Archive for April, 2008

Burton Cotton Gin Festival

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Alice and I visited a classmate and her husband this past weekend at Burton, Texas. Have you ever been to Burton? It is kind of easy to miss on your way to Houston. Burton is just off highway 290 a few miles this side of Brenham. Burton has a population of a little less than 400 peaceful residents. Its been said before, in cases like this, “…and one old grouch.” I didn’t meet him. The big doings in town Saturday was the Burton Cotton Gin Festival. The streets were full of folks being royally entertained with all kinds of fun activates. The parade made this little town proud. They even had a children’s bike parade. I felt the star of the string of passing memorabilia was a green and black, 1932 Ford Coupe with the “rumble seat” full of pretty girls. I thought that would get your attention. A tractor pull was popular, as well as all the arts and crafts lining the streets. And music was constant and varied. There was country and western pickers, barber shop singers, blue grass bands, and the Winedale German Singers performing all day and into the night.

But the star attraction of the three-day celebration is the cotton gin. The gin was built in 1914 and christened “Burton Farmers Gin.” It ran the first 11 years with steam power. The next 23 years the gin was powered by a 125 horsepower, 16 ton, two cylinder, Bessemer, diesel oil engine. In 1963 the big “Lady B” engine was retired and electric motors did the task until the gin closed in 1974, due to the lack of cotton being raised in the area. Then in 1992 a dedicated group of concerned citizens worked long and hard restoring the gin, and putting “Lady B” Bessemer engine back into working condition.

Each year since, the town of Burton has sponsored the “Cotton Gin Festival” so folks can once again experience the thrill of seeing a bale of cotton produced. At about 3pm Saturday, the whistle sounded, just like it did many years ago, calling the farmers to bring their cotton, for the gin was ready. And like, “back then” they came running to see the picked cotton, vacuumed into the “ginning stands” to have the seed removed. Soon the cotton was compressed into a 500-pound bale, wrapped in burlap, tied with steel bands and dumped onto the floor for all to see. A cheer went up and the air filled with applause as the bale was ready for us all to inspect.

Next year, about the third weekend of April, you might enjoy going to Burton, Texas for the “Burton Cotton Gin Festival.” And, if you run into that one old grouch, that lives there, tell him hello for me. I’m still glad I didn’t meet him.

End of the Tale

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

I once wrote a book designed to help young writers with their compositions. Well, that is not exactly what happened. What happened was I told a large group of people that I had written a book to help young writers with their compositions. Neither of these statements were correct. Both were bald-faced lies. And that is how I got into trouble with a friend.
It is a little painful, even today, to tell, but I must finely be honest. I was asked by a group to favor them with an after dinner entertaining speech. I thought it would be a lark to kind of pull their collective legs to fabricate this imagined book that was entitled, “The End of the Tail.” I stated that writing a book is easy to start. One just describes the setting of the world the imagined characters live in. Then you get them into some trouble and worry them around the countryside for a while. Now this is where the young writer gets into trouble. How do you end the story? Never fear, my neat little book comes to the rescue. The book is chuck full of endings of stories. Nothing else. Just story endings. For instance, “John leaned down from his faithful horse, Painter, kissed Rose lightly on the cheek and road off into the sunset.” (Westerns, Love. Pg. 167). You see how easy, and useful this could be? One just looks for an ending that fits the story you have written, tack on the handy, “End of the Tail,” and bingo, you have a prize winning book. The endings are entered in the book both by alphabetical, and by subject. Easy to find, easy to use, and solves a great dilemma in book writing I told them.

I guess I did a better selling job than I thought I was capable of. And that is where I got into trouble. My friend Ruth was in the audience, and she bought the whole story as the truth. She never thought her friend would lead her down the primrose path of fabrication. Ruth hurried home and sent her husband, Fred, out to buy a copy of my, soon to be, best seller. Fred drove to every bookseller in Austin, but could not find a copy of my book. They must have flown off the shelves, he thought. He tried to order a copy, but none could find where to order the famous book. Fred came home empty handed, which did not set well with Ruth. She called me. I confessed. “With a candle lit steak dinner, and a bottle of expensive wine at Hill’s Restaurant I was finely able to regain their friendship.” (Friends, Lying to. Pg. 290)

Bluebonnets and Other Wonders of Spring

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

I was out in the pasture, a few days ago; looking at the few bluebonnets we have this year. I suppose the dry spring was a little hard on our favorite flower here in central Texas. While on my scouting trip I noticed many other wild flowers in the area. Indian paintbrush, verbena, blue-eyed grass and evening primrose were all in bloom, but shy in abundance. One flower left me puzzled. It had a leaf arrangement similar to our bluebonnet, with kind of purple blossoms, but with smaller “bonnets.” I did not find this plant listed in any of my “flower” books.

The best solution I have found with these sorts of problems is to call for John Steel. Well, you can’t “call John Steel” for the old man doesn’t have a phone. I left word at Winkley’s Feed Store, which is just about as good as a phone, to have John stop by when he could.

Sure enough, in a few days I saw John’s pick-up, with him and that old spotted dog, coming up our lane. I showed John the mystery plant that had me stumped. He looked at me as if to say, “where have you been all these years Baker.” He was kind enough not to rub my nose in my ignorance. “Baker,” he said, “this plant is a scurvy pea, sometimes called buffalo peas.” “The Indians used this plant to cure all kinds of sickness that befell them.” John went on to tell me the Indians shared their “medicine” with the white man on the frontier. They made teas, and poultices of the leaves and ground the roots and seeds for placing on wounds and boils. “Did it work John?” I asked. “Sure it did, and it still will if you stay in the pasture and out of the drug store. I suppose you can guess I got a pretty good lecture on folk medicine and how I might live forever if I would pay attention.

I suppose that lesson would still be going on if Alice had not interrupted it with a welcome glass of iced tea. And the tea was from Lipton’s I might add. Now I take John Steel’s knowledge about the world and all that is in it, as near to gospel as you can find. From now on, when I find that plant I will instantly know it is “scurvy pea, or sometimes called buffalo peas.” However, the next time one of the grandkids comes by here, I am going to ask them to Google that for me.