Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sometimes You Have to Sing the Blues

Copyright B. Kliban

My cat’s favorite song.

What?  You never had a slow blogging day?

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Forgotten History: When the Mexican Revolution Came to Texas

'Revolution' Woodcut by José Guadalupe Posada

In 1915, as Mexico reeled with tremors of its revolution, the borderlands along the southern tip of Texas known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley  blazed with a brief uprising of its own. A spillover from the Mexican revolt, it consisted of the effort by a small handful of mostly US-born mejicanos to reclaim the region for Mexico.  It failed, lasting a little more than a month and resulted in a few raids on Anglo-owned ranches and a few killings.

But it unleashed a frenzy retaliation and shootings and lynchings by Texas Rangers and local Anglo vigilantes that raged across the Valley. In its aftermath, it left a legacy of ethnic segregation and animosity between whites and Mexican-Americans that plagued the Valley for decades.

Historians estimate that 3,000 to 5,000 people — mostly Tejanos, or Texas-born Latinos — died over a three-year period before the killings stopped. Postcards featuring images of the lynched bodies of Tejanos became popular. Entire families were thrown off their property and forced into exile in Mexico. The great majority had nothing to do with the uprising.

The event, long ignored on this side of the border, is the subject of Revolution in Texas:  How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans, by Southern Methodist University history professor Benjamin Heber Johnson

It is part of the American story that should be remembered and understood, Johnson said during an interview in 2004. “The period of the border uprising was long perceived by academics as a marginal event,” Johnson said. ” But it held the same power among Latinos on both sides of the border as the lynching of Emmett Till held for blacks in Mississippi.”

The manifesto for this uprising along the Texas border stemmed from the so-called Plan de San Diego,  an egnimatic documents discovered in January 1915 when it was found carried by a Mexican rebel named Basilio Ramos  when he was detained in McAllen, Texas. In hyperbolic language, it called for an armed uprising to to begin February 20 to reclaim Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California for Mexico, and other lands for Indians and blacks. Prisoners and Anglo males 16 and over were to be executed. News of the manifesto sparked panicky fear among Anglo settlers, many of them new immigrants from outside Texas.

February came and went with no revolt. Meanwhile, Mexican raiders  raided along both sides of the Rio Grande. They particularly targeted farms and ranches owned by Anglos and railroad lines. Several ranchers and their workers were killed. Texas Rangers were sent in, beginning what a South Texas newspaper referred to as a ‘war of extinction.’  They were joined by Anglo vigilantes. in a wave of shootings and lynchings that spread across the Valley. Bodies were thrown onto flaming pyres. In some areas, Rangers forbid family members from gathering the remains for burial. Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón, in his journal Regeneración described the events in Texas as as genocide directed against Tejanos.

Like a harsh fever, the violence burned out.  The Mexican revolution continued on its bloody path and soon, America went to war in Europe. The brief uprising in the Rio Grande Valley became lost in history and the calamitous events in the world. But it’s never been forgotten, especially by families in the Valley who still tend graves of those lynched for the crime of being ‘foreigners’ in their own land.

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Ubiquitous Cat Post the Second

Some of you may already  be familiar with this picture. It’s the Cat Also Known as O’Malley. He came into our life about five years ago. A girl my elder son knew could no longer keep this cute, adorable kitten.  She had named him after O’Malley the Alley Cat, character in the one Disney feature that we had escaped seeing. So he became ours.

It was a strange time. In rapid succession, we had just lost a Golden, Molly, age 15, a Bassett, Flash, age 13, and a long-haired cat named Emma, age 16.  O’Malley came in, took charge. He left instructions on feeding – the bowl must NEVER be empty. Else you get The Glare. Water is to be drunk out of the bathroom sink. Never a bowl.   Our bed is his bed. Our couch, his. He frequently lays between us at night, stretched out to his full 3′ 3″ length, his head on my pillow. He also hogs the covers.

For fun, he pretends my wife is a gazelle and spends many happy hours stalking her through the house, trying to bring her down by biting her feet.  He frequently mistakes my arm for a scratching post. And at moments when I’m feeling my most creative at the computer, he jumps on the desk and forces his considerable weight into my arms. And purrs.

More later. I fiand id hardter tu typppe now…

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The Rag Man Is My Friend

We first noticed it several years ago. Someone was stealing our junk. First, an explanation.

Twice a year in our neighborhood, the city of San Antonio sponsors what they fondly call ‘Brush Drives.’  All the cut tree limbs, fallen palm fronds, bags of leaves and poor, dessicated plants killed by the 102-degree summers and other stuff the bi-weekly trash pickup won’t take can be piled in front of the house and nice men in trucks come  by and pick it up.  Sometime back, the city let us add all the detritus crap that builds up in the garage, back closets, etc. So, we’d add broken dining chairs, moldy pillows (don’t ask), cracked bric-a-brac and the unidentifiable boxes we moved over from the old house and never  unpacked.

The next morning, things like the chairs & souvenir gee-gaws from Disney Land (20 years ago. Once was enough.) were gone. And someone had picked through the stack of boxes.

“Who the hell would take THAT crap,” I asked rhetorically.

My wife answered anyway. “Someone who needed it.”

And it was true. People would drive through the neighborhood, scavenging for used household goods or anything remotely usable to either use themselves or sell at swap meets.  We’d see the pickup wheezing along the street like rusty sharks.

It took a while, but the Light Bulb of Inspiration finally lit up.

Someone could use our old junk!

We began small at first – a few cracked dishes and some old music cassettes. (Fifth of Beethovan. Why?) The next morning, they were gone. Soon, it grew to stacks of old floppy discs, old computers, printer cables, old phones, a chair that needed upholstery, phone books…PHONE BOOKS! And they were gone.

We cleaned out closets and then moved to the garage. Stuff I hadn’t seen in years went to the front. Gone. Lumber from half-finished projects. Gone. Once, I moved two bags of books to the front. They were gone by the time I returned with another load.

When the basketball goal our younger son had spent many hours using lost out to Xbox, it sat rusting in the back yard for a few more years. But it didn’t last 10 minutes at the front.

Once, we had just manhandled a large hideous couch out to front. We were halfway up the drive when a smoky Chevy truck of uncertain vintage pulled up. A young man climbed and began trying lift the monster into his truck.  I turned around to help him and he backed away as though I was going to snatch the treasure away. His wife sat in the passenger side, watching us closely. A small child peeked out from her lap. “We need a couch,” he said. I told him it was his.

As I helped him load it up, my wife approached the side of the truck with an old stuffed toy, a ridiculous looking dog, that had belonged to one of they boys.

“We’re getting rid of this too,” she said to the woman, who I’m sure spoke no English. But the young child in her lap understood. He looked at his mother, who nodded. Then and only then he took the dog as his own.  We watched them drive away with the complete realization that we had far too much stuff.

It was time to simplify. Even after the city ramped up its recycling program with once-a-week pickups, we continued to place no longer wanted or needed items on the front walk. And it always finds a new home.

We don’t need it. Someone else does.


OK. In the interest of full disclosure and the fact that someone who knows us may stumble  upon this blog one day, I need to add something. We’ve  been known to scavenge the neighborhood too. We’ve gone on walks and returned with an ancient birdcage, a wobbly table and a plant stand with a broken leg. Our best find was a painting, a large,semi-expressionist work showing two fencers  at work in brilliant white, yellow & orange. It wound up in a son’s bedroom. I’d show you a picture, but he’s already liberated it and taken the artwork to Houston.

The point is, neighbor-assisted recycling isn’t something only the poor do. It’s human nature. We see something laying out by the trashcans and it’s too good, too neat to throw away. So we take it.  And something that people used or loved or simply needed/wanted for a while finds a new home and a new use. Though I’m still stumped why anyone would want our old phone books.


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Good Advice to Democrats from 1889

I’ve had this original cover from Punch Magazine, dated June 12, 1889 hanging on my office wall for years. It now seems more timely than ever.

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Tomorrow is Monday.

You have been warned.

Copyrighted: Bill Watterson

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Let every generation know this simple truth…

God bless you, Walt Kelly

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