Tuesday, May 31, 2011

West Texas Skies

We have not had rain since last October, and the effects are showing. Ripples of sand are now where grass used to be in parts of our yard. Cactus in the big bed are disappearing under the dirt blowing in off the road in front of the house. Dusting is an exercise in futility. Well, that's true even in good weather here, but it's even worse now. Trash and dead tumbleweeds and other weed skeletons have to constantly be picked up. Bedding plants dry up in spite of daily waterings.

We look to the sky for hints of rain clouds, but nothing appears. And things get browner. So to take our minds off that, I thought this might be a good time to share some times when the sky, while not always being full of rain clouds, has offered us beauty nonetheless. For example:

Look in the distance and you see rain coming from this cloud. It's been so long since we've seen one of these we have just about forgotten what it looks like. 

This is a sunrise looking out from our back yard.

I took this one in 2007 from the back yard when the sky was just full of pretty things to see.      

Looking out into the pasture.

Looking at the golf course from the pasture.


Sunrise from the back yard.

A sunset from the front yard.

Another sunset.

I have tons more pictures like this, but the computer is misbehaving and you would get tired of looking at more of the same anyway, so I will stop. In the meantime, pray for rain.




Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How To Embarrass Your Cat

Embarrass a cat? That’s easy. Give ‘em a hair cut.

Sophie was first. We went to the vet for her yearly shots. Her winter hair was matting up pretty badly by then. Dr. Lackey innocently commented that he could do something about that  messy wad on the side of her belly, which sounded like a good idea. After he finished, well, here was this big bare gap on the side of Sophie’s tummy surrounded by the rest of her long hair. She looked a little awkward, so we just decided to take it all off for the summer. Sophie is a pretty agreeable girl, so she let us hold her and roll her around for the hair cut, purring the whole time. I think she thought we were just giving her a rub-down. Honestly, it was like shearing a sheep; her hair at its longest has to be a good three inches long, and there is lots of it. By the time it was done we had a pile of fluffy gray hair spilling out of the mid-size trash can by the examination table.

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IMG_3811By the time we got home I guess it dawned on her what had happened, and she felt a bit undressed. I fed her, and that helped a little, but when I wanted to take a picture, she really didn’t want to cooperate. And Mari just worried her to death, sniffing of her and wondering just who is this cat. 

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Kitty, on the other hand, was the flip side of the coin. She, too, needed a hair cut, as she doesn’t do a bang-up job of grooming herself, and she won’t let me comb her. She is a full-blooded Persian;  her hair isn’t quite as long as Sophie’s, but it is so fine that it wads up all over her, and it is just not pleasant to hold her or try to pet her.  I try to keep her trimmed with scissors, but that is spotty at best. So I just decided she needed the same treatment. Only she would have to be sedated. I knew she would pitch a fit, based on her behavior when I tried to trim her. So off we went a couple of weeks later, when I thought the cold weather was finally over. Because of being sedated, she had to go without food the night before, didn’t eat the day of, and didn’t really feel like eating until the day after, so she  came home really  skinny, and not just because of her hair cut. She wasn’t real happy about having her picture made, either.

But enough time has passed now that both of them have gotten over it, their coats are a tad longer, and they feel so nice and velvety to the touch. I say that: Sophie is fine,  but I think Kitty is suffering much like Samson when he lost his hair; she is much more needy about wanting lap time and may be cold without her long white coat.  I am tempted to do this every summer, but I hate to put Kitty through the sedation and insecurity, so I don’t know that it will happen again. If she will just let me comb her, I won’t have to. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to grow back a full coat, but in the meantime, they are masquerading as short-haired cats with leg warmers on. If I was smart enough to think of it, there is probably a joke in there somewhere about aging dancing cats from a Broadway musical…

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Colten Goes to the Prom

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Colten had an interesting experience this year, as he was asked to the prom, a neat treat for a sophomore.  Bianca Aviles, a junior, invited him to be her date, and her friend Jennifer Vasquez, also a junior, asked Jaxiel Lopez, who happens to be a friend of Colten’s, so they all went together.

When he told me about it, I reminded him that it would be a photo opportunity for me that I wouldn’t want to miss. (I bug him –and all my kids and grandkids- taking pictures of  various pursuits.) I also threw the fear of a grandmother with a camera in him when I told him that either he let me take pictures of them all before going, or rest assured that I would show up at the prom to take them.   And he told me smugly, “They won’t let you in there,” to which I even more confidently replied, “Oh, YES they will. I’ve been to more proms than you are old, and I promise you I will be there and I will take pictures,” and at that point he realized I meant business and gave in.

Ha. That was a hollow victory. Nothing went according to plan that night, other than he did attend and he did have a wonderful time. Which, of course, was the whole  point. But my picture-taking was not what I envisioned.

To begin with, sophomores aren’t invited to the Junior-Senior Banquet, which takes place  right before the prom. Both events are held at the school cafeteria, or commons area I think they now call the renovated cafeteria area. The banquet is held, the kids clear out, the tables and chairs are pushed up against the walls creating a dance floor in the middle, and then the kids come back for the prom and can bring dates who are not necessarily juniors or seniors or students at Muleshoe. I think years ago they started this tradition of both events being on the same night to get the biggest bang for the bucks out of the decorations, which are there for both the banquet and prom.

But I digress. But that is where things started to go wrong, according to my schedule, at least. Bianca comes early to get her corsage to compliment her dress. Colten isn’t dressed yet, so all I can do is take her picture, thinking I will get them both when she comes back for him after the banquet.

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He gets dressed much earlier than he needs to, and all the waiting and trying not to sit down and get cat or dog hair on his tux makes him nervous. But I get pictures…

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The plan was to make a grand entrance on Bianca’s dad’s tractor, which didn’t happen. The grand entrances are always made in the daylight going to the banquet. And I don’t know if the girls rode the tractor or not. I just know the four of them didn’t go to the prom on the tractor. Now for those of you who are urban-dwellers, riding a tractor to the prom most likely sounds a bit goofy, but it happens more than you might think. Anyone can hire a limo; not everyone has a tractor. We have kids coming in limos, too, of course, but the more flamboyant stars try to come up with something more original, and tractors are just one of the options we have seen. Anyway, the tractor ride didn’t happen, the kids were in a hurry when they came for Colten, and he raced out to the car, and I didn’t lay eyes on the four of them together. No picture.

But a promise is a promise, so I didn’t go to the prom and chase him around taking pictures. I did go that afternoon, however, after the decorating was done and slipped in through the cafeteria and took pictures of the decorations. At least I have that.

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I still thought I had a chance at getting a picture of him with his date as he was given money to have a picture made at the prom. We always have a photographer set up to take pretty shots on location for a good memory picture. Well, apparently that didn’t happen, either. Seems he and his friends just took silly group shots rather than with his date.

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Next year he’d better be prepared. His other comment to me when this all started was something about do I just sit around and try to think up ways to make his life miserable, to which I, of course, said yes. Next year stalking him at the prom for a picture may just happen. Ha!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Muleshoe and the Braceros

The United States, and Texas in particular, will forever have ties to  Mexico (remember  the Mexican-American War? Fajitas and burritos? The Alamo? ) But we also share a history regarding workers and labor. That history dates back to the 1800s, but in the 1950s, it was the Bracero Program that made history in Muleshoe.

In 1942 the United States entered World War II, and between men becoming soldiers and jobs in the U.S. being focused on the war effort, our labor force took a tremendous hit. That same year the U.S. signed the Bracero Treaty which allowed Mexican laborers to legally immigrate for a portion of the year and work on contract for farmers and ranchers. These men were mostly experienced farm workers who came to help pick fruit and vegetables, hoe and pick cotton, thrash grain, and anything else that needed to be done.

It took vegetable sheds, the introduction of irrigation, and the cultivation of more cotton to bring the braceros to Muleshoe in the mid-50s. Most of the principle players in that part of Muleshoe’s history are gone now, but I was able to  piece together stories of hard work and prosperous times from some who  are still around.

The braceros who immigrated to the Muleshoe area came mostly from the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. They would ride a train from the interior of Mexico to El Paso and Del Rio where crew bosses, like Benny Pena and others, would load up a bus, sometimes a truck, and bring them back to Muleshoe. The farmers would then hire as many as they needed. The men  would stay for the growing season and then go back to Mexico. They signed a contract with one farmer who was responsible for them. If they got into trouble, they were sent home. The workers would overwhelmingly be young men whose families stayed behind in Mexico.

From what I can piece together housing was sometimes provided by the employer, such as cabins out by Nichols Gin,  by the farmers, or by the city of Muleshoe in worker housing. Sometimes they would camp out on the farms. Jesse Leal and others would see to it that the housing was made available and that the men were not taken advantage of, which might be easy to do, what with the language barrier and the fact that the men were in a new situation and unsure of what was going on.

But they were here to work, and work they did. They were here to make money, and they did. As one man put it, they made 50 cents an hour but could live on 50 cents a day. Six dollars a day here turned into 12 dollars a day to send home with the exchange rate, and while that may not sound like much, remember this was the 1950s. I can remember buying a Frito pie and a Coke at the Dairy Queen for 15 cents back then, so the money was good.

They would be paid on Friday at the end of the work day and then shop that night and on Saturday. Jere Nell (White) Flowers relates that the farmers would bring them into town after dark, and they would shop till midnight and later at her dad’s grocery store, White’s Cashway, located in the building that is now the Heritage Thrift Shop. Kids like Mike Perez who worked in the store would help with translating as they bought  pinto beans, flour, flank steak, cornmeal, and other simple staples to cook.

Charlie Isaac moved his family and business to Muleshoe from Lubbock after he sold clothes to them out of the back of his car. He said he could sell in three days what it took him six months to sell in Lubbock. His Fair Store flourished and supported his family and put his five kids through college.

Pamela (St. Clair) Miller said her parents, owners of St. Clair’s Department Store,  would drive to Lubbock on Thursday and stock up on trousers, boots, and shoes, set everything out on Friday, and sell out on Saturday. Higginbotham’s, which used to be downtown, supplied them with  shovels and tools.

Seeing to the needs of the men, which also involved making sure they were eating, provided the opportunity for Jesse and Irma Leal to get their start making tortillas and taking their place in the history of the popularity of Mexican food eateries. Daughter Laura Leal also remembers men coming up to her father long after the Bracero Program went away to thank him again for making their stay easier and in some cases helping them gain U.S. citizenship.

Jack Schuster said the braceros couldn’t be beat with a hoe or shovel, that they were good workers who could work circles around him. He had high praise for them and their trustworthiness. He had one man who stayed through the winter to help out and can remember being awakened  in the mornings by his  beautiful voice  as the man trimmed trees, just singing away as he worked.

All was not sweetness and light, however, as there is always a flip side. One man felt like they weren’t worth the trouble, especially  in later years when machinery starting doing some of the work and after the braceros  became more comfortable in their surroundings, They would have to be bailed out of jail for drunkenness and fighting. And as time went on, theft became a problem.

The work was hard and living conditions were temporary and base, and eventually stories surfaced about abuse and inhumane treatment. I would like to think those stories came out of the areas where the braceros had been in the work force longer, like in other states’  fruit orchards.  Were these men being taken advantage of? Undoubtedly in some places they were. Were some of these men taking advantage of opportunities to steal and abuse the program? Probably so. But consider that even the most Spartan living quarters here were still better than what most of them left behind in Mexico. Here they were able to make a living; in Mexico they could not. Here they had a chance to make money to make a better life for themselves when they returned to their homes and families.  The men considered themselves lucky to have that chance and were tickled to be here. And don’t forget, farmers were able to  harvest crops that would have otherwise wasted away in the fields. Everyone benefitted and no one was illegal.

After the war, returning servicemen took back their jobs and others left their wartime industry jobs for their old jobs, and the braceros were not as in demand.  Eventually C├ęsar Chavez and his farm workers’ union created an uproar addressing the alleged poor working conditions of the Braceros, which of course led to the federal government and labor unions getting involved. Then about this same time the mechanization of farm equipment like cotton pickers and strippers arrived on the farm scene, and the bracero program came to an end  in 1964.

Did Muleshoe benefit from them being here? Without a doubt. It was a time of economic growth for the town. Did farmers benefit from the work of the braceros? Definitely.  Were the braceros able to raise their standard of living thanks to the money they made and the opportunities they had living briefly in the US? Of course they were. In light of our immigration problems today, is this a program that should be revisited and perhaps adjusted? It couldn’t hurt to try.

 

http:www.pbs.org/kpbs/theborder/history/timeline/17.html                5/7/11.

Interviews with Laura Leal, Irma Leal, Ricky Barrett, Jody Barrett, Jere Flowers, Pamela Miller, Jack Schuster, Ray Precure, Charlie Isaac, Bill Liles, and Shorty Flores.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Minnie, the Velcro Cat

IMG_8914 The date was January 7, 2007. We had not had a stray cat or dog show up for a while.  So apparently Fate saw fit to send one our way. Out of nowhere appears this young gray female cat, very vocal, and most happy to see us. Bill did his usual protest-we already have enough cats, he grumbled under his breath, firmly pointing her in the direction out of our yard, but to no avail. Since our house must have a sign invisible to human eyes that says to cats,  SAFE HOUSE, this little cat decided to hang around.

When she was still here the next morning, Bill had already seen the handwriting in the dust on the dresser and told me to get her to the vet for her operation before she presented us with a litter of kittens. Definitely a cat population explosion we could do without.

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Now she needed a name, and as far as he was concerned, that was a done deal: Minnie Too, because, yep, you knew it was coming, we have too many cats!

Most cats will jump down and out of a lap when they feel the person about to get up. Not this cat. She slips into laps and quietly sinks down for what she hopes is a nice nap, and then somehow makes her 12 pounds feel like 24 and digs in with her claws in a frantic effort not to lose her warm spot when the lap she chose disappears. She clings, yes,  just like Velcro.

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She hasn’t made it into Bill’s lap just yet, but I assure you she will try and then do her Velcro thing.

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But she earns her keep. We find little mouse bodies by the front door all the time. And occasionally she manages to land a gopher and leaves those for us, too. She has many chances to do this because she is one of our outdoor cats. She has a nice cozy bed in the garage on top of the freezer, complete with  a heat lamp in the wintertime, and a dry food dispenser right there handy. Every time she comes in the house I have something to clean up in the pantry, as she seems to think she needs to be on one of the shelves and always sends something crashing down to the floor when she tries to land. Needless to say,  she doesn’t get to come in much. We spend our quality time with her outside.

IMG_5295 So even though we did then, and still do now,  have too many cats, we had just enough room for her. And she knew we did. That’s why she picked us for her new home.