those cops to practice on.

I don’t think things are much different now. My near-certainty about riots in the US is that the government response will determine whether there are riots, or won’t be.  I don’t give advice, but if I did I’d suggest anyone involved in a peaceful demonstration immediately remove himself/herself from the area as rapidly as possible at the first sign of violence.

I’d suggest carefully exploring the route and area of the demonstration on maps and on the ground beforehand.  Pre-arranged escape routes memorized to allow getting the hell out of dodge.  Cell phones set with standby text messages to friends and cohorts to get the message out immediately that things are going sour.  But I won’t suggest it.

But I don’t have a lot of reason to think having a riot going on and being in the center of it is a place I’d want to spend a lot of time.

Old Jules


Building A Salvage Chicken-Hilton – One Man Band

Follow-up construction details:

I’ve mentioned and shown pics of the chicken-house built from discarded shower doors, etc., several times here.

“A chicken-house fabricated entirely from salvage, discarded shower doors, camper shell roof, refrigerator shelves, whatever came to hand free”

White Trash Repairs: Throwing Down the Gauntlet

From the ground:

I said when I made the post I’d be talking more about it, but way led onto way and I never got around to doing it. 

This was a one-man-band project.  The footprint of that structure has about an inch-or-less of topsoil over hardpan caliche or limestone.  Digging holes for the uprights wasn’t something I wanted to contemplate.

I knew I wanted the pickup camper as a roof, the shower-doors as part of the walls, wanted uprights with lateral stability without digging into limestone.  But otherwise it was plan-as-you go, driven partly by material availability.

Those lower walls are two sides of a huge packing crate I picked up for $5 from a guy in Kerrville.  Bought 30# of large lag-screws [$1.00 per pound] from Habitat for Humanity Recycling Store for the project because I anticipated difficulties in the lateral stability department.  The shower doors were free.  The 4x4s were from the same guy who sold me the packing crate.

I used the crate-sides to get three of the uprights generally in place by bolting them together.  Trust me when I tell you this ought to be a 2-man job.  I fudged on a lot of things by not paying a lot of attention to right-angles because I couldn’t be two places at once and knew I wasn’t going to live forever.

I took about a week building it, but probably it could have been done in a day with two people working.

As you can see I trenched below the lower walls and dug to bedrock, only an inch or two, to level the lower walls and provide a base for the corner posts.

Before putting the camper shell on top I built an interior frame and stabilized it with a steel bed frame salvaged from a junk pile:

Once that was in place I ran the front bumper of the truck up against it from whatever angles I could get to it, hooked a chain to the uprights from other angles pushing and pulling it with the truck to test the lateral strength.  We get some high winds and I didn’t want it coming down, even if the additional strength the camper shell structure would add became fractured.

I constructed a lean-to ramp using 4 2x12s and positioned the camper shell diagonally on it, skidded it up with a come-along until I had it in place, then bolted it to the top frame.  As I was finishing, Gale dropped down to see how I was doing and helped a lot during the final positioning of the shell.

The camper shell was missing the door, so for ventilation I used salvaged refrigerator shelving.  It keeps the predators out but allows a good breeze.  But to keep out the water I added the additional planks at an angle sloping away from the roof runoff.

Other than that there wasn’t much to it.

Old Jules

Three Dog Night– One Man Band