Sam Kindrick

The Charlie Hebdo horrors in Gay Paree reinforce my gratitude for the journalistic environment we have here in Texas.

Before the deranged disciples of Allah all but annihilated the French magazine’s editorial staff last month, the most dangerous place for ink-slingers to work was Mexico.

Drug cartel killings of Mexican journalists all but eliminated what free press might have existed south of the border. And media reports on Mexico’s drug business are little more than a distant memory today.

Such is not the case in France.

Talk about waving a red flag in the bull’s face.

In Texas we have bumper stickers that read Don’t Mess With Texas.
There are no stickers in France that say Don’t Fuck With The Prophet Muhammad.

Charlie Hebdo, France’s National Lampoon with no governor on religion spoofery, paid a big price for ridiculing Islam’s prophet.

Magazine staff killed

Two Muslim radical brothers killed 12 members of the Charlie Hebdo staff before Paris police wiped them out in a shootout.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the magazine killings.
Showing no fear, Charlie Hebdo responded with yet another front cover cartoon lampoon of Muhammad.

A blow for freedom of expression? Or an exercise in journalistic insanity? No matter which, I admire Charlie Hebdo’s guts.

I have always tried to steer clear of religious doctrine and sectarian gobbledegook.

I do admit to being a big fan of Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi said God has no religion.

Gandhi also said: “I like your Christ. I do not like your
Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

All of which confirms what I have always believed. Jesus hasn’t caused trouble for anyone.The ill will came from members of His fan club.

Hate the Joneses

I have always believed that it was both moral and true to Tom Landry’s memory to hate the sin but love the sinner. Gandhi said it long before me. I love the Dallas Cowboys, but I will forever hate Jerry Jones.

Contrary to my upbringing, the Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, and I understood perfectly what my friend Kinky Friedman meant when he said, “Jesus was a damn good ole boy.”

I can hold still for most any belief system. I didn’t even panic when a priest in a long gown splashed water on my head at my friend’s rosary.

But the Islamic radical is a camel of another color.

Here is a dude who believes it to be perfectly okay for him to marry little girls and chop the heads off his fellow men, yet fears the wrath of Allah and the imps of Hades if caught eating a ham sandwich.

It’s hard for caricature artists and professional jokesters to ignore turd hounds like this.

Long before Charlie Hebdo’s first volley at the Prophet Muhammad, National Hockey League Hall of Fame member Jiggs McDonald was taking his own irreverent shots at Islam.

Now a noted Canadian broadcaster, McDonald was speaking in Ontario when he said: “I am truly perplexed that so many of my friends are against another mosque being built in Toronto. I think it should be the goal of every Canadian to be tolerant regardless of their religious beliefs. Thus the mosque should be allowed in an effort to promote tolerance.

“This is why I also propose that two nightclubs be opened next door to the mosque, thereby promoting tolerance from within the mosque. We could call one of the cubs, which would be gay, The Turban Cowboy, and the other, a topless bar, would be called You Mecca Me Hot. Next door should be a butcher shop that specializes in pork, and adjacent to that an open-pit barbecue pork restaurant called Iraq of Ribs.

“Across the street there could be a lingerie store called Victoria Keeps Nothing Secret, with sexy mannequins in the window modeing the goods, and on the other side a liquor store called Morehammered.

“All of this would encourage Muslims to demonstrate the tolerance they demand of us. Yes we should promote tolerance, and you can do your part by passing this information on. And if you are not laughing or smiling at this point, it is either past your bedtime or it’s midnight at the oasis and time to put your camel to bed.”

No Zetas back when

When I was writing a column for the San Antonio Express-News back in the 1970s, there were no Charlie Hebdo assaults anywhere, and the bloodthirsty Zetas who have paralyzed Mexico editorial boards were years from assassinating their first poor newspaper reporter.

The French magazine has reared up and bared its teeth at the radical Islamic world, a laudatory blow for the free press. But it should be noted that all of France, including all branches of law enforcement, has demonstrated a rock-solid support for Charlie Hebdo and other sacrilegious publications of like ilk.

In Mexico, the poor newspaper reporter enjoys no protection from the bad guys, and law enforcement officials who aren’t hiding out with the media guys are already on the cartel payrolls.

When we were emerging from journalism school, the textbook phantasy of a fearless Evil Eye Fleagle reporter in a trench coat was imprinted with still wet ink in our brains. Nobody could then imagine a force so sinister and threatening as the Gulf Cartel or the violent corpse-making Zetas.

I believe it would be hard for me to condemn any surviving member of the Charlie Hebdo staff should he or she elect to get another job.

I’m ready to testify that the Prophet Muhammad was probably a damn good old boy, for self preservation is an inherent attribute to be cherished. And I have never had to trudge in the shoes of a Mexican newspaper reporter.

Had I have walked out of the Express-News city room to view Dan Cook or Paul Thompson swinging from the Nolan Street bridge, I would have hung up my typewriter ribbon on the spot.

When I moved into the hills of Bulverde back during the 1970s, there was still life in the gateway to the Texas Hill Country.

I loved it then, living in a shotgun tar paper shack with catahoula leopard dogs named Witch and Hoss, and a ringtail cat that had a nest between some sheet rock and a corrugated tin roof that leaked like a minnow seine when it rained. There was also a large family of skunks dwelling under the pier-and-beam flooring.

In the winter, it was heat from a wood-burning pot-bellied stove; in the hot summer, it was sitting naked in front of a big fan with bags of ice hanging down in front of the blades.

Augie’s Old Farm House

There was not a single traffic light in Bulverde back then. Augie Meyers was living in the old farm house across Cibolo Creek from Specht’s Store. My memories of that old house are vivid…Leon Russell sitting on a set of rusty bed springs while feeding bread crumbs to a rooster…John Fogerty’s Creedence Clear Water cranking up Proud Mary while a great horned owl hooted harmony in the trees. Willie and Augie rolling joints while Topanga Canyonmusicians like Spanky McFarland moved in and out through a sagging screen door.

Luke’s was the only gas station around Bulverde back then. Ferdie Wirth had his Ferdie’s Restaurant on 281 in full swing, and it was not uncommon to hear the ring of a double-bit axe on a fall evening in Bulverde. Or the bark of a gray fox. Or the smell of real wood smoke in the air as the shadows turned dark purple.

The Drug Store Cowboys were fuzzy-cheeked babies back then. Dub Robinson, Randy Toman, and Cotton Payne played my daughter Gena’s 16th birthday party at Ferdie’s, and already some critics were touting the trio as the next ZZ out of Texas.

The Old Honey Creek

When snow blanketed South Texas in 1985, my truck tracks were joined by only a few other sets when Highway 46 was still a country road linking Boerne and New Braunfels. If you didn’t have enough food in the house during snowstorms and floods, you packed it in to San Antonio. Or depended uponHoney Creek Grocery. There was no H.E.B. in Bulverde back then, and Kelly Gibson’s old Honey Creek Grocery at Blanco Road and Texas 46 wasn’t stocking much more than crackers, sardines, bread, milk, rat cheese, beer and Moon Pies during those days. And my memories of Kelly’s original Honey Creek Grocery, predecessor to today’s modern Honey Creek Restaurant further down Highway 46, are bitter sweet to say the least.

I enjoyed the camaraderie and the little store atmosphere, hanging out and swapping lies with Nolen, Iron Head, Johnny the Knife, John Henry, and other local dignitaries. But there was the down side as well. It was on the front steps of the old Honey Creek Grocery that Bexar County sheriff’s deputies handcuffed me for what proved to be my last ride to the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio.

How a Bulverde resident who was born and raised in the cedar brakes around Junction could have gotten strung out on Colombian marching powder and crystal meth is a story too long to recount. ButThat was 25 years ago, and my capture on the front stoop of Honey Creek Grocery was an incident that poor Kellly Gibson didn’t deserve.

Kelly’s first little one-room grocery was a mom and pop operation without a pop, and I can recall Kelly’s trepidation when she started stocking beer for added revenue necessary to keep the lights burning and to supply landlord John Reeves with his monthly rental fee.

When the first drunk stumbled and fell off the Honey Creek front porch, Kelly’s daughter Heather said, “Well, mom, it looks like we have finally wound up with a beer joint.”

With nerves frazzled from such minor incidents as this, Kelly damn sure wasn’t ready to have an ex-dope fiend alcoholic being rousted and handcuffed in the doorway of her rustic little country store.

Even such bitter memories as this have a pleasant after taste when I stand in what the once-quaint little country hamlet of Bulverde has become.
Not only do we have H.E.B. and a Sonic in Bulverde, we now have a friggin Beall’s. If that ain’t enough to wring the brine from a marble bust of Quanah Parker himself, let me escort you to the threshold of what will certainly mark the last killing blow to the Bulverde some of us once cherished and loved.

Rape and Ruination

It’s a soon-to-be constructed development to be known as Singing Hills, a 250-acre tombstone for a little town that doesn’t deserve to die. “Development” is a sanitized word for rape and ruination of a once-bucolic expanse of oak-studded beauty near the intersection of Highway 281 and Texas Highway 46. Protected by the land rapers are 70 acres of commercial space for shops and stores,40,000 square feet of office space, 160 apartment units, and 350 single family homes, $350,000 to $400,000 monstrosities which will no doubt be wedged closer together than purple martin bird house units.

And right square in the midst of it all will be a big, ugly Walmart, eating up 200,000 square feet of what was once a beautiful Bulverde hillside.

Sticks for Trees

An Express and News article about Singing Hills said that “460 trees will be planted at the site,” a revelation that made my stomach lurch. They will poke baby saplings in turf where I just watched a fleet of giant backhoes and bulldozers pushing over and grubbing up stately live oaks which had been growing unmolested in that area for a hundred years or more.

I still heat my home with a wood stove, and the thought of them mulching up and hauling off all of those beautiful oaks with little or no purpose for disposal of the wood sent me out to the clearing site with chain saw, wife Sharon,and trailer.

But I didn’t have the trailer half filled with firewood before a construction foreman showed up to wave me off.

“I can’t allow you to cut wood on the site for insurance purposes,” he said apologetically. “It’s gotten to the point where people can’t do much of anything anymore.”

I felt like sitting down and crying over the death of my home country, and I hope the ghosts of those bulldozed oaks come back to haunt every sonofabitch who has anything to do with Singing Hills.

Dr. Roy D. Kindrick is a highly respected oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Denton. He is also an assistant clinical professor in the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Baylor College of Dentistry.

Dr. Kindrick and I are first cousins, and Roy is a beloved friend who shares both fond and excruciatingly painful memories with me.

Our fathers were brothers. His father’s name was Bennett, my father’s name was Grady.

We passed those first names on to our sons.

My son Grady left this earth almost 20 years ago. Roy’s boy Ben has been gone less than half that time.

Roy and I will never know why. Self-inflicted gunshots by young men with entire lives before them can not be understood by mortal men like me and the maxillofacial surgeon who teaches at Baylor.

As only a parent who has lost a child in this manner can attest, the degree of angst and soul agony cannot be described. But this column isn’t intended for yesterday’s painful reflections and the perpetuation of family sorrow. I mention the deaths of our sons simply to highlight the love and powerful bond that exists between myself and doctor Roy Kindrick.

This colum is about a tin roof decoration that Roy fetched from our grandmother’s demolished barn in Junction. It’s also about some happy memories from that little town on the upper South Llano River where we enjoyed our childhoods. And it’s about an oral surgeon and university professor from Junction who smoked cigarettes, chewed Beechnut, Brown Mule, and Red Tag Tinsley’s chewing tobacco, and dipped Copenhagen snuff throughout most of his life, flabbergasting and flummoxing both family members and cohorts in the medical profession where he has excelled.

Dr. Roy Kindrick–if you can believe this–even wrote and published a book titled A Guide for Smokeless Tobacco Users.

And I hold the dubious distinction of being the wormy older cousin who turned Dr. Kindrick on to his very first cigarette.

We can laugh today about the nicotine insanity, for both of us have managed to dislodge the big tobacco monkey from our backs. But Roy has mixed feelings, since the happiest days of his existence were spent dipping snuff with son Ben as they hunted and fished together from Canada to the Amazon.

I just received a prize in the mail from Roy. It is a framed piece of the tin ridge row decoration, complete with a star, which came from our grandmother’s barn. Backing for the ridge row piece is made from old shingles which a demolition crew had ripped from the barn.

Roy said he and wife Pat were in Junction in July. It was on one of their annual trips to visit the graves of Roy’s parents, my uncle Bennett and aunt Eleanor Kindrick.

“It’s where he and Fred (his late older brother Fred Kindrick) started life,” Roy recalled in a letter, going on to say that he and Pat decided to have one last look at our grandmother’s property.

“Much to our surprise,” Roy said, “there was a crew loading the last few boards from the barn on to trailers. It had already been demolished. I introduced myself to the foreman and asked if I might have one of the old boards for a keepsake. He handed me a handful of shingles, and said, ‘These are great to paint pictures on.’ I asked if he had seen a ridge row decoration with stars cut in it on top of the tin roof. He said, ‘Yes, but it was torn up and in bad shape. I kept some pieces and planned to put them together for a keepsake to give to the owner of the barn.’

“About this time the owner showed. He had only been in Junction for a short time and was all ears to hear about the past history of his new property.”
Then the foreman brought Roy the ridge row pieces, one of which he mailed to me.

“As I was walking back to my car,” Roy said, “memories started to fly through my head. The only one I will mention here is my first cigarette. You, Fred (his late older brother), and I were in the dugout/hideout behind Nanny’s (grandmother Kindrick) house. We had taken money Mom gave us for sodapop, walked up to Main Street. and purchased Bugler and papers. You had a cigarette rolling machine. I remember it was orange. None of us got sick. The most important part for me was that I actually got to be one of the bunch.”

Roy went on to say: “This was the start of a long history of tobacco use for me. I smoked, chewed, and dipped about everything that was made. Can you imagine an oral and maxillofacial surgeon that used tobacco before and after work, and looked forward to E.R. calls because it meant he could have a dip of snuff on the way home? Copenhagen was my greatest addiction. I should say it is my greatest addiction. I’ve been clean since 2010, and with God’s help will stay that way.”

As of October 16, I will be alcohol and drug free for 23 years. And like cousin Roy, Copenhagen became my final addiction. I quit the snuff on Easter Sunday morning of 1992 when I?awakened to find my beard glued to my pillow case, a condition caused by snuff juice running from my mouth as I slept.
Roy says he would do it all over again if he had the chance.

“Some of the best times Ben and I had together were when we were dipping Copenhagen,” he said. “We fished Alaska, Canada, the Amazon twice, hunted antelope in New Mexico, dove near Brady, and spent most of every deer season in Kimble or Sutton counties. God has been good to me.”

I have no urge to drink alcohol or snort speed. The compulsion has been removed. But when I see a dirty old Copenhagen tin laying out in the dust or mud, I have an almost uncontrollable urge to grab it up and lick it clean.

As Hank Jr., would say, maybe it’s a Kindrick family tradition we are trying to break.

When San Antonio madam Theresa Brown was sitting on her infamous trick list, there were newspaper headlines from Texas to New York and Florida and no telling how many states in between.

More than 3,000 names were on the bordello client list, and both police and Brown herself said they included high-ranking municipal officials, politicians, nationally-known sports figures, religious “pillars of the community,” and at least one district judge.

Theresa died with only one small obituary headline last month. I remained her unrepentant friend until the end. She was a true San Antonio character who defied duplication.

Vice cops raided Brown’s San Antonio whorehouse, confiscating the little black book and a set of printed house rules Theresa kept posted for her working girls. That was October 3, 1980, a rollicking, hard-to-curry era in San Antonio’s outlaw history. Jack Hanratty was running his Castle Hills sports book, much to the chagrin and frustration of several DAs. And shotgun-toting Arthur Harry (Bunny) Eckert was blasting fellow pimps into eternity with his trusty sawed-off 12-guage.

What seemed like the eyes of the world were on Theresa Brown when vice cops confiscated and burned her little black book.

The cops and the DA’s office were unprepared for the aftermath. Madam Brown, it seems, had a duplicate list, complete with a rolodex card file which listed names, addresses, sexual preferences, and standings in the community. Incensed at the burning of what she called part of “San Antonio history,” Theresa was threatening to turn her complete trick list over to a small West San Antonio bilingual newspaper for publication.

That set the time bomb ticking. A potential explosion that could literally ruin hundreds of big shots and political panjandrums who couldn’t keep their peckers in their pants. The angst was all but palpable. The collective sweat was so real you could all but smell it running through courthouse corridors and dripping in the church pews.

Theresa never did release the list for publication, settling instead for a 5-year probated sentence for aggravated promotion of prostitution. In later years, she made an unsuccessful run for city council, opened and operated a gift shop, and continued to fleer and jape at what she considered the hypocrites who would dare judge her.

Theresa was a champion of battered women. She had a heart of gold, an uproarious sense of humor, and a soft side which probably turned her from publication of the trick list, mindful of the wives and children who would have suffered right along with the unmasked lotharios.

When asked why she didn’t turn the trick list over to Action Magazine, Brown fairly cackled: “I should have thought of that.”

With a couple of her working girls in tow, Theresa showed up at the World Championship Menudo Cookoff I promoted In a mobile trailer with a huge sign proclaiming:

Hot Pants Menudo

Theresa had a hand in getting me and golfing great Lee Trevino kicked out of the San Francisco Steak House. But the true villain in that little caper was notorious sports bookmaker Jack Hanratty, who took a perverse delight in walking bar and restaurant tabs, the bigger the bills the better.

Golfing great Trevino was here for the Texas Open. Larry Trader, who had caddied for Lee the Flea, was there at the San Francisco Steak House with me, bookie Hanratty, Theresa Brown, and a few others from the skull orchard scene.

With an expansive wave of his hand, Hanratty ordered Porterhouse Steaks for our party, then excused himself for a break in the men’s room. In predictable Hanratty fashion, Jack never returned, and when the steak house maître d’ tried to present Trevino the bill, Theresa blew a fuse, chastising the waitperson for bringing embarrassment to the “world’s greatest golfer.”

I didn’t have any money, and “the world’s greatest golfer” had left his in his hotel room. Jack Hanratty had disappeared, along with Larry Trader, and when security kicked us out of the restaurant, Theresa Brown left in a cab, probably with more money in her purse than the rest of us combined.

Trevino was on foot. I don’t even know how he got to the restaurant. But I gave him a ride to his hotel, where he fished a roll of $100 bills from under a mattress. We returned to the San Francisco Steak House where Lee paid the bill.

I first met Theresa Brown in Phil Sfair’s Navy Club, one of several downtown after-hours saloons. She was beautiful (and she remained beautiful for years), stylishly dressed, well coiffed, and with a twinkle in her eye that simply said Watch your step, dude!

I will never forget what she told Phil Sfair, the club owner.

“This little newspaper reporter could never afford me,” Theresa said. “So just give him whatever he wants and put the drinks on my tab.”

She then flounced out of the bar with not another word. And I never once tried to find out what that cost would have been.

T-Brown, as I called her, was a true hoot and a stickler for order. In her house rules booklet which was confiscated with the trick list, Theresa admonished her working girls not to wear religious symbols or wedding rings during working hours, to never use drugs, to bathe daily, and to have shoes on when clients were arriving or leaving.

I could easily have missed the little obit in the Express and News last month. The headline read Theresa Brown Burquette. With a beautiful head shot of a young Theresa Brown, it asked that donations go to the San Antonio Womens Shelter. No cause of death was listed, but I recall Theresa telling me by phone several years ago that her health was failing.

I recall Theresa saying that she had found God and was on a spiritual path. We exchanged Christmas cards until only a few years ago when I lost touch with her. She was 78 when she died, and had been living for a time in the Kyle and San Marcos area.

One line in T-Brown’s obit did make me smile. It said she will be remembered for her “adventurous nature.”

I get a hoot out of that gigantic atheist billboard at IH 10 near 410.

It says:

Don’t believe in God? Join the club.

First off, let me say that I don’t give a shit what anybody believes or disbelieves, and I reserve the right to be wrong, and sometimes off-color, with various and sundry longhaired redneck predilections that I?harbor.

If Cornerstone Church preacher John Hagee can legally advertise his ministry with a gargantuan billboard on North Loop 1604, then the non-believers should be afforded the same right. And I reserve the right to fleer and jape at the modern-day Robert Ingersolls as I do John Hagee’s hellfire and brimstone delivery.

Why all the trouble?

But why, I wonder, do the two sides go to so much trouble?

There either is a God or there is not a God, and “theists,” as the believers are called, feel they have a spiritual obligation to spread the message of a creator to those who might be ignorant of this devine presence. I believe the term is proselytizing.

The atheists, on the other hand, seem hell-bent (pun intended) to convince the rest of the world that no God exists, although the new breed of non-believers advance a mantra that suggests otherwise.

Once again, the well-worn and all-encompassing word “discrimination” rears its ugly head, and much like gays who are finally being recognized as fellow human beings, the atheists are talking about “coming out of the closet.”

I don’t believe the level of abuse can be compared. Being vilified, ostracized, murdered, physically abused, and denied membership and leadership positions in religious bodies of their choice, gays seem to have much more to complain about than some kid who was smitten by the mention of “God” in some public school function.

But atheist leaders like Jim Parker feel very strongly about their non-belief. And it must be daunting at times to feel very strongly about something you really don’t believe in. Parker is president of the group that erected the atheist billboard. It is called Freethinkers Association of Central Texas. He is also coordinator of the San Antonio Coalition of Reason.

A headline over a Parker column on the Express-News religion section May 19 read: Atheists should stand up and proudly join the club.

Billboard’s purpose

In the article, Parker said, “The purpose of the billboard is to let other non-believers know that they are not alone. In fact, there are several groups in the San Antonio area, each serving a specific niche, that people can join in to be with other like-minded people.”

Then Parker engages in a bit of believer-bashing of his own, noting that atheists, agnostics, Mormons, and Jews all rated higher on a U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey than did evangelicals and mainline protestants.

Parker says a friend of his became a non-believer only after he read the Bible. Referring to findings by the evangelical organization Barna Research Group, Parker says divorce rates are highest in the Bible Belt, and he goes on to say, “It is particularly interesting given the fact that the Christians getting divorced in the highest numbers are among the Christians who are most likely to raise an alarm about the state of marriage in society.

The Atheist Mission

Since erection of the atheist billboard, Parker said, additional groups have expressed interest in joining the coalition. And membership in all of the atheist groups has jumped about 15 percent in just a few days, prompting Parker to say, “We are accomplishing our mission.”

Parker’s newspaper article quotes him as saying: “Of course, not all non-believers find it safe yet to come out. In this city of a thousand churches, it is easy for us non-believers to be ostracized by friends, family, and employers. Some of us are very open about our non-beliefs, but others can’t afford to be. Even some of our kids have to be careful at school lest they endure the ridicule of students and teachers alike. Yes, teachers.” If Parker is “accomplishing” his “mission” with the atheist billboard, I reckon that’s just hunkydory and too cool for school, but the big sign challenges those who do believe in a power greater than themselves, and I happen to be among this number.

On the subject of God or no God, my favorite scribe was a 1930s stock hustler by the name of Bill Wilson.

A former agnostic who drank himself to death’s very door before undergoing what he called a spiritual awakening, Wilson wrote the legendary book which probably saved more lives in the 20th Century than Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine. Known today by millions of recovered alcoholics as “The Big Book,” Wilson’s journal is simply titled Alcoholics Anonymous.

Answer these questions

Without embracing any religious doctrine, or even trying to define anyone’s conception of God, Wilson’s fourth chapter in the book is titled We Agnostics. Acknowledging that most alcoholics coming into the AA program are of the non-believing persuasion, Wilson asks some questions that neither science nor the greatest theologians of modern times have been able to answer.

On the book’s page 54, Wilson wrote: Imagine life without faith. Were nothing left but pure reason, it wouldn’t be life. But we believed in life–or course we did. We could not prove life in the sense that you can prove a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, yet there it was. Could we still say the whole thing was nothing but a mass of electrons, created out of nothing, meaning nothing, whirling on to a destiny of nothingness? Of course we couldn‘t. The electrons themselves seemed more intelligent than that.

While writing for the Express-News, I interviewed renown atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, finding nothing about her non-belief to be particularly offensive. What was offensive about Madalyn were the wasp nest wads of black curly hair in her stinking armpits.

As for me and my beliefs, I know there is a God, and I know that I’m not Him. And that’s all I need to know.

I bought me a new high definition television, then signed up with the relatively new GVTC Cable TV service, a miracle of fiber optics of the mass communication persuasion. Pretty good for an old cedar chopper who was using a pair of bent rabbit ears in the hills of Bulverde not too many winters ago.

From a Royal manual typewriter to a Mac computer, I have progressed, and my reluctant emergence in the 21st Century now sees me switching from the herky-jerky Dish Network to a cable service which lights up my TV set with brilliant and near flawless audio and video, previously unheard of in the Bulverde area.Newscasts and Spurs games comprise the vast majority of my television viewing, and the technical improvement of GVTC Cable TV over Dish has been miraculous. With Dish, the Fox Sports SW channel would blink out during almost every single basketball game I tried to watch, and the only way I could get it back on was to unplug the TV from the wall, then wait while the contraption hunted up a new signal.

No more blackouts

With the new cable service, words are in sync with the lips that are mouthing them, and GVTC Cable TV doesn’t black out every time a sprinkle cloud passes overhead.But I guess this piece isn’t really about fiber optics and mass communications advancement out in the gingleweeds. It is more about the aggravations of current television commercials and the proliferation of simpleton lawyers who invade my living room in escalating numbers.

In high def, and without a single pixel paroxysm on my new Samsung screen, I get the daily brayings of injury lawyer Wayne Wright in clarion tones, although I have learned to mute him out on most commercials. This usually happens before he can get the “You deserve respect and justice…so we demand it” punch line out of his mouth.

My skills with the mute button on the TV remote are improving with continuous practice. I first started honing these skills on the garrulous “old man” voice which accompanies every single puke-inducing Whopper Burger commercial. I can now mute out almost every single Whopper Burger assault before the old bastard can get the first two words out of his mouth.

Soundless Yosemite Sam

Ditto for Wayne Wright. I have learned to silence “Yosemite Sam” Wayne long before he waves his cowboy hat at the TV audience, and gagging his procession of testifying clients is no problem at all. Knowing in advance what is coming, it is relatively simple to render them all speechless on my TV.

But Wayne Wright is just one of many, and the numbers of personal injury attorneys buying television time are increasing with the season. Quick Draw McGraw could never silence them all, and the mute button on the TV remote can never do away with the moronic images which accompany the pitches.

Most all lawyers who hawk their services on TV and roadside billboards are of the personal injury variety. While legally legitimate, these ambulance chasers are generally regarded within the legal community as bottom feeders whose legal fees have long since surpassed any standard of ethics some law professor might have advanced.

There are the annoying barristers who try to use sports and sports figures to feather their nests.

All Spurs fans have been subjected to the TV promotions of rotund legal beagle Forrest Welmaker. Right square in the middle of a game, we have been forced to watch this “Spurs sponsor” deliver a legal spiel on the sanctity of a basketball telecast, ending it with his signature promo line–Choose well…choose Welmaker.

Jeff’s Got Your Back is the billboard and TV slogan of personal injury lawyer Jeff Davis. His Davis Law Firm uses photographs of former world champion boxer Jesse James Leija and former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson. In Davis’s old telephone book ads, Leija says, “Jeff had my back. I know he will have yours.” Pearson is quoted as saying, “I know a winner when I see one. Call Jeff.”

Human round balls

Davis and Welmaker could both do with a little time on the treadmill and speed bag. While Davis is starting to get a little hog jowly under the chin, Forrest Welmaker is already prime for a cold weather rendering. The words don’t fit the picture when these two project themselves with professional athletes.

Then there is Marynell Maloney, an attorney whose television commercials are about as joyful as a funeral procession hearse with a blown engine and two flat tires. With sorrowful, droopy, hound dog eyes, and hair that gets longer and witchier every year, Marynell beeseeches those who have been wronged or downtrodden by the medical profession to call her.’

“I’m Marynell,” she whispers. “…..call me.”

When watching divorce specialist Steve Benke, we wonder which side will get the worst or the best of it. A mirthless fellow, Benke solemnly promises to handle all aspects of a family bustup, from child custody to alimony.

The Texas Hammer

But the absolute worst television presentation by a San Antonio lawyer is the one by Jim Adler, a personal injury hustler who provides a form of comic entertainment which cannot be found on any late night variety show or sitcom.

Adler has christened himself “The Texas Hammer,” and he does have a large, homely face which might resemble an oversized claw hammer or even a 10-pound sledge that has just been pulled out of the mud.

The “Texas Hammer” makes his living suing insurance companies, and/or threatening to sue insurance companies, and he bellows like a bull with hornets stinging his scrotum when he advises his TV viewers to call.

“Call me,” Adler hollers. “Call me NOW!”

Adler is the only one I don’t skip over or try to mute on the TV. He is so bad he could embarrass Billy Graham and Heidi Fleiss at one sitting, but I find him uproariously amusing.

I guess that’s an indication of how sick watching too much television has made me.

Dr. Don Johnson always asked me to drop copies of Action Magazine at his Acorn Hill Animal Hospital on Acorn Hill Drive at Perrin Beitel Road.He has been mentioned in my columns throughout the years, usually in stories of Kindrick dogs he has cared for. And although there will be no more magazine drops at Acorn Hill Animal Hospital, I am confident that my friend and chosen veterinarian of many years will be reading this piece from some lofty elevation in the spirit world.

Don died last month. He died doing one of the things he loved, driving a tractor on his rural home place. His heart stopped, and tears stung my eyes when I saw his obituary in the morning paper. I had just left his clinic the month before after getting annual shots for my Jack Russell pups, Henry and Annie, and my yellow-eyed house cat Boots.

Johnson loved us all

Don loved us all, me and my dogs. For more than 30 years. His passing triggers flashbacks of kindness, sorrow, and always hope for me and my canine family. Don’s memory will be forever yoked to the dogs I loved–Fancy, Hoss, Dynamite, Echo, Witch, Princess, and Petey the Wonder Dog, a tough little Jack Russell terrier who Johnson and I had to all but hog-tie before every traumatic toenail clipping.

Hundreds of animal lovers who took their pets to this special vet are in mourning. They jam-packed Prince of Peace Lutheran Church for the Don Johnson memorial service. When they ran out of pews, metal chairs were hauled in and set up in the sanctuary aisles. And the e-mailed messages of love and sorrow to the Don Johnson online guest book at Sunset Funeral Homes were passing the hundred mark as I penned this column.

Each of us has a Don Johnson story. And each of us felt like we were Johnson’s one and only client. I have more stories than would fit in this space, so let’s go back to the beginning some 30 years ago and my initial meeting with Don Johnson.

My bleeding dog Witch

When my female catahoula leopard dog named Witch was ripped half open by a feral hog, I rushed her to the only animal hospital I knew about at that time, the Animal Defense League facility on Nacogdoches Road. It was closing time when I arrived, and defense league doctors were already out the door and heading for their cars.

The hog’s tusk had opened a gaping wound in Witch’s belly, and she was bleeding all over me when I begged the defense league people for help.“Sorry, but we are already closed,” one said. “But there is a fairly new vet right up the street on Acorn Hill who might still be in his office. You might try him.”

With my blood-soaked Witch under one arm, I used the other hand to knock on the Acorn Hill Animal Hospital door.Don Johnson opened the door, took one look at my stricken dog, and asked, “What happened?”

“A wild hog got her,” I answered.

“Bring her in here,” Don said. “We’ve got to stop that bleeding and get her closed up.”

He didn’t mention money. He didn’t even ask my name at the time. He injected Witch with some sort of sedative, then proceeded to suture her up. It was all done in a manner of minutes, and the doc’s fee was a nominal amount I managed to fish out of my pocket. The dog’s recovery was rapid and complete.And I would go to no other veterinarian but Don Johnson throughout the next 30 years. He was my vet, and he became my friend.

Those who really knew Don Johnson will remember him as a no-nonsense pragmatic vet with a bedside manner not favored by hypochondriacs. He could even be abrupt on occasion, for Doc Johnson wasn’t into treating animals that had nothing wrong with them.

When fox terrier Dynamite swelled up like a weather balloon, Johnson told me, “He’s full of poop.”

“Why?” I asked.“Why do you sometimes get full of poop?” Johnson asked, answering his own question rhetorically. “”You get full of poop because you eat more than you dump.”

“What do I do for my dog?”

“You take him home and give him a laxative,” Don said. “The little rascal needs cleaning out. There is nothing wrong with him.”

The short and long sides

That was Don’s short and “keep ’em moving” side, for his patient load was usually heavy. His long on compassion and true love nature was made manifest when an animal’s life was really in peril.

I first saw this side of Don Johnson when Hoss, my 125-pound catahoula, fell into a coma after suffering a series of seizures brought on when he became entangled in an over-charged electric fence. Hoss was a magnificent specimen with double blue eyes and dappled gray leopard spots. I bought him as a puppy at a Denim Springs, Louisiana Catahoula field trial, and brought him back to San Antonio on an airplane.

Trying to save Hoss’s life, Don stayed by the big catahoula’s side throughout an entire night. The next morning, with puffy eyes and drooping shoulders, he said, “We lost him. I tried everything I know. I am so sorry.”

Then there was Don Johnson’s light and linspirational side. When Petey the wonder dog jumped out of my truck window at 70 miles-per-hour on IH 35, bouncing between 18-wheelers like white tennis ball, I gathered him in and rushed him to Acorn Hill.

The doc started laughing

Punching and poking on the skinned-up little varmint, Johnson started to laugh. When I asked him what in hell was so funny, he laughed some more.

“There is not one single bone broken. I can’t believe it. This is one tough little dog.”

The saga of Petey the wonder dog, including his gentle euthanization at age 17 by Dr. Don Johnson, may be read in its entirety among favorite Kindrick columns here.

When Petey’s body fell limp in my hands, Johnson put his arm around my neck and squeezed with the kind assurance of a Lutheran Christian who knew that the really big show is yet to come.

I will miss Don Johnson.

With the specter of both city and state smoking bans drawing inexorably near, I can?t help but reflect back on my lifetime of tobacco excesses and the agonies I experienced before finally breaking free.

I have quit alcohol, weed, meth, coke, black mollies, quaaludes, bennies, white crosses, acid, peyote buttons, and psilocybin mushrooms, and I can say without reservation that tobacco was my toughest habit to kick.

There will be no condemnation of smoking, chewing, or dipping from this corner. I fully understand the fear and loathing that a proposed smoking ban for bars and other public places can foster.

At one time in my life, I sucked on cigarettes for the sole purpose of making food taste better (heavy smokers will understand this), and the prospect of running smooth out of cigarettes with no handy place to purchase more was a stoker of raw terror.

I was loaded and rolling

Starting when I was 14 or 15 years of age, I smoked anything I could stick in my mouth and light with a match. My first smoke was a hand-rolled Bull Durham that I put together from “makings” I swiped from my cowboy grandfather, the late Clarence (Shinny) Chenault of Kimble County.

The “poor boy” smokes of those hardscrabble years were hand rolled with cigarette papers and tiny dry tobacco flakes which were sold in little cloth sacks labeled either Bull Durham or Duke?s Mixture. It took considerable skill to hand roll a Bull Durham or Duke?s Mixture cigarette, and I wasted half a sack of tobacco before I got that first spit-licked, humpbacked and hand-twisted little cancer stick ready for the kitchen match. It was a great victory, and I can still remember the vast sense of accomplishment that accompanied the magic moment.

You couldn?t smoke a hand-rolled “Duke?s” or “Bull Durham” in the wind or in a moving truck or car with the windows down. The tiny sparks blowing from those primitive little butts left shirts speckled with tiny, telltale holes. So when my grandpa switched from Bull Durham to the easier to manage brands known as Bugler and Prince Albert, I happily went along with the program, stealing from his Prince Albert cans and Bugler packages when Grandpa Shinny left them within my grasp.

First blissful drag

The first “ready-roll” I experienced was a short (filters were right around the corner), non-filtered Camel, a wonderful little discovery that made me dizzier than a hydrophobic civet cat when those first blissful “drags” rolled down into my lungs. I learned to blow smoke out of my nose, talk with smoke coming out of both sides of my mouth like Bogart, and even drink beer with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of my mouth.

From those little Camel shorties, I graduated to nonfilter Chesterfields, Lucky Strikes, and finally those long, lungbustin ? double-whammy smokes in the red package some of us remember as non-filter Pall Malls. I smoked all of these products for years before eventually switching over to Camel filters. I smoked up to two packs or more a day, sucking them so short the ashes all but fell off behind my teeth. Nicotine had stained my right hand fingers baby shit yellow, and it was not uncommon for me to bolt upright in bed from a sound sleep to fire up a cigarette.

I can well understand that consternation of smokers who might not be able to puff away in their favorite bars. And to this day, I can?t really imagine how it is in the Bexar County Jail where smoking has been banned for years now.

Back during 1988 and 1989. when crank and Colombian marching powder had me strung out like a sugar mill jackass, I was bouncing in and out of the Bexar County Jail with only one paramount concern when they had me behind bars. Smoking was permissible in the jail back then, and my daily goal was to score enough smoking tobacco to carry me through to the next day.

Bugler and rolling papers were carried in the jail commissary in the late 1980s, and I had been well prepared during my childhood hand-rolling days in my Kimble County home of Junction. I didn?t buy soap, candy, or moon pies with my meager commissary dollars. I bought Bugler tobacco and nothing else.

Struggling to quit

I quit smoking 17 years ago, but I still can?t imagine the horrors of a jail with a smoking ban. My struggles to quit cigarettes and eventually the Copenhagen snuff which took over my life after smoking have been recounted in this column before. But, for you smokers who might be considering “smokeless tobacco” as an alternative to cigarette puffing, heed this warning. Copenhagen was far tougher for me to quit than even cigarettes.

The decision to switch from cigarettes to Copenhagen happened one bad night as I death rattled and coughed up green phlegm balls bigger than Copano Bay oysters. I had to do something, and Copenhagen offered the alternative. In keeping with my lifelong belief that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I set forth to become a hardcore Copenhagen dipper.

I had chewed some tobacco during my earlier smoking days, spitting Beechnut and Brown?s Mule streams in every direction, but I soon learned that real “Cope” dippers don?t hardly ever spit. They swallow the juice, and the real pros can even eat a meal with a dip tucked between lip and gum on one side of the mouth while food goes in the other.

Old pillow face

I didn?t eat with Copenhagen in my mouth, but I slept with a dip in my mouth until that fateful Easter Sunday morning 12 years ago. When I looked in the bathroom mirror, I realized that the Copenhagen juice had glued my pillow to my beard. I was wearing the pillow and wondering what in hell I was going to do. I couldn?t go on like that. At that point in time, my wife-to-be was beginning to complain about the amber stains on bed sheets, pillow cases, blankets, and my shirt fronts.

I sucked it up and quit the “Cope.” But I know I will never completely recover from the awful addiction. To this day, when I see a dirty mud-encrusted Copenhagen can laying in some street gutter, I still fight an almost overpowering urge to fall to my knees, tear off the lid, and lick it clean.

Today, I can sympathize with smokers facing a ban. I do this while remembering with disgust how I looked with a tobacco juice stained pillow hanging from my beard.

I just received an e-mail message which opens with this interesting little announcement:

Sam,

You were recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent your professional community in the 2010 edition of Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals.

The missive came from Heritage Who’s Who (among Executives and Professionals) of New York. It was signed by Chris Jespersen, identified as the “nominating committee secretary.”

My first reaction was, YES!

And ain’t it about time that someone recognized greatness and purity in its rawest form.

As these thoughts flashed through my brain, the second reaction was a spontaneous query of my own making:

And what took those New York dildos so long to get my name on the rolls of the greats and the near-greats?

They never checked 200 N. Comal

Remarkable! Yes? And would this be possible for an outlaw journalist? And could the “nominating committee” be unaware of the fact that they have more pictures of me at my old residence at 200 North Comal than my mother ever possessed?

Probably not, I surmised. And how would the New York nominating committee for lionization of great community leaders and executivespossibly know that 200 North Comal Street in San Antonio is the address of the Bexar County Jail?

With harsh reality already seeping into my mind, and with the scent of decomposing rat carcass starting to assault my smeller, I continued on with Mr. Jespersen’s tantalizing e-mail.

After his opening line announcing my recent selection as a potential candidate for the big Who’s Who book, Chris Jespersen continues:

We are pleased to inform you that your candidacy was formally approved December 4th, 2009. Congratulations!

A fitting addition indeed

The Publishing Committee selected you as a potential candidate based not only upon your current standing, but focusing as well on criteria from executive and professional directories, associations, and trade journals. Given your background, the Director believes your profile makes a fitting addition to our publication.

There is no fee or obligation to be listed. As we are working off of secondary sources, we must receive verification from you that your profile is accurate. After receiving verification, we will validate your registry listing within seven business days.

Once finalized, your listing will share prominent registry space with thousands of fellow accomplished individuals across the globe, each representing accomplishments within their own geographical area.

To verify our profile and accept the candidacy, please visit here. Our registration deadline for this selection period is December 31, 2009. To ensure you are included, we must receive your verification on or before this date. On behalf of our Committee I salute your achievement and welcome you to our association.

Sincerely yours,

Chris Jespersen

My “verification?”

Who is to “verify” my standing as a pillar of the professional community, an iconic giant among executives and professions all around the “globe?”

I don’t believe we could count on Charlie Kilpatrick, the “Texas Cavalier” editor-publisher of the Express and News who snipped my string at the newspaper for allegedly “associating with undesirable” elements.

In his Texas Cavaliers monkey suit, Charlie was the only member of this moneyed menagerie of self-imagined “blue bloods” who could stay in step during street parades. And I fear he never forgave me for fleering and japing at his brother “Cavaliers.”

The late Jack Hanratty, my friend and the biggest sports bookmaker in South Texas, was the first to label me an “outlaw journalist.” And if Jack were here today, I dare say that the wily old odds-maker would put little stock in my inclusion in a New York Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals journal.

Bullshit still walks

Jack always said, “Money talks and bullshit walks.” And the Who’s Who nominating committee hasn’t offered to pay me a cent for emerging as a great community leader.

So, without official testimony as to my qualifications for “Who’s Who” classification, it took me only a few clicks of the mouse to verify the obvious.

The 2010 Edition of Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals is a vanity scam. Sort of reminds me of the Doctor Hook lyrics in the Shell Silverstein blockbuster recording “Cover of the Rolling Stone:”

We take all kinds of pills

To get all kinds of thrills

But the thrill we’ve never known

Is the thrill that will get you when you get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.

Any sucker stupid enough to “verify” his candidacy as an inductee into the Heritage Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals, is the same breed of ego turkey who would get the ultimate thrill of seeing his name in a worthless and meaningless book.

Bend over, boys

Then comes the hook. If he wants to see the publication, he must buy it. Bend over and grab your ankles.

A Google search turned up the truth. One guy wrote, “I used to work for this company, and yes, people, it is 100% a con. People buy these incredibly expensive books which are meaningless. Nobody should support this outfit.”

Another prospective inductee notes that he hasn’t had a paying job in five years. “Perhaps I would be more qualified if this were Who’s Who Among the Unemployed,” he wrote, “or Who’s Who on their spouse’s shit list.”

So I messaged nominating committee chairman Chris Jespersen back, suggesting that he shove his Heritage Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals way up there where the sun never shines. And that’s all.

Once a nobody always a nobody.

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