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Thursday, March 13, 2008

POISON IVY & POISON OAK REVISITED (a springtime story)

(Excerpt from my book, Growing Up in Rose Hill)

I cannot tell one poison leaf from the other, but I know they both cause itching and make small blisters. One summer Sunday when I was eight or nine, my aunt called and said my cousin Elwood was at their house and we should come over and play with him. My brother was not at home, so I walked alone to my aunt’s house to play with Elwood.

Elwood was one of my city cousins, and things to do are limited when playing with someone wearing leather shoes, long stockings and “knicker” pants. He showed me the official Scout pocket knife that he had gotten that weekend. It had several blades, a screwdriver, an awl, a bottle opener, and I think even a secret compartment. Elwood had not used it yet, so I suggested going to the pine tree at the corner of the field. Walking past the tree earlier on my way to my aunt’s house I had noticed some vines growing up the trunk and I thought they should be cut. We walked back to the tree, cut each vine at ground level, pulled it loose from the bark, and reaching as high as we could, cut it again and threw the cut pieces over the fence into the field. When we had cut all of the vines we walked back to my aunt’s house, washed in the watering trough, and made our appearance just in time for the afternoon meal. No one asked where we had been.

The next afternoon my aunt called and said Elwood had been taken to the doctor with a bad case of poison oak/ivy. By this time I had small blisters on my hands that I treated with kerosene, our usual home remedy. My aunt bought some calamine lotion that dried up the blisters.

I had other minor attacks while still living with my parents but always controlled it with the pink lotion. However, in the next century my luck “ran out.”

Around the first of March in 2000 my oldest daughter Pam was already mowing the back yard when I came home, so I got the edger and edged the front and back yard. In the back there were some berry vines and other vines coming from the flower bed that tangled my edger. I took a garbage bag, got pruning shears and started to remove all of these vines by cutting them into about 16-inch lengths and dropping them into the bag. This effort helped to remove my guilt of letting someone else mow the yard.

Several days later I noticed small blisters, which rapidly became larger, on my right hand and both arms. (I had used a glove on my left hand for the berry vines.) It looked like poison oak or something similar. I started treating myself with calamine ointment and then calamine lotion and in about 10 days it started to dry up. I didn’t miss any meals but it kept me from volunteering at the hospital one week and I had to be careful hugging the grandchildren.

(If you look closely at this photo of me with my grandson Adam, both of us posing in our Handyman t-shirts, you can see calamine lotion on my right hand.)

About a week later my wife Priscilla asked when I planned to pull all the weeds in that bed and I said never. She then said that I should get two day laborers to clean the bed and I said that I would not ask anyone else to go in there and planned to spray the bed with weed killer. She objected to the weed killer idea. The following Saturday, she worked all afternoon pulling weeds in other parts of the yard, and again on Sunday afternoon while I was watching the basketball finals.

On Tuesday she came home before dark and pulled more weeds. When she came into the house she stood between me and the baseball game (the Astros were playing in their new ballpark on TV) and said that her brother had told her I should get someone to clean the rest of the beds. (How her brother in Nebraska got into this I don’t know.)

On Thursday (I don’t like to rush into things) I went to the local day-labor hiring hall. The laborers, understandably eager for paid work, rushed toward me like a bunch of cows running to a farmer’s truck with salt cubes on the back. I held up two fingers, meaning two workers, and seven fingers, meaning $7 per hour. Two guys got into my truck and when we came home I gave them each a pair of gloves, pruning shears and garbage bags, pointed to the area Priscilla had already cleared and then pointed to the east and west fences, 100 feet apart, and made a get-to-work motion. They got on their knees and started pulling and cutting. When they had several bags full I lifted them into the wheelbarrow, very carefully touching the bags only with my fingers and the palms of my hands, and hauled them to the front yard for the trash truck. (What I realized several days later was that when the bags were heavy I brushed them on the front of my pants while putting them in and taking them out of the wheelbarrow.) In between I busied myself with trimming trees, tying the branches into bundles and taking them to the street, mowing the back yard, smashing cans and taking a load to the recycle place, giving my workers ice water and each a large slice of banana nut bread, buying each of us a hamburger (Burger King had a special, 99 cents each), getting a haircut and hauling bags of the workers’ cuttings to the street. When the workers were finished I paid them $50 apiece, drove them back to the hiring hall and then came home and took a shower.

Saturday while driving to Fort Worth I noticed that the top of my right thumb was itching and by the time I got there small blisters were appearing. I thought I could live with this but when I went to bed I noticed some itching on that part of my body immediately behind the zipper on my pants. Examination showed patches of small blisters – but again, I didn’t panic, because I had a doctor appointment Monday for my annual checkup. Sunday I went to both services with my son Tim, a church organist, and stayed in town for his recital that afternoon. I didn’t scratch my private area in public but I was tempted.

Monday my doctor looked at the blisters on my hands and said that doesn’t look too bad. I asked if he wanted to see the worst area and he said no, my nurse will give you a shot that will take about 24 hours to give relief. The shot helped – most of the itching soon improved and no blisters got large enough to drain and break.

I did not drive by the hiring hall for quite some time afterward, fearing that my truck might be recognized. I have also avoided the flower bed. If forced to go near it again I will have a blowtorch in my left hand and a spray bottle of weed killer in my right.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Most of us between the ages of 60 to 80 can remember where we were when we heard that Kennedy had been shot. I had gone to Houston for supplies and was standing at the counter at Warren Electric when someone came from the office behind the counter and said, "The President has been shot." He added that Gov. Connelly was in the same car and had also been shot, then commented, "Too bad they did not hit LBJ."

I had no radio in my truck and when I got to the next store Mrs. Wilder said the gunman had also killed a policeman and had been captured in a movie theater. That evening the news on our 17" black & white TV gave a lot of conflicting information. Sunday after church as I was walking to my car, a man sitting in his car in the parking lot called out, "Oswald has been shot and killed." That evening the chief of police of Dallas and the district attorney, a college roommate of Gov. Connelly, announced that the case was closed, that Oswald had acted alone.

Many people were not satisfied with that report, so 5 days later Pres. Johnson appointed a "blue ribbon" commission to investigate the killings, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren of the Supreme Court and made up of 2 senators, 2 congressmen, former head of the CIA Allen Dulles and former World Bank President John J. McCloy. The commission met 51 times. Except for Warren it was poorly attended by the members--the majority missed most of the sessions. Staff lawyers conducted most of the meetings. They questioned 551 witnesses and the paperwork filled 26 books. Some of the more sensitive material was placed in the government archives and will not be opened until 2039. Their report said that Oswald acted alone and that there was no conspiracy. I could sleep well, thinking that the Warren Commission had done their work.

Years later two of my sons-in-law, one a big game hunter/guide, the other a competitive shot, said it was impossible for Oswald to fire 3 shots in the available time. I thought to myself, the Warren Commission said he could and he did.

Last summer, finding myself out of reading material at one of our daughter's houses, I picked up a book about the Kennedy assassination, "The Texas Connection," by Craig I. Zirbel, published in 1991. I was fascinated.

Over 100 books have been written about the assassination, and I have only read three. I have come to these conclusions:

I. There was a conspiracy.
II. Oswald did not fire a shot at Kennedy.
III. Oswald was standing on the steps, watching the motorcade.
IV. The shots did not come from the 6th floor window but from behind a fence on the grassy knoll.
V. Oswald did not kill the policeman.
VI. The gun and 3 empty shells were planted and found by the Dallas P.D. on the 6th floor.
VII. Jack Ruby was involved in the conspiracy, as were the Chief of Police and the District Attorney and FBI.

If you are still around in 2039 when the records are opened, you will still not know who planned the assassination. The Warren Commission was told what results to end up with and interviewed only those people who could help them get those results. Most of their questions were leading questions.

So I was wrong in my assumption for 45 years... and now in my senior years, I have to worry about who and why did the dirty deed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Recently while shopping for groceries I noticed that I had written margarine on the list. In the refrigerator case were many choices, but rarely the word "margarine." The brand I chose had in very small letters, "1/3 less fat than margarine." This made me wonder what we were actually eating.

Growing up on the farm we always had butter. Each year in spring there was a two or three week period when a weed we called bitterweed bloomed. The cows craved its flowers but they made the milk so bitter we could only drink it if we added lots of cocoa. The cream was so bitter we could not eat it or sell the butter made from it. When Mother added cream to the dogs' food, they turned up their noses and walked away. Only the hogs seemed not to mind. During bitterweed season, Mother would buy margarine. It came in 1 pound blocks and the package included a small tablet for coloring. Mixing in the color was a lot of work and we usually did not bother. The dairy industry got Congress to pass a bill requiring all margarine to be sold without yellow coloring, which is why the yellow came separately. I don't know when the law was repealed but I think it was during WW II.

During the Depression we usually had butter on our homemade bread. A lot of the kids had in their school lunches homemade bread smeared with lard and sprinkled with sugar or leftover breakfast biscuits with bacon drippings on one side and syrup on the other (actually not bad).

My daughter said that Google had a lot to say about both butter and margarine. I checked--it did.

Margarine was developed by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries in 1869 at the request of Napoleon II, who wanted a butter substitute for his soldiers. In 1871 he sold the "knowhow" to the Dutch firm Jurgens, now part of Unilever. In the beginning margarine was largely animal fat. Now it is largely vegetable oil.

"Butter," the Greek word for cow cheese, has been available since nomads started milking camels and water buffalo--cows came much later. A goat was carefully skinned, the openings except for the left foreleg sewn shut, and milk placed in this skin container. The motion of the camel walking churned the milk, making the first butter. It is still made this way in some areas.

As cows were developed in northern Europe, butter and cheese production developed along with them. It later came to the U.S.

In the ancient peat bogs of northern Europe and England, containers of butter have been found (as well as human remains). The peat bogs provided an antiseptic, acidic environment that preserved the butter.

It takes 25 pounds of milk to make a pound of butter, depending on the butterfat of the milk. In Philadelphia markets butter was first sold by the pound.

(I had planned to add more, but I think this story is long enough.)

A SMALL GIRL IN ALSACE: from Recollections of WW II, winter of 1944

I have decided to include on my blog a few samples from my World War II memoirs, which was shared with family but not published in book form. The Small Girl In Alsace and Bartending stories were two of the most commented-on stories from my WW II writing.

After staying in the bombed out factory in Bischwiller we moved to a school house about 5 miles away in a town identified by published WW II writer John Barton as Herrlisheim. The windows were intact and he remembers it had a stove. I don’t remember a stove but I remember it for not having water for the WC. There was an outhouse in the school yard without doors. I suppose they had been stolen for firewood. One could sit and watch everyone passing on the street. The fighting had moved across the Rhine River about 4 miles to the east and even though artillery shells occasionally fell into town and one could hear gunfire at all times, the civilians were coming out of their cellars to look for supplies and to relieve “cellar fever.” Children pulling toddlers in wagons or sleds or helping adults move about, adults carrying bags to gather firewood or barter for food.

One morning while sitting in the outhouse I noticed a small girl come to the gate, look around and then come into the school yard and start to swing. I don’t remember there being anything else on which to play. After finishing I walked over to the swing set and said good day (there is no German expression for hello). She smiled and answered good day. I asked her name and she gave me her name but I don’t remember what she said. I asked where she lived and she pointed down the street 4 or 5 houses. I asked if she attended the school and she said she had until the shooting started. I asked what class she was in and she said first. I said there is no water in the school and she said I know. During all this time she was slowly swinging back and forth and I noticed that several children had gathered at the gate but did not come in. I asked if I could come to her house for hot water to wash and shave and she ran out of the yard, down the street to her house. In a few minutes she came back and said her mother said it would take ten minutes to heat the water. I asked her to wait and I went inside and asked if anyone else wanted to go along. Someone suggested that it might be a trap but four or five guys went with me.

As we approached her house she ran ahead and opened the door for us. Her mother was surprised to see all of us as it was a one room apartment. She had a brass boiler on the small stove and had laid out a towel and wash cloth and a small piece of soap. I told her we had our own towels and washcloths and soap. We had also taken some coffee and sugar and canned milk and immediately she started water for coffee. Besides the stove the room had a bed, a table and two chairs, a kitchen sink with a small cabinet above and below, and in a closet a WC. Sitting on the window ledge was a Christmas tree about 18 inches high with a few decorations. I think they keep their trees up 12 days. We put hot water into our helmets and rolled up our sleeves and started washing and shaving. The mother asked to see my soap and she called her girl over to smell the soap. I asked why none of the other children played with her daughter. Her face turned red and turning her head so that no one else could see it, she lifted her head scarf and showed that her head was shaved. She said the Free French had shaved her head because a German officer had lived with her and did not let their children play with her daughter. I asked about the girl’s father and she shrugged her shoulders and said they had not heard from him, he was dead or in Russian prison. By this time all of the guys had fallen in love with the girl and asked me what she was saying and the girl asked me what they were saying. She showed her Christmas present, which was a homemade doll. When the coffee was ready the mother served it in china cups, also bringing out a small piece of Christmas cake to go with the coffee. We left our coffee, sugar and milk and soap. Some of the guys gave her some cigarettes which she could barter and everyone emptied their pockets of gum and candy. It was time to go and both the mother and daughter said tearful goodbyes.

Early the next morning we left and I never came back to the town again. I wonder what happened to the family but soon forgot about the girl and did not remember until I started writing about WW2.

BARTENDING: from Recollections of WW II

One holiday, it might have been July 4 or Infantry Day in June, Sgt. Luckie told me to be ready for bartender duties that evening at the 274th Officers Club. I was selected because I didn’t drink. I told him I had no idea what a bartender was supposed to do and he said I would be told how to mix drinks and to wear a necktie. Two of us were given the privilege of serving and we were given a jeep to go the several miles down and across the Rhine to this former country club for the German upper class.

When we got there we were given directions on how to mix the drinks. We were given white aprons and shown how to wash the glasses, which were bussed by POWs. Beer was served in steins. I was in a bad mood when I started and got madder as the long evening progressed. I put a beer pitcher under the counter and when the drink glasses came back with some liquid in the glass I poured it into a beer pitcher under the counter. My coworker asked why and I said, “Wait.” When the pitcher was about half full and an officer that I knew and did not like or who I thought had a bad attitude ordered a drink, I put a little from the pitcher into his glass. Also as our rags to wipe the counter became soggy, I squeezed them into the pitcher. My buddy joined in this, adding to the pitcher and pointing out officers that he didn’t like and keeping glasses under the counter on the ready. As the evening progressed and some of the officers became more intoxicated, we would fill their glasses with more recycled drinks. We worked most of the night without food and when we got home we went to the kitchen and the cooks gave us an early breakfast.

This was really two bartending jobs, my first and last.


In another puzzling example from my service work, I had to struggle my way through the problem with a larger audience watching.

When I moved to Tomball, Klein Feed Store stood next to the grocery store, where the entrance door to TEAM’s resale shop is now located. Later they built a feed store behind the TEAM building, facing Cherry Street. Most feed came in 100 pound sacks. As more dairies and cage houses moved into the area they bought feed in bulk.

Klein’s built a feed mill east of the railroad and south of 2920. I don’t know who built the mill and did the electrical, but it was very well done. The mill was managed by George Klein. When the warranty expired, they started calling me for electrical problems. Most were minor like blown fuses or tripped overloads. One day after the mill had been in operation for maybe 5 years, Mr. Klein called, just as I sat down for my noon meal: “My mixer is not running and the chickens are running out of feed.” I asked if he had pushed the reset and checked if the mixer was hanging on something. He answered yes to both questions.

I left my lunch and drove to the mill. Everything was shut down and everyone was standing around the mixer, which was in the northeast corner of the building. I first checked the fuses, which were good. There was a ladder leaning on the mixer next to the motor. I asked one of the men to go up and try turning the mixer by pulling on the belts. George said they had already done that, but I was stalling for time. The mixer was full but could be turned. When the man came down I pushed the reset and then the start. There was nothing else running and I could hear the motor hum.

I turned off the power, which was 460 volts, 3 phase, meaning the motor needs 3 wires to run. I opened the motor contactor to check for burned wires and/or contacts. Everything at a feed mill is full of dust, and George had a compressor that I used to blow the dust out of the contactor can. The contacts were used but still looked good. Then I noticed lying in the bottom of the can one wire not hooked to anything. Where it was supposed to be fastened the screw was tight. The insulation had not been stripped from the end of the wire as it would have been if previously attached, and the wire had not been cut or broken. The box and the wire inside were covered with ¾ inch of dust.

I climbed the ladder to look at the nameplate. Again I was stalling for time. How could the motor have run all these years on two wires? And a bigger concern, if I hooked up the third wire and the motor burned, it would mean several thousand dollars out of my pocket.

I removed the other wires, turned on the power, pushed start and checked the voltage where I had removed the wires. Then I turned off the power, connected all 3 wires, closed the contactor box, turned on the power, and pushed start. The motor started and ran, pulling the amperage listed on the nameplate. To my knowledge the motor was still running when the mill was eventually shut down.

A motor running a big feed mixer cannot run on two wires. I wish I had taken a picture of the third wire lying in the bottom of the box. Maybe my memory is playing a trick on me.


In my years of service work there were several instances when I could not explain why something worked or did not work. Unfortunately I did not take pictures or document any of these instances.

Once I was called to a ranch on Huffmeister Road to service the central heating in the owner’s house. The ranch foreman explained the problem, showed me the equipment and I shortly had it working. He then almost apologetically asked if I would check the hot water in his house. His wife had told him for a week that she had no hot water at the kitchen sink.

I followed him into his kitchen. He introduced his wife and she said that starting about a week ago, she could no longer get hot water at the sink. It was a small kitchen and the hot water heater stood at the end of the drainboard, about 6 feet from the sink. The hot water pipe was fastened to the wall under the cabinet and ran through the end of the cabinet. On top of the heater was a cardboard box with the necessary fittings. They had never been installed. All that was missing was about 3 feet of pipe. It appeared the plumber left the fittings and planned to return with the pipe.

I asked if the water heater had been replaced recently, and they said that during the 10 years they had lived in the house the heater had not been replaced. I did not try to convince them that there had never been hot water at the sink. I said I would return with the proper fitting and the lady said that would be fine, she was always at home. When I went back and installed the missing pipe, the lady was very appreciative that she would no longer have to carry hot water from the bathroom.

Another story has to do with electrical, not plumbing. We did not have electricity on our farm until after WW II. While I was still overseas in the Army of Occupation, Houston Lighting & Power extended the power line past our farm. My dad contracted with Mr. Hirsch from Klein to wire the house and extend service to the barn, the well, the chicken houses and to the brooder house. After I came home I added some plugs and lights and ran power to the 3-car garage and shop that I built.

Several years after I moved to Tomball, Mother called and said they were getting a delivery of 200 baby chicks and could not make the lights in the brooder house work. I went out and checked where the wires entered the brooder house and found no power. Everything at the barn and chicken house still worked. All the wires came from a pole in the middle of the yard. I turned off the power, put my ladder against the pole and climbed up. I couldn’t believe what I saw. One of the two wires to the brooder house had never been connected—the insulation was still intact at the wire’s end. There was no evidence that anything had been broken, shaken loose or otherwise removed. I climbed down, got a short piece of wire, went back up and connected the two wires together. When I turned on the power everything in the brooder house worked.

I cannot explain how they had lights in the brooder house for 10 years with the wire not connected.


Occasionally I hear someone say they were injured by a hospital bed. I once was hit on my nose while repairing a bed and I had several other interesting experiences with hospital beds.

One day while working at Tomball Regional Medical Center, I was paged to come to a certain room “stat.” Nurses had just removed a patient from a bed shaped like the letter V. The patient said all at once the head of the bed and the knee part came up and were squeezing him. He pushed his nurse call button and also yelled “Help.” A nurse came immediately, unplugged the bed and called for additional help and a stretcher. They were able to remove him from the bed without further injury. We took the bed to our workshop and discovered the inside of the control box was wet. Further checking determined the problem was caused by urine. His nurse said the patient had recently used the urinal, but she was trying to get his IV working so she hung the urinal on the footboard. She walked to the supply room to get some supplies and while there she heard him call for help. We found the urinal on the floor when we moved the bed. I called the factory and also filed a written complaint. We “waterproofed” all of the control boxes on our existing beds but we never heard back from the factory. Such malfunctions make one wonder how we ever got a man on the moon.

When our hospital added rooms to grow from 70 beds to 140 beds, Administration decided to make the new rooms look like nice motel rooms, with headboards, footboards, bedside tables and chairs. Head and footboards were to be stained hardwood to match the other furnishings. When the 70 new beds arrived we were told the head and footboards would be shipped directly from a furniture factory, I believe in North Carolina. Since the patient rooms were not yet finished we left the beds in the corridors. As each room was completed and inspected we placed a bed in that room. When the head and footboards arrived I sent two men to install them. In a short time they returned and said the headboards were fine but the footboards were backward: the finished side was facing the mattress and the back was facing out. I called the bed factory and was highly insulted by what they said about our intelligence. I insisted there was a problem and they finally said they would send someone but if it was my mistake, we would have to pay for a service call. I agreed.

Within several days, two young men with three-piece suits and briefcases flew in from St. Louis and came to our administrator’s office. They let him know what incompetent people he had working at his hospital. I had not told him about the problem, thinking I could solve it myself, so this was his first time hearing about it. When he called me to his office, I said I would show the men the problem.

We walked to a room where a new bed had the headboard in place and the footboard leaning against the wall. One of the men grabbed the footboard and slammed it into place with the good side out. Words cannot describe the look the two men gave me. I walked over to the bed and asked, “How will we install the IV poles, the traction equipment and the other equipment, now that you have covered up the holes where they are inserted?” The man who had slammed the footboard down picked it up, reversed it, looked at the holes, and said they would send us 70 new footboards.

In about a week a truck from the furniture factory came with the new footboards. I asked the driver to let me open a box before they were unloaded. You have already guessed it – the footboards were still backwards. I took one and asked the driver to go with me to look at the beds. He understood immediately and left with his 70 wrong footboards. In several weeks the correct footboards arrived.

The factory did not want the bad boards returned, and it seemed a shame to burn them so I took them to my shop. Over the years I have used the wood from about 20, but if you need some hardwood I have about 50 boards left in the back of my shop.


On a recent morning as I was backing my van into the street I saw the Western Waste garbage truck at my neighbor’s. I waited until they had picked up my single bag of trash. The truck did not stop, only slowed as the one man in the back tossed the bag into the hopper and then jogged to the next stop, where there were several bags. Because of the incoming traffic I followed the truck for a block and a half. Only when crossing the next street did the helper step up on the truck, a step of over two feet. During his time on the truck the helper pushed a button compacting the trash in the hopper and pushing it into the truck, making room for the next bags.

Recently Immigration made an early morning raid at the Western Waste yard in Houston, picking up a large number of workers. A spokesperson assured the TV reporter that despite the raid, everyone’s garbage would be picked up before dark.

I’m interested in garbage trucks. They are huge, efficient machines that make the collection of garbage less labor-intensive. There is a type of truck that needs only one person to operate it, a driver that uses equipment to pick up the container, empty it into the truck and return the container to the curbside.

I am the only adult that I know who has worked on a garbage truck—although it was for only a short time and over 30 years ago.

When I moved to Tomball in 1951 the city had about 600 residents. Each person and business took care of their own trash and garbage. There were several independent haulers. One that I remember, I think his name was Curtis, walked up and down the street, going into business places, carrying a large bag of bananas. He offered one to everyone he met. He didn’t ask for hauling jobs but made himself available.

In about 1957 Humble closed their oil camp and the population of Tomball almost doubled. The oil company people were used to having garbage picked up and let the mayor and city council know it was expected. I have learned that nothing motivates a city government like suggestions from the voters. A contractor was hired and garbage pickup was started. There were complaints about the open truck so a used garbage truck was purchased. A number of homes still had a gas-fired burning barrel in the backyard and did not want garbage pickup. An ordinance had to be passed prohibiting burning barrels.

When I was elected mayor there were still problems. The old truck failed so we bought a new one. We used the Harris County Landfill next to the Salem Lutheran Cemetery. Those inside the fence did not complain but the families and neighbors complained, so we bought land for our own landfill, purchased a bulldozer and hired a part-time operator. Dogs turned over the garbage cans so we passed a dog ordinance.

The two workers on the back of the garbage truck complained about the heavy cans. One afternoon I decided to work the back of the truck and investigate for myself. The driver J.H. “Tiny” Dubose picked me up at City Hall. We worked both sides of the street. Some garbage containers were 30 gallon galvanized cans. Others were small barrels and one was a section of 24” high pressure gas line with handles welded on the side. I was young and used to doing heavy lifting, moving appliances, but some of the cans I could not empty into the truck. If the trash did not come out easily we had to bump the cans, which brought on more complaints.

When the truck was full and unloaded at the landfill I asked Tiny to take me back to City Hall. As I eased my tired self into my truck I thought there must be a better way. After much discussion at several Council meetings we voted to start using paper bags, over the objection of two Council members. This eliminated injuries to workers on the back of the truck.

The requirements for operating a landfill continually become harder to comply with. Several years ago the city got out of the garbage business and signed a contract with Western Waste. We now use biodegradable plastic bags.

Ben the Cook

Ben the Cook
Action shot from the 1970s



I recently made Tuna Helper, following the instructions on the box and adding margine, milk, etc. Priscilla and I had generous portions for lunch. When she asked about my recipe, I pointed to the kitchen table where the box was sitting...and only then noticed the unopened can of tuna sitting next to the empty box.

Well, we enjoyed our macaroni & cheese lunch and already have the tuna on hand to make another box of Helper.


I watched the TV news show "The Eyes of Texas" for years. When in the mid 1980s they announced the publication of a Texas cookbook I wrote down my grandmother's honey cookie recipe. I asked Priscilla to type it, and she mailed it along with several of her personal favorites.

When the book was published Priscilla's recipes were not included but mine was, with a special mention in the cookbook's introduction. I was invited to the signing in Houston, where I got all three of the main Eyes of Texas contributors to sign the front and while standing in line got a number of contributing cooks to sign their recipe pages.

Some might consider the description "somewhat chewy" an understatement. For those who are dentally impaired, I recommend soaking a cookie in milk or hot coffee before trying to chew it. The good news is, these cookies will keep indefinitely.

Eyes of Texas Cookbook introduction:
My great-grandparents August and Caroline Weiss operated the first cotton gin operated by steam, near Salem in Washington County, Texas. They were among the first German settlers in that area. Money was scarce; however, they always had bees and native pecans...consequently, this recipe was a favorite.

1 1/2 pints honey, warmed
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 tsp. baking powder
Enough flour for a very stiff dough

Mix all ingredients well. Roll dough out on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter, or drop the dough in a greased pan and flatten with a floured glass. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, with edges slightly darker. These cookies will be somewhat chewy.

Ben's Bio

I was born in Rose Hill, Texas in 1925 and at age 18 drafted into the Army. After my discharge I settled in Tomball, which although a small town had more opportunities than Rose Hill. I ran my own appliance installation and repair business for many years and in 1977 accepted a position as Plant Engineer and Director of Maintenance at Tomball Regional Hospital, where I worked until retirement in the late 1980s. In the 1970s I served two years on Tomball’s City Council, was elected mayor and served for six years during which major streets were paved and guttered, utility lines were extended, and a new jail and city hall were built. After retirement from the hospital I spent time on a genealogy project that included two trips to Germany to visit relatives and look up archival records. I have also gotten into writing, chronicling my WW II experiences and authoring Growing Up in Rose Hill, published by private press and sold as a fund-raiser for the Tomball Community Museum Center, where I have served as a volunteer, trustee and Chairman. I am still involved with the Tomball hospital as a weekly volunteer and serve as General Manager of Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM), a church-sponsored operation that provides food and other assistance to area families. I continue to be involved in writing about my childhood and personal interests, and I still enjoy woodworking and other handyman projects. My wife and I still live in Tomball and are not far from most of our 8 surviving children and 14 grandchildren.