The Cottonwood community lay along Cottonwood Creek, Guadalupe County, across the San Marcos River from Fentress, Texas. The photograph above was taken at the Cottonwood School Reunion in–I believe–the 1930s. The people I know are identified in the caption. Some of the other surnames represented are probably Gregg, Rector, Daniels, Ward, and Fleming. I would be grateful for help in identifying individuals I don’t recognize. (The faces here aren’t exactly clear, but more of these pictures are out there in albums and attics, so if you find one with IDs, share the info, please?)
The picture was taken in front of the skating rink at the Fentress Resort. The skating rink now resides on Hwy 183 just south of Lockhart. It looks a lot smaller now than it did when it was in its proper home on the bank of the river.
I believe my grandfather, Frank Waller, is wearing a necktie. That didn’t happen often, at least when I was around.
In the caption, I note that Maurice Waller is partially hidden. I knew he was in the photo but had difficulty finding him until I realized he had to be beside Aunt Bettie. He was always beside Aunt Bettie. And partially hidden would have suited him just fine.
A number of men from Fentress, Texas, served in World War II. Two did not return.
Marshall Langley was the son of Will and Essie Langley, my family’s very good neighbors. Marshall graduated from Texas A & M, which commissioned more officers during World War II than West Point did. His name appears in Texas Aggies Go to War: In Service of Their Country. He died in France in 1944, leaving a wife and an infant son.
Dunallen McCaskill was lost when the plane he was piloting went down over water. August 1942 USAAF Overseas Accident Reports lists the location as “Unknown, PAN” (Panama). Dunallen was my father’s friend. His family left Fentress before I was born but I heard many stories about them. They were described as kindhearted, spontaneous, and fun-loving, and were greatly loved by their neighbors. Dunallen’s mother never lost hope that one day he would come home.
I’m reposting part of a post that appeared here last year. I’m reposting it because I want to. I realize it’s tedious to read, and many visitors will not read it. That’s okay. It was fun to write, and I still like it. And I think if more laws were set to music, the world would be a happier place. Bad laws might disappear completely.
When I was in paralegal school back in Aught Three, I wrote a mnemonic. It explains intestate succession–who gets what when a Texan dies without leaving a valid will–as laid out in the Texas Probate Code. One of our instructors had warned my class that students usually considered probate the most difficult part of the course, so I thought a little extra help when exam time rolled around might be in order.
Composing the memory aid took the better part of an afternoon. It required that I not only observe restrictions imposed by rime and meter, but that I also strictly adhere to the provisions of the Code. There was no wiggle room. It had to be correct.
At the end of the day, I was pleased. Aside from a couple of rhythmic aberrations, all the lines scanned, the rime scheme was satisfactory, and the targeted provisions of the Code were adequately covered.
It was a pretty good song.
As a mnemonic, however, it lacked a lot. It was long and complicated. I could have completed an entire exam in the time it took me to sing (silently) down to the second chorus.
It was easier to just learn the Code.
I posted this little flash of creativity on the class bulletin board. My old biology classmates would have read it and applauded. My paralegal classmates looked at me funny.
But funny looks don’t bother me. I spent years teaching in the public schools. I’m used to funny looks.
So at the risk of getting several more, I present a bit of law in verse.
Disclaimer: The content of the following composition was accurate as of November 1, 2003. The song does not reflect changes in the law since that date. Neither does it represent a legal opinion, nor is it intended to offer counsel or advice. Its appearance on this blog does not constitute practicing law without a license.
John Brown’s Intestacy
By Kathy Waller
(To be sung to the tune of John Brown’s Body, akaThe Battle Hymn of the Republic).
John Brown died and went to heaven but forgot to make a will.
His intestate succession now the Probate Code will tell.
Was he married, was he single, do his kids sit ‘round the ingle?
Had he common prop. or sep.?
Glory, glory, Texas Probate!
Separate property Section 38!
Common property Section 45!
Make a will while you’re alive!
If John’s married and he leaves a wife, no kids, or kids they share,
Then 45(a)1 leaves wife all common prop. that’s there.
But if he has an extra kid, wife ends up with just half
And the kids share all the rest.
Glory, glory 45(b)!
Don’t omit Section 43!
By the cap or by the stirpes,
Wife shares it with the kids!
For separate prop., if he’s no wife, it goes to kids or grands.
If none of those, John’s parents halve the personal and lands.
If only mom or pop lives, the surviving one takes half.
John’s siblings share the rest.
Glory! Both John’s folks are deceased–
All his sibs will share the increase,
And if no siblings, 38(a)4 means
They’ll need a family tree.
If John has separate prop. and leaves a wife and kids or grands,
38(b)1 gives wife one-third of personal prop. at hand,
And a one-third interest just for life in houses and in lands.
Descendants take the rest.
Glory, glory 38(b)1!
It’s one-third/two-thirds division!
But if John leaves a wife but no kids,
Section 38(b)2 applies!
V. – VII.
John’s wife gets all his personal prop. and half the real estate.
The other half of real estate goes back to 38—
38(a), to be exact, and up the family tree,
Unless his gene pool’s defunct.
For if John Brown was an only child with parents absentee,
No brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, or cousins on the tree,
No grandparents or great-grandparents to grab a moiety,
His wife will get it all.
BUT if John Brown leaves this life with naught a soul to say, “Amen,”
The Probate Code’s escheat will neatly tie up all the ends:
The Lone Star State will step right up to be John’s kith and kin,
And Texas takes it all!
Glory, glory Texas Probate!
Slicing up poor John Brown’s estate!
Avoid the Legislature’s dictate:
Make a will while you’re alive!
This morning I drove to Taylor to meet writing buddies at Java Junction on Main Street. I arrived in Taylor in timely fashion but, upon reaching Main Street, I realized I didn’t know whether to turn right or left.
I was not concerned. I’m an expert at driving around blocks.
First I turned left and drove a while, then turned around and drove back a while, then called friend #1 and spoke to her husband (she’d forgotten to take her cell phone), then called friend #2 and got no one, then turned around and inched along the other way again, then reversed and inched that way for a while, then called and reached friend #2, listened to directions, and inched back the other way…
I had visions of two women sitting beside the coffee shop window, watching me drive back and forth, back and forth. And pointing. And laughing.
Finally I came to my senses and turned at the little green and white sign with the graphic of the man reading a book.
If you want to make a librarian happy, someone told me, ask her a question.
I stopped at the reference desk and asked. The young lady’s face lit up.
After eliciting the information that I knew nothing about the town’s commercial district except where the Shell station was because I’d passed it several times–this is called a reference interview–she said Java Junction was right next door. Then she gave me a card with the library’s phone number, just in case I needed extra help.
I was sitting at the red light beside the Shell station when my phone rang. It was friend #2. “Do you know where the Shell station is?” she said.
I replied, “As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Java Junction is just on the other side, the building with the little blue sign.”
I turned left. It was as she had said. The sign was very little and not very blue and the lettering was not very bright. I almost drove past it.
I was thirty minutes late, and if it hadn’t been for that reference librarian, I would still be cruising Main Street.
Once again, a librarian saved the day.
But all was well. The coffee was good. The company was good. The mammoth cinnamon rolls my friends had consoled themselves with while waiting looked good. I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so I didn’t check for myself.
Anyway, that’s the story of my Wednesday adventure: narrative only. Just this happened and then this happened and then this happened. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t squeeze out a moral.
Except that librarians rule.
ROW80 has been going on for weeks. This is my first report. There was no point–there it is again!–in reporting that I was ignoring my goals and staying up till all hours of the a.m. Last night, however, I got to bed shortly after 10:00 p.m. I’m shooting for a pre-11:00 p.m. turn-in tonight. So I have to get a move on. Please forgive egregious errors. I’ll proof tomorrow.
We got the official word today: William weighs nearly 19 pounds. To my sorrow, the veterinarian said he’s not overweight–he’s just enormous.
I’m sorry because I had hoped she would put him on a diet, reduce him by two or three pounds, and thus save me several visits to the massage therapist. Lugging his carrier from house to car and from car to receptionist’s desk has more than once resulted in parts of my sacroiliac going AWOL.
It happens every time we board them: We stuff the cats into their crates. David carries Ernest; I carry William. Four hours later, changing planes in Atlanta (or Charlotte or Chicago or Houston or New York City or Seattle), David hoofs it down the concourse like a cross between Rudolph Nureyev and Roger Bannister, and I limp along twenty yards behind, Quasimodo dragging a carry-on.
And since William has been pronounced a perfect 10, so I will continue.
When I left him at the vet’s this morning, I wasn’t convinced he was healthy. He’d had a minor tummy problem, one the Internet had assured us was probably nothing to worry about. But when it’s your kid, or your cat, you worry anyway, at least a little.
The doctor, however, agreed with the Internet. The cause of his ailment isn’t clear, but it falls under the heading of “Sometimes Cats Do That.” We hauled him home. He’s happy to be back with Ernest and has said he might someday forgive me.
We also hauled antibiotic (1/4 tablet, twice daily, use a syringe to keep fingers out of danger), oral paste (1 dose twice daily, wait 30 minutes after administering antibiotic, just push it through his teeth), and a week’s worth of dry and canned catfood (gastroenteric). Both cats will eat the food. There’s no way we can separate them at dinner time, which lasts 24 hours.
William was a gentleman while in the examining room, which is more than I can say for him at the beginning of the expedition. He squalled from door to door and kept up the screeching even after being deposited in the vet’s reception room next to a pit bull awaiting vaccination. When Ernest sees a dog, he clams up and concentrates on making himself invisible. William says All Places Are Alike to Him, and if the dog objects to his caterwauling, he can just get over it. That’s the same message he gave me when I tried to shush him.
The vet asked one question that still hangs between David and me, unanswered: “Has William been under any stress?”
We discussed it over dinner at the Magnolia. David has been under stress. Ernest has been under stress (Ernest has an overly active fight-or-flight response). I have been under such stress that I couldn’t even put a meal on the table this evening.
But stress and William don’t move in the same circles.
Except once. Less than a week after William became part of our family, Ernest developed a severe gastrointestinal upset and had to stay at the hospital. The next morning, William stopped eating (unheard of), ran a high fever, and became lethargic. He lay unmoving in my lap. Almost catatonic, no pun intended. I raced him to the vet. She checked him out and then put him in the cage with Ernest.
Six hours later, when I called for an update, William’s temperature was normal and he was “eating like a horse.” All better. He just needed his brother.
But for the past three years, William has been serene. He’s not reactive. At times I wonder whether he even has reflexes.
Only two stimuli energize him: his partner in crime, and his toys.
At present, William lies across the room from me, his back turned. He knows he’s supposed to swallow 1/4 tablet before bedtime. He remembers I’m going to push oral paste through his teeth. He knows he’s nowhere near critical condition. He knows I know it.
He’s waiting me out, hoping I lose my nerve.
Frankly, my dear, his plan is working. I’m going to bed.
And as for the inevitable showdown, I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Note: I shan’t really continue lugging William to the kennel. In future, I have dibs on Ernest. He weighs in at 16 pounds.
Please don’t leave, I’m still here! Just embroiled in getting a newsletter online before the month is out.
In the meantime, I’m reposting this story about my friend Cuthbert, the free-thinking kindergartner.
If I were to write a memoir about my years as a librarian, I would title it The Accidental Librarian.
Because the job wasn’t part of a plan. It just happened along.
One Sunday afternoon in early August, many years ago, I was sitting at home, minding my own business, when a school administrator /old friend called and said, “You want to be the librarian?”
The previous librarian had resigned. School would start in two weeks. The principals had talked amongst themselves and designated me The Chosen.
My end of the conversation went from Who, me? to I’m not qualified to Well, I don’t know. A week later, after conferring with a dean of the UT Graduate School of Library and Information Science (UT-GSLIC, or just the Library School), I moved on to a shaky Okay.
Three years earlier, I’d completed my M.A. in English, breathed a sigh of relief, and promised myself I was finished with grad school. Oh well. I wouldn’t have to register until after Christmas.
So. The state education agency granted a waiver. I cleaned out my classroom. I gave away most of my teaching materials. I moved across the hall to the high school library. School started. I found myself with the title of District Librarian and responsibility for three campus libraries.
Which included teaching primary and elementary students two days a week. Teaching being a relative term.
I had no education about or experience with that age group. I’d seen hardly anyone below the age of fourteen for years. I was certified to teach grades six through twelve. But Learning Resources Specialist was an all-level certification.
My certification was temporary and had been granted on a technicality. But when the going gets tough…
I learned a lot. Boy, did I learn a lot. Fast.
I learned that writing one’s name at the top of the page required fifteen minutes out of a twenty-minute class.
I learned that if second graders said, “May we write in cursive?” and I said, “Of course,” the task would take thirty.
I learned that if I showed third-graders a new historical picture book about Queen Elizabeth I, the principal would ask me, months later, why I had told students that if they went into the restroom and turned off the light and said, “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” a severed head would appear in the mirror.
I learned that fourth-grade boys love to use the unabridged dictionary, because it has some fascinating words not found in the abridged dictionary. Even the abridged unabridged dictionary has some really good words. Fourth-graders are impressed by words the rest of us don’t notice. (I almost convinced them not to become hysterical at the mention of Captain Underpants.)
The most important lesson I learned was that sometimes I wouldn’t have any idea what I’d learned. To wit:
Once upon a time, I read “Hansel and Gretel” to a class of kindergartners. My audience, sitting rapt at my feet, comprised sixteen exceptionally good listeners, a fact I later regretted.
When I reached “And they lived happily ever after,” little Cuthbert (not his real name) stopped stroking my panty-hose-clad shin and tugged on my skirt. I ceded him the floor.
“But it’s a really good thing, what the witch did.”
Since he spoke kindergartner-ese, I thought perhaps I had misunderstood. Come again?
“It’s a really good thing, what the witch did.”
I should have slammed the book shut right then, or pulled out the emergency duct tape, or something, anything to change the subject. But I’m not too bright, so I asked Cuthbert to elaborate.
His elaboration went like this:
When the witch tried to shove Gretel into the hot oven she was doing a good thing. Because then Hansel and Gretel would die and go to Heaven to be with God and Jesus.
I smiled a no doubt horrified smile and said something like But But But. And, while Cuthbert explained even more fully, I did a quick analysis of my options:
a) If I said, No, the witch did a bad thing, because it is not nice to cook and eat little boys and girls, then sixteen children would go home and report that Miss Kathy said it’s bad to go to Heaven and be with God and Jesus.
b) If I said, Yes, the witch did a good thing, because cooking and eating little boys and girls ensures their immediate transport Heavenward, then sixteen children would go home and report that Miss Kathy condoned cold-blooded murder and cannibalism. Plus witchcraft. Plus reading a book about a witch, which in our Great State is sometimes considered more damaging than the murder/cannibalism package.
c) Anything I said might be in complete opposition to what Cuthbert’s mother had told him on this topic, and he would report that to her, and then I would get to have a conference that would not be nearly so much fun as it sounds.
(N.B. The last sentence under b) is not to be taken literally. It’s sarcasm, richly deserved. The earlier reference to emergency duct tape is hyperbole. I’ve never in my entire life duct taped a child.)
Well, anyway, I wish I could say the sky opened and a big light bulb appeared above my head and gave me words to untie this Gordian knot. In fact, I can’t remember finding any words at all, at least sensible ones. I think I babbled and stammered until the teacher came to repossess her charges.
I’m sure Cuthbert kept talking. There’s no telling what his classmates took away from that lesson.
I suppose, if I’d been in my right mind, I’d have said something to the effect that God and Jesus don’t like it when witches send people along earlier than expected.
But the prospect of talking theology with this independent thinker paralyzed my brain.
Anyway, I was expending all my energy trying not to laugh.