The Great Throwing Away or, The Great Unearthing: Toy

“One of the advantages of being disorganized
is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”

~ A. A. Milne

Some of my surprising discoveries during the Great Throwing Away didn’t surprise me, because I knew they were there, waiting to be unearthed. One of those takes me back to the summer I was eight, when my grandmother, Mary Veazey Barrow, spent a month in Del Rio with my family. (To prevent confusion, Veazey was her maiden name.)

For a week—it might have been a weekend, but I like to think it was a week—my oldest cousin, Mary Veazey Worden, came from Houston. Those two women were funny, and with my mother in the mix, everything was hilarious. They were more entertaining than any of my child-friends ever could have been.

We (they) spent much of the week making aprons. I don’t know why. I think the material came from feed sacks. I don’t know where we got it, considering we were living in a city and had no farm animals. I presume my mother had saved it from our years in a minute country town. She’d made me several play suits from chicken feed sacks in a green and white pattern. They were comfortable, attractive, and sturdy, and were probably handed down to some smaller child when I outgrew them. Few things last longer than a feed sack.

The highlight of the month was a day trip across the Rio Grande to Piedras Negras.

My family usually went to Ciudad Acuna, only three miles from home. I loved Acuna, because for seventy-five cents, I could buy a ring. The first time I went there, when I was seven, my parents footed the bill, so I bought maracas and a puppet whose strings I never managed to untangle. They bought me a leather jacket with fringe. The maracas weren’t popular at home because I insisted on shaking them, but I loved the coat. It was soft and warm. I felt quite cowboyish in it.

I despised it, however, the Halloween my mother made me wear it over my princess costume. The night was chilly and probably fell into her category of “I’m cold so you have to bundle up,” but it ruined the effect I wished to project. Clad in a long, glittery dress and scraping along the asphalt in high heels enhanced by fur-covered elastic bands across the toes, I felt elegant and feminine, two qualities that usually eluded me. Wearing the cowboy jacket, I felt like Gabby Hayes in drag. Even a bag of chocolate didn’t console me. After sixty-two years, the disappointment is still palpable.

But back to Piedras Negras. Situated across from Eagle Pass, it was larger than Acuna and offered shoppers more variety.

The shopping didn’t make much of an impression, except that we covered a lot of territory, and that we didn’t have lunch until we got back on U. S. soil. My parents had a thing about not eating in Mexico, even though some of our neighbors ate at Acuna’s Crosby Hotel, and others went to the dentist over there.

But the toy is a happy memory. My grandmother bought one for each of her four younger grandchildren. I don’t think she bought them for the older three, although she might have gotten one for Mary Veazey, because although twenty-something, VZ was nevertheless younger than the rest of us.

Why is the toy memorable? Because for the entire hour’s drive back to Del Rio, Mary Veazey and I sat in the back seat and tried to get the little wooden ball into the little wooden cup. My grandmother (who once amazed the grandchildren by trying out a hula hoop in the living room) took several turns herself.

The feat isn’t easy, and it’s made more difficult by the little wooden piece, which attaches the handle to the cup, sticking up a half-inch in the middle. It’s a wonder we didn’t hit someone, including ourselves, in the head. We shrieked a lot. I’m sure my father’s hearing aid magnified it, but he didn’t complain. He never did.

I tried the toy a few minutes ago. Getting the ball into the cup takes more skill, and luck, than I remembered. It takes considerable force to swing the ball high enough to get the cup under it. I fear my right triceps has deteriorated. Well, I know it has.

About the eating thing. Years ago, David and I spent Christmas Eve in Ciudad Acuna, moving from cafe to cafe, eating tacos—real ones, not Tex-Mex. In the evening, we walked by the Crosby Hotel, which had no vacancies, and saw through the windows the dining room, white tablecloths, small red poinsettias at the center of each table. Beautiful.

The hotel no longer exists. I wish we’d eaten there.


Today, WP refuses to print a tilde. Thus Acuna. Maybe tomorrow.

Elevators, Mysteries, Aliens, Swords, and One Bunny Rabbit

Reporting from All-Con 2018 in Dallas, Texas. Tomorrow we’ll sit at a table outside the Lalique Ballroom and sell our wares–David has Alien Resort patches; I have copies of Lone Star Lawless, Day of the Dark, and Murder on Wheels.

I say we’ll sell, but that’s to be seen. I asked David if he plans to stand in front of the table and call to passersby, “Do you like aliens? I have some alien stuff here. And my wife has books for sale. She’s a writer.”

He said, “No.”

That’s not good. I expected him to hawk my merchandise. Like Jane Austen’s Lizzie, I don’t initiate conversations with people to whom I haven’t been introduced. Especially when I want them to buy something.

Years ago, a friend encouraged me to sell Mary Kay makeup. It could have been a lucrative career. I might have ended up with a pink Cadillac and a bulging bank account.

Water tower, Holland, TX

But my pitch would have gone like this: “Mary Kay makes excellent makeup, and reasonably priced, and you don’t have to go to Dillard’s and stand around waiting for the saleslady to notice you’re there; just call and I’ll deliver it to your door. But women don’t need really need makeup, they put all that goop on their faces and for what?, vanity, just vanity, and you know what the Bible says about that, and you can’t afford it anyway, save your money to buy something of lasting value.”

I liked the makeup, but I kept on teaching.

Our drive to Dallas was uneventful and as pleasant as a drive from Austin to Dallas can be. If you’ve ever taken that route, you know what I mean. I rode the train to Fort Worth several years ago. Boarding, I so looked forward to the scenery: trees and grass and farmhouses and cattle and horses and possibly a chicken or two.

Oh, silly me.

Building with Macaroni on side

It was flat, barren plowed land, and scrubby fields lying fallow, pretending to be pasture, and the warehouse districts of a string of small towns. The most interesting sights were the water tower in Holland and a building with Macaroni painted on the side. A few cows grazed in the distance. No chickens.

No wi-fi, either, for writers who have to keep an online thesaurus running behind their digitized manuscripts.

Unlike IH-35 scenery, the hotel is attractive. The convention holds promise, too. On the way to our room, we met a bunny rabbit. She wore a G-rated costume of electric blue and black and had black ears, black fishnet stockings, and a reasonable amount of visible skin. She was cute. I didn’t want to be obvious, so I didn’t turn around to check for a powder puff tail. 

Fortunately, David registered early enough to get a room on a lower floor. It’s near the elevators, so we don’t have to walk down a long hall to reach them. Also, our rides down will be brief.

At a hotel where we stayed last year, only one of the two elevators was in service, and therefore was always crowded. During each ride, I was sorely tempted to break into a chorus of “Getting to Know You.” We got to know one another quite well.

Elevator rides could be critical this weekend. David reported that on one of his recon missions, he saw people with swords. I don’t want to be in close quarters with a bunch of Game of Thrones wannabes, especially when they might have spent happy hour swilling mead.

Now I backtrack: As I wrote the preceding paragraph, I realized All-Con elevators pose no particular threat. Since last September, it’s been legal in Texas to carry blades over 5.5 inches.

Said Time Magazine shortly after Gov. Greg Abbot signed the bill into law,

People could already carry knives with blades under the 5.5-inch limit, but they generally could not purchase or carry longer weapons. Now they will be able to take many more weapons with them when they run errands, for example, or when acting out their favorite scenes from Game of Thrones in the local park.”*

Not long after, CBS News reported,

“Carrying a sword down the street, carrying a Bowie knife down the street… completely legal. Machetes if you want to,” said general manager at the House of Blades in Fort Worth, Ahnna Escobedo.

“I think it was more to give people more rights and to make sure they felt like they were free to carry what they wanted,” Escobedo said. “Texas move right there, sure.”

Time points out the law wasn’t pushed through without thought.  “… [A]fter a man was accused of killing a University of Texas at Austin student and wounding three others with a hunting knife, debate on the legislation was delayed. And the bill’s author, State Rep. John Frullo, stated, “House Bill 1935 provides a common sense solution by prohibiting any knife with a blade over five-and-a-half inches in certain location restricted areas,…”


Not a bunny rabbit

Frullo also said, he just wanted to simplify current laws: “‘What we wanted to do was make a law where citizens could understand it, law enforcement could understand it and the judicial system could understand it … It adds clarity. All we have to do is use a tape measure and we can tell whether or not a knife is legal to carry.'”

The law also prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from carrying swords, machetes, and other long, pointy weapons.

[I think law enforcement understood the original law–heck, I understood it. If a tape measure said a knife was longer than 5.5 inches, police should then haul the carrier to straight to the pokey. But that’s just me.]

Anyway. Forgive my whining about elevators and swords. We’re probably as safe here in the hotel with people dressed up as pirates and ogres and princesses as we are on the streets of Austin. Safer. Who can say? Not I.

Tomorrow I shall rise, breakfast, help David attach our banner to our table outside the Lalique Ballroom, and prepare to do battle with whoever and whatever comes at me.

I hope it’s nothing scarier than the bunny rabbit.


*Am I the only reader to detect a hint of laughter in this sentence? I’ll wager I’m not.


Did I say David also witnessed this scene:

A woman walked in carrying a long gun.

A man said, “Is that a deer rifle?”

“Yes,” said the woman. “I got it for twenty dollars. They were having a going-out-of-business sale.”

Just one more thing to think about in the elevator.