Archive for March, 2009


Tuesday, March 31st, 2009




            Tom Green lived in our town, and hung out at the feed store where I worked.  He was a big man with a quick grin and a quiet voice.  Most folks were attracted to him.  It felt comfortable being around him.  It was said in his youth he had traveled and worked all over the world at all kinds of occupations.  He followed the oil field crowd from west Texas to Venezuela and on to the Philippines. He worked as an Archeologist in China’s Gobi desert as well as in the shadows of the pyramids of Egypt.  Some stories hinted he had served as a French soldier in North Africa.  Few in our town had been far from the county line, and especially me.


            One day I summoned up enough courage to ask him a question.  “Mr. Green, what was the most exciting adventure you remember?”


            Tom leaned his rawhide-bottomed chair against the feed store wall and sat quietly staring at the ceiling.  I was afraid he hadn’t heard me and was about to repeat my question.  “Well it may have been the time I almost saved a young damsel in distress from the ravages of a Dragon,” he said.

            Don’t you know this statement got my full attention?  I stood closer, not to miss a single word he said.

            “I was living in Houston at the time and got an anxious call from a niece of mine,” he said.  “She had grown up in west Texas and had just moved to a little village in the country.  Her excited voice on the phone told me she had a problem.  She said there was a Dragon in her back yard that had eaten her cat and was now chasing her dog around the fenced yard.  I grabbed my gun and a rope, jumped into my pick-up and raced the few miles to her home.  In my haste I was driving a little fast.  A police car, with lights flashing, pulled me over.  He gave me a ticket for speeding, and going the wrong way on a one-way street.  The Cop asked me what my hurry was?  I answered that I was going to capture a Dragon that was threatening my niece.  He pulled me from the truck and made me walk the centerline of the street.  Convinced I was not drunk, he let me go.  My niece met me at the door almost in tears.  She said as her dog was making the fifth run around the yard, ahead of the dragon, she opened the door, let the dog in, and slammed the it shut just as the Dragon hit the screen, tearing it to pieces.  I peeked out the window.  I did not see any fire and smoke billowing from a Dragon’s nose or mouth as I had expected.  In fact I couldn’t see a Dragon.  What I did see, lying flat in the grass in the middle of the yard was a five-foot long alligator.  I thought about teasing her for thinking an alligator was a fire breathing; smoke blowing Dragon, but considering she was from west Texas I thought perhaps I should let lying Dragons lay.  I roped the ‘gator’, and with the help of a neighbor dragged the ‘monster’ back to the nearby bayou.  On the way back to my niece’s house, we found her cat, high in a tree, safe and unscorched.”


            All these years since that tale was told to me I have wondered about its veracity.   However, now that I am his age, as he was then, I wonder what I would tell a freckle faced, tow headed little boy should he ask me, “What is the most exciting adventure you have had?”





Eugene Pirtle

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Eugene Pirtle’s Eulogy

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009


           Driving from here to Odessa is bad enough, but to give the eulogy for a favorite brother-in-law makes it more difficult.  The Odessian Plain is austere, flat, dry and oil rich.  The men are sun burnt, strong, tough and honest.  Add a sly grin to that description and you have a picture of my brother-in-law Eugene Pirtle.


          Eugene was born and grew up in a lovely family structure; he had 4 older sisters and 3 younger sisters.  His older brothers had already left home to serve in the army.  This may have colored his life a bit.  The girls teased Eugene when he was very young into making him think he was a girl.  One day he came in and announced if he were going to be a girl he would just dress like one.  He had on his mother’s corset.


          He grew up to become quite a man in spite of that rough start.  He and a neighbor, Orlee Haygood, bought a goat together.  It was supposed to be a milk goat, but as it grew fate decided it was a billy goat, and a mischievous one at that.  Mrs. Pirtle had washed the bed sheets on a rub-board with lye soap and hung them on the line to dry.  Looking out the window Mrs. Pirtle noticed the goat chewing on one of the clean sheets.  She shooed the goat; the goat ran, pulling all the sheets into the dirt.  That was when they all decided the goat would make better cabrito than milk.  This episode inspired Eugene, so he wrote a song and taught it to the girls:

     Oh, the billy goat, the billy goat,
 Was feeling fine Was feeling fine,
    He ate those sheets, those six white sheets
     right off the line
    Then the billy goat, the billy goat
      was feeling pain, was feeling pain
     He coughed up those sheets
      Those six white sheets,
     And flagged the train.


          Once Frances, and Fay, 2 of the older sisters, and Gene were digging a new cellar.  The younger sisters, Alice, Willine, and Betty were close by supervising.  They dug into a bed of baby skunks.  The older girls convinced Eugene the baby skunks would make great pets and would not smell.  Eugene convinced Mrs. Pirtle, so she relented, letting him have them for pets.  He kept them in a shoebox behind the cook stove.  One morning something disturbed the babies, and they all released their smell at one time.  That morning breakfast tasted good, but had a peculiar smell.  The shoebox was burned and the baby skunks were returned to the woods.


          Living on a farm the man of the house milks the cows.  You may be assured Eugene got the job.  One cow, “Legs, she was called,” was famous for having the habit of kicking the bucket just as it reached the halfway mark.  That morning she did it again.  All the milk did not spill, so Eugene took the pail with the little remaining milk, walked to the front of “Legs” and poured it over her head.  Of course the girls saw this.  From that time on the act was known as “The Time Gene baptized “Legs.”


          Once a neighbor, Mrs. Dutton, whose husband was out of town, said she was afraid of being home alone.  Brave Faye and Eugene offered to stay the night with her.  Unknown to them there was to be a total eclipse of the moon that night.  As the night, bright with a full moon, began getting darker a strange feeling crept over the farm house.  Eugene went to the window to see what was happening.  Mrs. Dutton noticed the unusual light and  came to the window and stumbled over Eugene.  They both screamed.  Faye, still in bed, leapt up and screamed.  Not knowing what was happening they all raced to the living room and landed on the couch, clutching each other.  They finely figured what was going on and had a good laugh.  


          The war ended and Eugene’s brothers, W.A. and James came home and moved to Burnet, Texas.  Eugene packed up his shirts, his sly grin, and came to Burnet, my home town.  Eugene was well received by us boys, and the girls were ecstatic.  Eugene helped organized an ‘Outlaw’ basket ball team.  We ordered satin black   uniforms, each with white double numbers.  Eugene’s number was eleven.  He stole so many balls from our opponents he became known as “Stealing Leben.”   Us six boys took on all comers.  We played the State Champion team from Johnson City and held them to 100 points to our 40.  Eugene invited a team from Ft. Hood to play us.  Their 4 teams arrived in 3 busses and pretty well ragged us until the only thing left in us was Gene’s grin.  Eugene was the only one of our gang to earn a ‘letter’ in basket ball.


          Eugene and I, and 3 other guys hatched  a plan to take a road trip to the Grand Canyon.  Dad loaned us his car and we loaded it with food, bedding and headed west.  Each night we  found a spot by the side of the road and camped.  Eugene was elected camp cook and he did a fine job. We later learned the reason he took the task; he didn’t want to drag firewood, or wash dishes.  We sampled Juarez, swam in the Pecos River, and reached the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns.  At the Grand Canyon we raced down Bright Angle Trail, and crawled back up.  On the way home we took in the Meteor Crater in Arizona.  Camping out that night Eugene cooked up pancakes from our dwindling larder, using substitute ingredients. He may have invented the toughest pancakes in history.  However, later we were able to use them to swat mosquitoes.  Arriving home, Dad was glad to see us 5 boys safe and sound.  And the car looked ok also.


           To the Burnet girl’s dismay, Eugene began dating a beautiful red headed, rancher’s daughter from Lampasas.  He and Veona, and me and my girl double dated all over central Texas.  Soon Gene introduced me to his little sister, Alice.  Us four became inseparable and dated in not only central Texas, but widened our scope to include the complete state.  We climbed mountains, swam rivers, explored caves, ate in cafes from Amarillo to Brownsville, and stayed up late from Texarkana to El Paso.  He married Veona, I married Alice.  He went west, and built a fine ‘oil patch’ buisness, and became a leader in the city of Odessa.  I stayed east, and enjoyed the green grass.  But the best thing Eugene did was introduce me to Alice, his little sister.    


          We reluctantly released Eugene into God’s care.  I know with his exuberance for life, his love for family and friends and his infectious sly grin he will take Heaven easily.