Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In Honor of Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and before we turn the page on the calendar,  I want to say thank you to some of the Americans of African descent who have enriched my life.

Thank you to George Washington Carver for his work with peanuts.  While he didn’t invent peanut butter, which was my impression-the Aztecs actually did-he is sometimes given credit. He promoted the crop, supplied recipes using peanuts, and developed around 100 products made from peanuts, not to mention his  many other contributions as a scientist, botanist, educator, role model, and inventor. I used to sit down with a spoon and eat peanut butter straight out of the jar. I ate my way through high school on peanut butter, Miracle Whip, mustard,  and lettuce sandwiches. Okay, now I can hear the collective yuck! out there, but before you knock it, try one: peanut butter on both pieces of unhealthy white bread, mustard on one side, Miracle Whip on the other- and here’s the secret- a thick batch of iceberg lettuce in between. Williams Sonoma recipe inventor, eat your heart out.

I may get hammered for my next choice, and I grieve for the heavy hearts and weary bodies that sought respite and strength in them and  gave them life, but I value the Negro Spirituals, or Afro-American Spirituals, as they are now  labeled in my church  hymnal.  Spirituals are filled with  lovely harmony and melody,  succinct lyrics, are sincere in their faith, and provide hope and comfort when listened to or sung. These songs obviously mean something entirely different to me than to their original composers and the black experience today,  but the songs nevertheless provide me with beautiful music to comfort my soul and express my faith.

Seems to me the spirituals must surely have given rise to modern day blues, another musical genre that the black community has given us, and one that I enjoy immensely. Thank you especially  to B.B. King, the wonderful Etta James, and Bobby “Blue” Bland for their brand of blues. Blues speak to the unhappy human condition, but by the time the song ends and the soulful  harmonies enjoyed,  the listener is beginning to smile, shakes it off, and is a bit more ready to  face the adversities that may have to be dealt with next.

And then there is the incomparable Ray Charles. From his early R&B albums to his country music arrangements, I have them all. During my high school days I would put a stack of his LPs on the stereo and not drift off to sleep until they had all played. I loved it.

As to other black voices that I love to hear, thanks goes to Tina Turner, The Platters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Johnny Mathis Earth, Wind, and Fire, Pointer Sisters, Quincy Jones (am I showing my age or what?)  that grace my stereo on many occasions. 

And I have to  pay homage to Whitney Houston in what had to be her finest hour, performing our National Anthem at the Super Bowl. She didn’t miss a note, didn’t forget the words, and didn’t do anything stupid at the end.  The sheer joy and exuberance with which she sang, smiled, and waved to the crowd couldn’t help but make me smile and always brings tears to my eyes every time I hear and see her performance. 

Thank you to Ethel Mae, who was the housekeeper for my friend Carol Sue’s family growing up and who always looked after us when necessary, and to the other black women who kept the households running smoothly and the children on their best behavior. Just like the women recognized in the movie The Help, they were brave, strong, and contributed to many a family’s success then, and many still do even now, I suspect.

Thank you to George who was employed by my dad for more than 25 years. I don’t know that I ever knew his last name- kids don’t worry about stuff like that- but I do remember that there were weekends every now and then that George would sort of overdo things. Daddy would get a call on a Monday morning and then go retrieve him out of jail, after which it would just be work as usual. George was a valued employee and friend.

I have no philosophical, profound conclusion to all this rambling. I just wanted to say thank you to the black Americans who have touched my life in some way. Your gifts have been many, and I am glad you shared them with America. And me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Valentine’s Day Rocked!


No, really. My valentine was an all day road trip to gather rocks for my latest landscaping project.


My husband has this knack for coming up with appropriate gifts for me. For example, after I received my fist Painted Pony from my friend Hellen, Bill gave me a second one, and I thought, hey, I can collect these! Now I have 48.  One Christmas I was graced with a new sharpshooter shovel. Yeah, that may seem like one step away from the utilitarian vacuum cleaner gift, but I was tickled to get my new shovel! One Mother’s Day he gave me a new nursery wagon for carting supplies as I do my landscaping. Opium perfume and body powder are old standards I always enjoy unwrapping, and jewelry shows up frequently as well. Then there was the surprise trip to Las Vegas to enjoy the Elton John/Billy Joel Piano Man concert.

So he was right on target again this year when he presented me with a typed invitation to spend Valentine’s Day with him traveling to the Coleman area for rocks and trying out two as yet unsampled eating places to eat lunch and supper.

We left at 7:30 after seeing Colten off to school and  made it to Sweetwater in time to check out Allen Family Style Meals for lunch; I recommend their excellent fried chicken. We drove into our friend Ed’s place about 1:30.

Ed has been generous to share his rocks with me for about fifteen years now.  Work and pleasure took us past Ed’s rock-littered ranch as we drove to the Austin area for various pursuits, and when I started working on my rock garden in earnest, Bill suggested I stop and introduce myself and see if the landowner would let me have some of his many rocks. So I did. Ed, of course, thought I had lost my mind and was truly baffled that anyone would seek out rocks on purpose when he had so many they were a nuisance. “You really don’t have any rocks up there?” he asked in disbelief. I assured him all we had were ugly caliche rocks that had to be dug up and his were pretty and right there mostly on top of the ground for the taking. So he agreed that he indeed had plenty to share and that I could have all I wanted. So Bill and I came back later and traded a box of Barrett Produce potatoes for a trailer load of rocks. What a deal!


Through the years there were other rock trips, and we became friends with Ed and his wife Ruth. A few years ago Ruth passed on, Ed married Dee, and while I had just about all the rocks I needed by then, we still stopped to check on Ed and see how things were going from time to time.

So now that another project had popped into my head, Bill saw that it was inevitable that I would be bugging him to make another rock haul, hence the great idea for our day together hand-picking and importing rocks to Muleshoe. I love to tell people that- after all anything imported and done by hand sounds more exclusive than mass-produced or simply bought, right?

IMG_6632Mari went with us, but wasn’t as excited about her adventure as I was. She nosed around while we gathered just the right rocks for what I had in mind.

I said that most of Ed’s rocks are above ground, and most of them are, but there are always a few really good ones just peeking out that I can tell have potential. The catch is that there is always more rock under the ground than meets the eye, and sometimes there is more digging involved than Bill would have liked. But we persevered and popped out some nice specimens, and in one instance uprooted a tarantula who was agreeable and wandered off. Sometimes it is obvious the rock is still firmly attached to Mother Earth, and I begrudgingly have to pass it by.




Bill also knew I would want some big ones, so he hooked up a wench that made it easy to load by pulling it over a ramp of sorts.


We had a good load by 4 o’clock, not as full a trailer as some of our other trips, but I had what I needed, and we decided to call it a day. After a visit with Ed, we headed for home. We made it to Snyder in time for supper and took the business exit to visit The Shack, as we had passed their billboard on the highway many times. We ordered their chicken-fried steak specialty for our rare second helping of fried food for the day.

And after a pleasant drive listening to Willie’s Road House and familiar stuff from the 50s and 80s, we made it home by 10:00, just in time for bed. it had been a long day, but a nice one. And a great valentine.


Now if I can just get the weather to cooperate, I have rocks to unload and admire while I get my exercise landscaping a new area. When it is done and things green up around it, I will show it off to you. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Heritage Thrift Shop


Back in the 80s, the Muleshoe hospital auxiliary had a thrift store run by Jennie McVicker and  Dorothy Green, wife of Dr. Green at the hospital. This thrift store operated from two different locations, the last one being on Highway 84. Time passed and about the time the hospital closed briefly, in 1986 or ‘87, Dorothy closed the thrift store. Without a hospital there was not much need for a hospital auxiliary, and Dorothy had grown weary of the shop anyway.

The Muleshoe Heritage Foundation, remember, had only been in existence a few short years by this time, and Vivian White, who had been active in both the Heritage Foundation and the hospital auxiliary,  saw an opportunity to provide the community with a thrift shop while generating operating income for the Heritage Foundation. Vivian and her husband T.R. White, owners of White’s Cashway Grocery Store, had recently gotten out of the grocery business, and the building was available. The thrift shop was moved to the Cashway building, at the corner of Main Street and Avenue D. In 1998 Jeri (White) Flowers and her brother Cliff donated the building to the Heritage Foundation.


Thanks to Vivian’s efforts, the Heritage Foundation benefitted from the thrift shop’s revenue, now called the Heritage Thrift Shop. The Heritage Foundation’s only income sources had been from membership dues, the SCAC annual bake sale, proceeds from the Tour de Muleshoe,  fund raisers, foundation grants written and submitted by Ann McElroy, and donations from interested patrons like Ray and Donna West, so this was a welcome source of funds to cover the day to day operating expenses of the Heritage Center.




The thrift shop is a veritable gold mine of bargains. Clothes and accessories make up the majority of their inventory, but they have a little bit of just about everything;  books, kitchen items, furniture, toys, linens, magazines, novelty items, baskets, all kinds of things that people from the community donate rather than throw away.  Furniture is an especially popular item; I was told that furniture sells very quickly, many times right after it has been put on display.


On Mondays Peggy Bates, Ruby Henderson, Mary Jo Burge, Martha Stroud,  Jeraldene  Richardson, (and for many years the late LaDean Spears) dig into the donations,  inspecting, sorting, and preparing what will go on the shelves. When large items like furniture are left outside by the front door, J.C, Pearson comes over to help move them inside.


Twice a year the employees box up everything that hasn’t sold for the season and  move it out to make room for more items coming in. This old inventory used to go to the Salvation Army, but it now goes to Concho Resource Center in San Angelo, where the items are still put to good use. You might like to know that Concho sells everything by the pound to Saver’s Thrift Shop in Lubbock. Concho Resources then uses that income to employ and train the mentally and physically challenged, enabling them to become productive and self-sufficient citizens. But the benefits don’t stop there: whatever doesn’t sell at Saver’s Thrift Shop is then sold at  a low rate and shipped overseas to 200 developing countries who then give those items yet another life. India, for example, routes the books sent to be used in their schools. All this recycling and reuse keeps a million pounds of waste per year out of landfills, a worthwhile accomplishment in itself.


I asked the ladies about some of the more unusual items they have come across when sorting the inventory, and Peggy laughed that once someone brought in a pair of fuzzy house shoes, each filled with a full can of beer. She figured someone was hacked when they discovered they were two cans short of their supply. She also said that many times  new clothes with the tags still in tact are donated.



There are those dedicated shoppers out there who delight in scouring the racks and coming up with nice complete outfits for a fraction of the cost at retail stores and those who just want to stretch their clothing dollar with bargains. I find the thrift shop helpful when I need the occasional replacement piece, like a lid for my Corning Ware casserole dish, or drawer dividers to organize my drawers, long-sleeved work shirts, older real Levi’s without Spandex in the denim, those nice fat plastic hangers-a real bargain at ten for a dollar,  really cheap flower pots, hardback books, belts, snow skiing apparel, men’s work overalls for a costume once, and other things I need from time to time.


The thrift shop is open to accept donations every Monday morning from 8 to 12 and open for business on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 to 4. Save yourself some money and support your Heritage Foundation at the same time. You’ll be amazed at what you might find.



Thanks to Dolores Harvey, Jeri Flowers, Sheila Stevenson, Jennie McVicker, Lela Ann Smith,  Peggy Bates, Ruby Henderson, Martha Stroud, Mary Jo Burge, Jeraldene Richardson, Marilyn at Concho Resource Center, and Rachel at Saver’s Thrift Shop for helping me gather information for this article.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Muleshoe Heritage Center-There’s More

Let’s look at the rest of the historical structures that have been added to the Heritage Center and meet some of the people who are important to its existence.


The one-room school house came from the Stegall community, southwest of Muleshoe. The little school is outfitted with the old-fashioned wooden desks that connect to each other, a pot-bellied stove, benches for other community occasions, a blackboard with cursive writing examples on top, a water bucket for the kids, lunch pails made from syrup cans, lots of  things typical of the era. One well-known former student was Francis Gaddy Stegall, whose  family moved to the Stegall community in 1922, and she attended the school when it opened in 1925. Later she went on to marry Frank Stegall and became an author and artist.


The 50s House is not an historical structure of the oldest variety, although it was originally the office of Walt Sain. What’s historical about the 50s house is what it contains:  a nostalgic blast from the somewhat recent past, 50s memorabilia and furniture: an early TV; records and a record player; movie posters; dinette table and chairs, all kinds of things. Other rooms of the building house an old post office, a dentist’s office complete with dentist chair and implements, all from local dentists Andy Lewis, Charles Lewis, and A.Z. Beaty. A  medical doctor’s room is furnished with artifacts from Drs. Slemmons, McDaniels, and Birdsong.



The storage barn used to be just that-for storage. Now it is also the home of  the Branding Wall, which started out as a money-making project but serves to provide history lessons about the area. Families provided the history of their family brand, which was written out in metal-art, and then the Foundation held branding parties, three in all. The families brought their branding iron, which was heated in the flames of a typical old West range fire, and the brand was then burned on a piece of wood to go above its history. A total of 58 brands and family histories are displayed on three sides of the barn and the wooden fence behind it. 


The Heritage Foundation purchased one of the school district’s temporary buildings when the recent school renovations were completed. The plan is to turn it into  a visitor’s center, with public restrooms, the business office, visitor information, a gift shop, and a display area for local collections to be shared.


Still undergoing reconstructive surgery, the newest addition to the center is the Yellow Jacket Inn. Believe it or not, the Muleshoe school mascot used to be a yellow (probably gold) and purple yellow jacket. I think the Mules were adopted in 1950, but since the Yellow Jacket opened in 1946, I have to figure that is how the name came about.  And it was painted yellow. The Yellow Jacket was located on West Avenue D behind De Shazo Elementary, within walking distance of the junior high and high school students as well. The eatery changed hands a few times, from original builders/operators Clay and Jennie Beavers to Spenser and Phyllis Border Beavers to Charles and Hazel Ball who owned it when it closed in 1999. Ace and Esmeralda Hanaway bought the Yellow Jacket property and donated the building in memory of Charles and Hazel Ball to the Heritage Foundation in 2009. Kenneth Henry was instrumental in its move to the Heritage Center.  The most popular item on the menu was said to be the golden corn dog.


Ray West, Muleshoe class of 1954, and his wife Donna, now live in Midland, but Ray still has fond memories and ties to Muleshoe, and has been a dedicated supporter of several entities in town. The Heritage Foundation has benefitted greatly from his generous financial endowments which enabled the Foundation to purchase land for expansion of the center, land purchased in honor of Ray’s mother and dad, Theron and Leatha West. Recently land was also purchased for an RV park. The park is a community effort, with the Foundation getting help from the city and county with construction and maintenance. Visitors can camp for the first three days at no charge with a fee assessed after that. The hope is that the easy-in, easy-out design and the many area attractions will encourage people to stop and stay a while. For those of you planning a summer trip, it should be up and running by vacation season.

This story is running long, so I won’t go into the other things in the Center to see that I haven’t mentioned, like the working windmill, the museum in the basement of the Janes House, the granary,  and other  odds and ends that the modern world no longer uses but helped get us  where we are today.

IMG_6464Dolores Harvey, Center manager and hostess, is on hand every afternoon and by appointment to give tours of the center and schedule events for you.

IMG_6875Long time Foundation member Sammie Simpson is part amateur historian and sleuth who has devoted much time and energy researching and then outfitting the historical structures with period-appropriate artifacts down to the smallest details. 

IMG_6503 Membership in the Foundation stands at 103 and dues are  $25 a year. The board meets once a month in the Depot meeting room and regular members and visitors are welcome to attend.  Current board members are, left to right: Rodger Buhrman; Sheila Stevenson, secretary; Dolores Harvey, manager; Gene Rogers; Bobbie Harrison, vice-president; Kathy Vandevender; Tom Watson, president; Gina Wilkerson; Lacy Vardeman; Lonnie Adrian, Tour de Muleshoe chairman; Norris Conkin, treasurer; and Paul Poynor. Not pictured are Charles Hamilton, Marcha Rasco, and Chris Mardis, SCAC sponsor.

The Heritage Foundation does not run itself, and many people, such as those currently serving on the board as well as many others,  have given of time and talent to make it a meaningful living museum. Jean Allison and the kids responsible for the Save the Depot movement can be credited with its birth; people like Vivian White, R.A. Bradley, Dan Throckmorton, Charles Thomason, Kenneth Henry, Dolores Harvey, Ruth Hall, Ronald McCormick, Jennie McVicker, Maureen Hooten, Jerry Sowder, Cara Juan Schuster, Sheila and Joe Bob Stevenson,  and so many other along the way are to be commended and appreciated for their hard work and dedication. If I left someone off who needs to be recognized, please feel free to correct my oversight in a comment to the blog.

I would also like to encourage you to take a tour one of these days. Just like people who live in New York have never been up the Empire State Building, I’ll bet most of Muleshoe has never toured the Heritage Center. It is well worth your time, and when you have out-of-town visitors, take them, too. You will all be surprised at what history has to offer.


Thanks to Dolores Harvey, Sheila Stevenson, Helen Cook, Jean Allison, and Maureen Hooten for their help gathering information for this article.