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Ben Online - typing, reading & reacting

Monday, May 9, 2011


Unlike my last essay, this story does not go back 35 years but it did happen some years ago. The location was First United Methodist Church in Houston.

In early January of this year my daughter Rachel said that I should watch the 11 am service of FUMC because James Butcher was singing a solo. James grew up in Tomball, living with his brother and mother at his grandparents’ just a few blocks from our house. They attended my church. He attended the Tomball schools and sang in the choir. He married my cousin’s granddaughter. Over the years I heard him sing occasionally. On this particular January Sunday his solo was impressive, and I’m sorry I forget the name of the song. The organist was also impressive. During the sermon my mind wandered, as it sometimes does. I thought about the last time that I had visited this church.


In that Saturday’s Houston Post there had been an article saying that on the following afternoon an organ concert would feature the pipe organ that had been rebuilt and enlarged after a fire the year before. My wife and I had planned to drive to Houston to visit my sister-in-law’s husband who was a patient at St. Joseph, which is close to FUMC. We parked on the street close to the overhead walkway and visited Bill, the last time we saw him alive. We returned to my pickup, which we had taken since one of the girls needed our car. When I started the truck there was a loud “pop” and I said to my wife, “Muffler blew out.” As I started forward I heard a dragging sound and looking under the truck saw that the broken muffler was dragging on the street. I had a few tools and a drop cloth with me but had nothing to tie the muffler to the frame. Looking around I spotted a wooden power pole with the ground wire loose, probably cut by a lawn mower. I cut off enough wire to tie up the muffler, using the drop cloth. When we got to First Methodist, I cleaned up in the restroom.

We found seats in the third row since I wanted to be close enough to see the organist’s feet when he played a favorite of mine, Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” Just before the program started a lady came and sat right in front of me. When the organist played that number the lady also wanted to watch his feet. She moved her head from side to side so quickly that her piled-up hair (I first thought she had a pet animal sitting on her head) came loose and flew from side to side, blocking some of my view.

The concert was great. (The organ still sounds great today.) What was the sermon about? I don’t remember.


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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.