Saturday, December 16, 2006

(Bleep) Rest You, Merry Gentlemen

Here in the Sissy Pants Nation, we dare not mention our religious beliefs. One wrong word that might conceivably be construed as proselytizing could get you in trouble.

Example: Several years ago, a co-worker of mine said to another co-worker who was about to undergo surgery: “I’ll be praying for you.” Nice words, under most circumstances. But, unbeknownst to her, the woman she said this to was an atheist and was offended. A formal complaint was made to the office supervisor, which led to the offending party being called on the carpet and sternly warned that she must never use such dreadful language again.

Such is life in the Sissy Pants Nation. We must we all carefully watch what we say, and daily consult the ever-growing list of words that are verboten, but most of all we should keep our religious beliefs hidden, lest someone who is "different from us" overhear and burst into tears, or explode in a fury—or, worse, file a lawsuit.

As a result, Christmas has become a particularly troublesome time of year in the Sissy Pants Nation, because there is no end of the things we might say or do that could offend someone. Therefore, we must always be careful to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and we should never put a nativity scene where someone might actually see it. This goes for Christmas trees, too, even though they are secular symbols that pre-date Christianity by centuries, are mentioned nowhere in the Bible, and are displayed all over the world this time of year, even in non-Christian countries such as Japan. Millions of people enjoy them, but a few are offended by them, which in the Sissy Pants Nation is all it takes to cause their removal.

Consider this silly episode from last week: A rabbi was offended by the Christmas trees decorating the Seattle airport and threatened to sue unless Hannukah menorahs were also displayed. Which presented a problem for airport officials. They could either risk a long, drawn-out lawsuit that would involve trying to prove in court that a Christmas tree is a secular symbol, or they could give in to the rabbi's demand that the menorah, a blatantly religious symbol, be displayed. But, if they chose the latter, they would still be open to a lawsuit, because in order to legally display a religious symbol in a public place, symbols from other religions must also be displayed. Therefore, in addition to the Christmas trees and menorahs, they would also have to include Kwanzaa decorations, nativity scenes for Christians who do not regard the Christmas tree as a religious symbol, some other kind of decoration to keep the Wiccans happy, and who knows what else, and if they did not do it right—if they did not carefully research which symbols to display, how to give them equal prominence, and so forth—they could still be in legal hot water. Therefore, as there was not time to mount such an enormous undetaking, they decided to play it safe by removing the Christmas trees.

This was not such a safe course of action as they thought, however. The removal of the trees caused a huge public uproar. Airport officials then returned the trees to the airport, but only after the rabbi agreed to give them a year to figure out how in the hell they're going to decorate the airport next Christmas. Such is life in the Sissy Pants Nation.

A similar situation occurred recently in our fellow Sissy Pants Nation to the north, Canada, where Justice Marion Cohen ruled that a Christmas tree should be removed from the lobby of the Ontario Court of Justice—again, despite the fact that the Christmas tree is not a religious symbol.

Meanwhile, back in this Sissy Pants Nation, in Riverside, California, a childrens choir was ordered by a city employee and a police officer, to stop singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” in the middle of a show, because they were afraid that a Jewish ice skater who was performing in the show might be offended.

Ridiculous—and what makes it even more ridiculous is that the skater, Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, was not offended. In fact, she was “stunned” when the children were silenced. As her mother, Galina Cohen, said, “We both thought the voices were just lovely, they were doing such a wonderful job. Christmas carols are part of celebrating the holiday season."

Oh, what a pathetic bunch of Pansy-Wansies and politically-correct Prissy-Wissies we have become in the Sissy Pants Nation, oh what a bunch of hand-wringing Mamas we are these days, silly Ninnies tiptoeing about, prim Pollyanas shushing everyone, so fearful, so careful not to offend the delicate feelings of Daffodil Dan or pouty-faced Patty with the chip on her shoulder.

Sissy Pants Nation, Sissy Pants Nation, we all walk on egg shells in the Sissy Pants Nation …

Friday, December 15, 2006

Down Memory Lane

In my last post, I wrote about my great-great uncle A. G. Walker and mentioned his brother, my great-great grandfather Hiram Walker (no relation to the famed whiskey distiller, that I know of). As a follow-up I present the following piece written in 1931 by my great grandfather, Jeff Davis Walker, and published in a regular feature of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called "Down Memory Lane." It provides a fascinating glimpse at the Texas of my ancestors, a very different world ...

Memory Lane Editor:

I surely do enjoy the letters written in "Memory Lane," as I used to know nearly all of the writers. I never did live in Fort Worth but I was born 12 miles south of town on Deer Creek before the war.

I have been back in Fort Worth nearly every year since the war. My father moved just after the war to the Smithfield community, four miles east of Birdville, and settled on the A. G. Walker place at the edge of the cross timbers. I lived in the community until 1870 and then moved to Palo Pinto County, nine miles north of Mineral Wells, where I now live.

Just after the war my father told us boys that a man in Fort Worth was making hats out of rabbit fur "on the halves," so that evening one of my brothers and myself took a pack of hounds and caught enough rabbits to make us some nice hats, the first we ever had on our heads.

In 1866 my uncle, A. G. Walker, was elected county clerk. He moved into the old jail just east of the courthouse and my father moved over to take care of his place. As we passed through Fort Worth, 3,000 head of cattle were coming in. We got near the Cold Sprigs crossing and a man rode by us on a dead run, yelling to us to "get out of the road or you will all get killed." We were in a large ox wagon with two yoke of oxen hitched to it. My father grabbed a log chain, threw it around the front ox's head and around a large tree. By that time the cattle were on us, running in wild stampede. That log chain was all that saved our lives. The stampeding cattle ran headlong into the wagon and against the chain and piled up in a heap all around us.

About 1868 I went with one of my brothers to Fort Worth with a load of pork and lard for my uncle. When we got to the Cold Springs crossing [the] river was bank full so we went up the river to a place just north of where the jail stands now and were taken across on a flat boat. We stayed 10 days waiting for the river to go down, staking our horses out on as good grass as I ever saw, just west of the courthouse.

There was not much room in my uncle's living quarters in the jail building so we took our bunks and slept in the jail as there were no prisoners at that time. There was a big chain through the floor and we learned it had been used to keep a certain negro prisoner from escaping. I wonder who remembers the hanging of the negro, Sol Brag, in 1868? Brag walked out on the trap and made a fine talk, telling the story of his life and how he got started wrong. He and another negro had been arrested for killing a white man. Brag said he did not do the shooting but admitted he was in on it. If his partner was ever captured I never heard of it.

My father was born in Virginia in 1801 and came to Texas in 1841, settling in Tarrant County about one mile east of Birdville. He died in 1873 without ever seeing a railroad.

Mineral Wells

My Favorite Great-Great Uncle

Meet my favorite great-great uncle, Col. A. G. Walker. A. G. and his brother Hiram (my great-great grandfather) were born in Virginia in the early 1800s, then moved to Kentucky. A. G. was a schoolteacher for a while. Then, in 1841, they came to Texas on an ox-drawn wagon to settle in the Peters Colony, which was in North Texas. Hiram settled on Deer Creek in present-day Johnson County, while A. G. settled in nearby Tarrant County and worked as a land surveyor plotting what would later become Tarrant and Dallas counties. He also was one of the founders of the town of Birdville, which in 1851 was selected the county seat for the newly-established Tarrant County.

Birdville did not stay the county seat for long, however. The citizens of Fort Worth initiated an effort to move the county seat to their town, thus giving rise to a bitter rivalry between Fort Worth and Birdville. A. G. was at the center of the controversy, fighting to keep the county seat in his town.

In 1856, an election was held to decide the issue. Fort Worth won the election by offering free whiskey to cowboys from neighboring counties to vote illegally in favor of Fort Worth. A. G. contested the election, and even managed to get himself elected to the Texas Congress to push the issue, but to no avail. To this day, Fort Worth is the county seat, and Birdville (later renamed Haltom City) now sits within Fort Worth city limits.

During the same time as the county seat controversy, another more serious issue was dividing Texans. It was secession. A. G. was a Union man (“a fiery Union man,” as one contemporary described him) who was opposed to secession. He founded a newspaper, the Birdville Union and began writing editorials on the matter. Meanwhile, there was another newspaper in town, the Birdville Western Express, published by John J. Courtenay, who was writing editorials in support of secession. The two newspapermen soon began debating each other in print, with a great deal of vitriol and personal attacks. To make matters worse, Courtenay also supported the county seat move. The war of words got uglier and uglier, spiraling out of control, until finally the vitriol escalated into violence.

My research has not turned up what exactly my great-great uncle wrote that finally pushed Courtenay too far, but it must have been pretty bad. Courtenay stormed into A. G.’s newspaper office, slammed the door, denounced A. G. as a “black abolitionist,” pulled out his gun, and began firing.

A. G. dove behind his desk, pulled his gun out of his coat pocket, and fired back, sending a bullet straight into Courtenay's brain. Courtenay fell to the floor, dead. As the killing was done in self defense, A. G. suffered no consequences.

Texas seceded from the Union and the Civil War began. During this time, it was most unwise to express Union sympathies in Texas, a fact that A. G. apparently recognized. Not only did he cease supporting the Union, he embraced the Confederacy with open arms. Recently, my research turned up this from the Dallas Herald, December 5, 1860:

We have just conversed with Hon. A. G. Walker, of Tarrant county, who reports the people of Birdville as thoroughly aroused on the great questions now agitating the country. The citizens of Birdville recently held a meeting and passed resolutions memorializing the Governor to call the Legislature and expressing strong secession sentiments. Mr. Walker is deeply imbued with the same spirit, and says that the signs of the times are unmistakable, and that every patriot must act. He says that the flag of the Lone Star has been floating at Birdville for weeks. McKinney Messenger will please note this fact.

McKinney Messenger was the newspaper in McKinney, Texas. Why the Dallas Herald would direct the Messenger’s attention to this news item is not stated, but I suspect the Messenger was a pro-Union paper and this was the Herald's way of suggesting to the Messenger that it should follow A. G. Walker’s example.

After the war, A. G. served as county clerk of Tarrant County, then died in the 1870s.

There is a great deal more to be said about my great-great uncle. Over the years, my research has resulted in a rather sizeable file on him, which includes over a hundred pages of his correspondence. As a result, I have been able to put together a fairly comprehensive picture of him. But I will save all that for a longer piece to be written another time.

Let's Watch Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales Show WNEW 5:

Soupy Takes a Pie:

Soupy Does “The Mouse”

Soupy Meets a Stripper (NSFW):

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Mack White Show: Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas from the Radio Ranch! This Very Special Edition of the Show features a different kind of Christmas musical mix: beatniks, rockabillies, Caribbean sounds, Little Marcy, a little bit of soul, some lounge sounds, and a big Hooray for Santa Claus. Click below to listen ...

TSA's "Registered Traveler" Shakedown

New technology has been approved by the US government that will allow airline passengers to keep their shoes on while they are being scanned for shoe bombs, but it will only be made available to persons who become Registered Travelers. To do that, you must fork over $100 a year, undergo a background check, and submit biometric data.

Who in their right mind would sign up for this? Sure, it's unpleasant taking off your shoes at the airport, but it's not nearly as intrusive as background checks and biometrics. Also, there's the matter of that $100 a year.

Do you have that kind of money? I don't. If I did, I would fly more. Why, I can barely scrape together enough money to fly every five years. Where am I supposed to get an additional $100 to become a Registered Traveler?

Why, even if I could afford the $100, and didn't mind the background check and biometrics, I still wouldn't pay it because it's a shakedown. Never give in to a shakedown. Once it starts, there's no end to it, and the price always gets higher. Pay a hoodlum a hundred dollars today, tomorrow he wants two hundred. Pay two hundred, next time it's three hundred, and so on.

Of course, as the price goes up, so does the level of coercion. Today it's a bloody nose, tomorrow it's a broken arm. Next time it's a busted skull ...

Similarly, today, it’s the privilege of keeping your shoes on at the airport. Tomorrow, it will be the privilege of avoiding a cavity search.

Mark my words, in the near future there will be a butt bomb scare. It will be a manufactured crisis, of course, and it will result in a new rule: Everyone passing through airport security will be required to drop trou, bend over, and spread 'em for a rectal probe to see if they’re carrying any unauthorized liquids—everyone, that is, except Registered Travelers whose butts will be scanned in a more high-tech, less obtrusive fashion.

Avoid long lines and a rod up your butt! Become a Registered Traveler today …