Category Archives: heroes

The Artist Who Masters the Darkness

Do you know who Bernie Wrightson is?

Bernie Wrightson in 1972, when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, created for D.C. comics the character known as The Swamp Thing.

Of course,

being a stupid kid at the time, I totally ignored his genius with pen and ink, ink and brush, and fascinatingly dense forests of intricate detail.

I didn’t really get it until he joined The Studio with Jeffery C. Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith (whom I idolized for his work on Conan.)

And while in college, consuming everything available by The Studio that I could find and afford, I fell in love with his deeply dark and brooding illustration work for a new edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Frankenstein had 50 illustrations by Wrightson that firmly established the fact that by drawing with black ink you could show in startlingly real ways the qualities of white light. That appealed to me both literally as a way to make beautiful art and metaphorically, as that last thing was what I was doing with my own life, drawing the darkness to get to the beautiful light.

Most of his work

was drawing monsters; werewolves, zombies, the creatures of H.P. Lovecraft, and numerous things from nightmares.

But it has a definite beauty of its own. Darkness, evil, and corruption brings out the quality of what is light, righteous, and pure. There is truth in approaching reality from the dark side of the equation.

Of course, he would also do work on heroes like Batman, because the darkness breeds its own defenders of justice.

I am not so much a fan of monsters as I am a believer of taming the monsters who beset us as we try to make a worthy life for ourselves. But I can definitely see where Bernie Wrightson has been doing exactly that with his brilliant pen-and-ink artwork. Sadly, he will be doing no more of it since we lost him in 2017. But it is a legacy he left behind that will make his light continue to shine forth from dark places for a long time to come.

4 Comments

Filed under artists I admire, artwork, heroes

For the Love of Korngold

hqdefault (1)

When I was in Cow College at Iowa State University I spent most of my study time listening to KLYF Radio in Des Moines.  They would eventually transform into an easy-listening music station, but the time I truly lived a K-LYFe was when they played classical music.  And it was there that I first fell deeply in love with the Saturday Matinee stylings of  Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the first incarnation of John Williams of Star Wars fame.  Yes, movie music.  Classical movie music.  And it seemed, mostly movie music for Errol Flynn movies.

 

 

 

My sister was always a lover of Errol Flynn movies, and when KGLO TV Channel 3 would play one on the Saturday Movie Matinee in the early afternoon, we would have to watch it, the whole thing, no matter how many times we were repeating the same four movies.  Nancy would memorize the lines from the Olivia deHavilland love scenes.  I would memorize the sword fight scenes with Errol and Evil Basil Rathbone (Good Basil was Sherlock Holmes, and we had to watch those too.)  Early evenings on those Saturdays were all about playing pirate and Captain Blood adventures.  Or better yet, Robin Hood.

 

 

 

But the music of adventure was by the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  He did the sound tracks for Captain Blood, Robin Hood, and the Sea Hawk.

I sincerely love the corny old movie matinee music because it was not only genius-level mood music and story-telling in a classical music instrumental masterpiece, but because even now it takes me back to the boy I was at twelve years old, playing pirate on Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.   Making Robin Hood bows out of thin tree branches and arrows out of dried ragweed stalks.  Sword fighting to the death with sticks with my cousin Bob, who was always Basil Rathbone in my mind. while I’m sure I was Basil Rathbone in his mind.

To be honest, there is much more to Korngold than I have relentlessly gushed about here like a hopeless nerdling fan-boy in the throws of a geeky movie passion.  He was a musical child prodigy like Mozart.  He wrote a ballet called Der Schneemann (the Snow Man) when he was only eleven, and became the talk of the town in Vienna, Austria in 1908.  He became the conductor of the Hamburg Opera by 1921.  He wrote some very fine classical music in the 20’s that still rings through orchestra halls to this day before coming to America in the early 30’s with film director Max Reinhardt.  He scored his first film in 1935, adding music to Reinhardt’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  He was fortunate to escape Europe just as the Nazis were coming to power in Germany, and also at the right time to team up with new movie star sensation, Errol Flynn.  He won his first Oscar for the musical score of the movie Anthony Adverse in 1936 and he won his second for The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.  He died in 1957, a year after I was born.  But I promise, I didn’t kill him.  I was in college in the 1970’s when his music underwent a revival, complete with renewed popularity.

Ad-RobinHood7

His music was pure gold to listen to in the fields of corn in Iowa in the 1970’s.  It was just as good as that last pun was terrible.  So, in other words, really, really, spectacularly good.  It was the music that scored my childhood fantasy adventures.

Leave a comment

Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, classical music, heroes, humor, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 8

But the Game Wasn’t Over

Mike and Blueberry sat next to the hero of the bottom of the first, happier than Bobby had seen them in a long time.  And what was even better, he knew he was himself the reason.  The Pirates led three to nothing.  But Tim got out on the next fly ball, popping it to Delwyn of all people.  And, wouldn’t you know it, this time Delwyn didn’t drop it.

It was, like all 4-H softball games, a five-inning game.  And being the home team, the Pirates only had to hold on to the lead until the top of the fifth inning was over.  And Mike was on his usual game.  That fastball, even though it was underhanded and using a ball that floated through the air like a watermelon, burned holes through the Lincoln township bats and Tim Kellogg’s catcher’s mitt for good measure.  Three more strike-outs in each of the second, and third innings.

But Clarion’s blond Apollo wasn’t going to stay shook up for a whole game either.  And he could also windmill in a scorching-hot fastball.  He matched Mike strikeout after strikeout.

In the fourth inning, both teams got a couple of runners on base.  But the Leaders scored two runs when Watson hit a double with runners on base.  And the Pirate’s fourth had two men on base, one of whom was a girl, but Bobby struck out instead of driving them in, and Tim made the last out again after him.

So, it all came down to the final inning, and the Pirates with only a one-run lead.

Bobby, of course, spoke directly to the Big Guy in the Sky.  “Don’t let them hit it to me.  Whatever you do, don’t make that ball come to me.”

The first batter up was Leroy Watson.  And wouldn’t you know it, the gol darn Apollo hit a ball to deep left field that Billy Martin could only get to on the bounce.  Billy’s arm was good enough to wing it into the home plate to hold Watson to a triple.  Still, the tying run was on third base.

Mike on the mound had to really bear down and throw hard strikes for the rest of the inning.  The next two Leaders struck out.  But you could see the strain on Mike’s face.  In fact, you could see it all the way from deep right field.
“Please, don’t let that ball come to me.  Hit it to Billy.  He’s good at catching fly balls.  He’ll win the game for us.”

But it didn’t get hit out to any field.  In fact, the bats didn’t get near the ball for two more batters.  Mike pitched eight consecutive balls outside the strike zone.

“It’s okay, Mike.  Let your fielders help you.  Your arm is getting tired of throwing it so hard,” Coach Kellogg said in a wise old voice that made Bobby’s heart drop down from the middle of his chest, down into his behind, and eventually down his right leg and all the way out through the bottom of his right shoe.

And Bobby knew where it was coming.  Delwyn Marmoody was up to bat.  And Bobby’s heart was tunnelling down into the grass somewhere beneath him.

“Be on your toes, fielders!” cried Tim from his position at catcher.

“You can do this, Bobby!” cried Blueberry from the bench.

Why did she have to yell that?  She put the curse on him!  He wished he could turn into a swan once again and fly away.

Two strikes and two balls later, Delwyn swung.  The bat went, “TUNK!”  And the ball was flying through the air… Directly at Bobby in right field.

“Gotta get under it”

“You can do it, Bobby!”

“Shut up, Blue!”

And then it settled into Bobby’s open glove.

And he was about to lift it high in the air in triumph…

When it rolled out again and hit the ground, somewhere on top of Bobby’s buried heart.

“AW, NO!!!” cried the Norwall crowd in unison.

The runners were going with the crack of the bat, so two of them had already crossed the plate when Billy came scrambling into right field, got the ball and cannoned it to home plate to keep them only one run behind.  The runner trying for a third score was out at the plate.

                                    *****

There was a shallow hope in the bottom of the fifth inning.  Two runs would win the game.  One run would tie it and give them an extra inning.

But Johnny Miller struck out. 

And when Dilsey Murphy got up, she hit a double to right field.  And there was a glimmer of hope with one out.

Then Mike got up.  Mike was the most dangerous hitter the Pirates had.  Watson intentionally walked him.

“It’s gonna be hero time again for you, Bobby,” Blueberry whispered in his ear.

Frosty Anderson got up to the plate with his meanest game-face sneering away at the Clarion Apollo.  He banged the heavy bat Mike had used on the plate to show how much business he actually meant.

“Hit it out, Frosty!” hollered Tim Kellogg.  “Or you-know-who is up next!”

Bobby did know who.  And there went his heart again, headed for the depths of the dirt in the dugout.

The pitch swished in at just about the perfect spot for Frosty to hit it, and he swung with all the might of Hercules.  He topped the ball to the third baseman who stepped on the bag and zipped to first for the double play.

Frosty Anderson came barrelling over to the Pirate bench with so much anger that fire was blazing up out of his ears and lighting his blond hair on fire.

“You know who really lost us the game, don’t you?” he screamed directly at Bobby.  Suddenly he was directly in front of Bobby, pushing him with two hands.  Bobby went backwards over the bench and landed on his back in the sand.

Mike grabbed Frosty from behind, whirled him around, and presented him with a cocked right fist, ready to knock the angry boy’s block off just like in the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots commercials.

“You need to blame somebody, hero?  Who hit into the double play at the end?  Bobby’s on our team.  And he’s the one who drove in three runs to put us ahead.”

“Okay, okay… Sorry, Bobby.  But he did drop the game-ending out.”

“Whatta you think, Bobby?  Should I hit him?”

“No, please don’t.  He’s a Pirate too.”

“Good boy, Bob.  That’s the way we hold a team together,” said Coach Kellogg as he picked Bobby up off the ground and set him back on his own feet again.

The whole group said that it wasn’t Bobby’s fault that they lost, mostly because Coach Kellogg asked them to, but not all of them meant it.

“We almost won,” said Blueberry.

“No, we didn’t,” Bobby said quietly so only Blue could hear, “But thanks for thinking so.  You have a good heart.”

Leave a comment

Filed under heroes, humor, kids, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Tarzan and the Timeless Valley of Nostalgia

There was a time when Tarzan was one of the ruling heroes of my boyhood fantasies of power and self-fulfillment. And, while Tarzan was a cartoon show on Saturday morning, comics by Burne Hogarth, movies in the theater in color with Mike Henry, or a weekly series on TV with Ron Ely, he was always Johnny Weissmuller to me. Weissmuller who played both Tarzan and Jungle Jim in the Saturday afternoon black-and-white movies.

I have to admit, I didn’t identify with the character of Tarzan as much as I thought of myself like the character “Boy”, played by Johnny Sheffield in movies like “Tarzan Finds a Son”. It was a significant part of my boyhood to imagine myself being like Boy, free from practically all restraints, able to gad about the dangerous jungle nearly naked with monkey pals and no fear. If I got into trouble by believing my skills were greater than they really were, I would save myself with ingenuity, and, barring that, Tarzan would rescue me. And, believe it or not, sometimes there were fixes that Tarzan got into that he needed me and Cheetah to be creative and get him out of. I knew in my heart that one day real life would be like that, especially once I grew into Tarzan and stopped being just Boy. That idea was in my head so loudly that several times I went to Bingham Park Woods, stripped down, and played Boy in the Jungle.

As in the previous essay about Heroes of Yesteryear, I learned important things from Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday TV. He taught me that all you really needed, even in the darkest jungles of Africa, was confidence and courage. You could stand up to any deadly danger without the protection of any armor, practically naked, in fact, if only you had that heroic goodness of heart. The little boy I was then still believes that whole-heartedly even in the aging body of an old man.

So, Tarzan continues to live in my memory, a part of me, an essential part of my education. He is me and I am he. But only in my mind. Me in a loincloth, swinging on a vine now… and probably going splat like an overripe melon on the jungle floor… well, that is too ridiculous to even imagine being real anymore. Yet he lives on in me. And he battles the metaphorical leopard-people of modern life through me. Unarmored. Confident. And unafraid.

3 Comments

Filed under autobiography, comic book heroes, foolishness, heroes, humor, movie review, old books, review of television, strange and wonderful ideas about life, TV as literature

Drawing Boyhood

My boyhood in the 1960’s was complicated. There was fear and depression and growing awareness of violence and unfairness and evil in the world, starting in 1963 with the death of John F Kennedy.

There was magic and wonder in my childhood. I found comic-book heroes like Spiderman, fantasy movies like Captain Sinbad starring Guy Williams, and Science fiction movies like 2001; A Space Odyssey.

A sense of adventure and the wonders of the past came through reading. I read and loved Treasure Island and Kidnapped, both by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Of course boyhood is also the time in which we have to come to terms with sexuality and sexual identity. My battle was complicated by being sexually assaulted by an older boy. It took me a long time to sort out the fact that I was not a homosexual and being a victim does not make a boy into one. I was an untouchable child, but that didn’t stop me from obsessing about love and affection constantly.

What you learn to be in boyhood is what you end up being in adulthood.

Nurture is more important to development than nature.

Education is what makes a boy into a man. Your genetic makeup has its effects, but is only the blueprint, not the building.

Boyhood behavior might not go exactly as parents plan, but it has to happen anyway.

There is no such thing as a perfect boy.

Boyhood always was and still is an adventure. I should know. I’ve been a boy for 64 years.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, autobiography, education, heroes, humor, Paffooney

The Philosopher King’s Quest

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor, one of the good ones, not like Caligula, Nero, or even Commodus, his son who was emperor after him.

But what made him good? Obviously the fact that he was beloved by the Roman people, even the senators and the very people who would’ve benefitted personally by his failure and demise.

He was a good administrator that benefitted the people with public works. He was a good military leader who maintained the Pax Romana until his death in 180 A.D.

Of course, his son, Commodus, blew that all up by being such an incompetent dictator that his own Praetorian Guard assassinated him (as portrayed in the movie Gladiator, though that movie also made him out to be his father’s murderer, of which there is no real evidence.)

But my friend Emperor Marcus was so much more than just a good ruler. He was a good man. And this is due almost entirely to the fact that he was a well-known Stoic Philosopher.

He embraced the philosophy of Greek philosopher and Roman slave Epictetus. Stoicism is the belief that you, as an individual do not control anything in the outside world to the degree you can control yourself. It is not the things, people, and events around you that matter, since you can’t control those. It is your own set of principles that you have to put in place and adhere to that affect the outcomes in life. In fact, you should view the setbacks and roadblocks to your accomplishments not as a negative thing, but as a learning opportunity. Learn all you can while you may, and at every opportunity. The Stoic welcomes hardship, because the overcoming of hardships shapes the man or woman you will become.

I found this philosophy to be the only way forward some days during the course of my teaching career. I was always more successful in meeting challenges head-on as they arose in front of me. Delaying, making excuses, or running away are all easier to do than that. But those other wimpy tactics never yield the success you can have by defeating your opposition and hardships face-to-face. Of course, you have to remember too that overcoming opposition does not have a selfish quality if you are a Stoic. In fact, you must respect all men, even your enemies. Marcus Aurelius, in response to victory in battle won by having thirsty troops offer a Christian prayer and then have their problem solved by a fortuitous rain storm, told the Senate they must no longer persecute Christians. They started to be considered good Roman citizens no matter what their religion.

Marcus Aurelius made it clear in his writings, the Meditations written in Greek, that, “In order to win the day, you must first win the morning.” To him this meant you had to be an early riser, tackling each problem of the day as it came up in the order they happened, morning to night.

So, the Philosopher King’s Quest, by this Stoic philosophy, is managed by first putting yourself right. You must examine your beliefs, test your hypotheses, and prove yourself to yourself before trying to tackle the world.

2 Comments

Filed under commentary, compassion, heroes, Paffooney, philosophy

Pumpernickel Is More Than Just a Silly Word!

pumpernickel

We descendants of Germans  all understand something you all probably don’t know, and might have a hard time actually accepting.  Germans and German Americans like to simply call things what they are… but we do it with remarkably silly words so you don’t take things as seriously as you probably should.

Seriously…  Pumpernickel bread looks an awful lot like a cow pie.  Don’t know what a cow pie is?  That’s because you don’t speak Iowegian. Remember that post?  A cow eats grass, digests it for a while, bakes it in the secret methane chambers embedded secretly within every living cow, and then the old garbage shoot plops out the cow pie.  Flies love to eat it.  The grass grows fiercely after absorbing what the flies and maggots leave behind.  Yeah, that.

The bread originated in Germany where, as I have so graciously pointed out to you, they call things simply what it is.  Pumpern in German means to break wind. Nickel is a variant of Nicholas or Nick, which is the name der Teufel, err…the Devil often goes by.  So the bread is called, in its simplest translation, “Devil’s fart bread”.  Isn’t that rich?  And it tastes good too.

But what’s the point of praising pumpernickel?  Well, it brings to mind in Mickey’s mangled mish-mash of a mind an old Daffy Duck cartoon.

220px-The_Scarlet_Pumpernickel_Title

Yes, the tale of the Scarlet Pumpernickel has been playing out in Monkey Town where the Great Orange Buffoon in charge of it all is busy making Nixon noises.

the-scarlet-pumpernickel-c2a9-warner-brothers

 

 

 

“Yes, my lord, there is an investigation  into the Russian connection between your henchmen and Vladimir Putin,” said Director Comey.

“Hmmm…  Fake News!  Very Sad!” moaned the Buffoon.  “Comey, I appreciate you smearing Clinton and all you did to help the greatest most historic election ever… but you’re fired!

scarlet

“Aha!” says Comey, revealing himself to be the infamous hero, the Scarlet Pumpernickel “…now I have you, my lord! But, wait! Fired, you say?  Um, you do have the authority to fire me, don’t you.”

“Now, clear out your desk, loser!”

“Ah, but this action makes you look guilty, my lord.  Perhaps the sting of my sword of justice will prick you in the behind yet!”

“Sessions!  Defeat this loser for me!  Very sad, sick man!”

image-w1280

“Me thinks you have not heard the last of the Scarlet Pumpernickel!” cried Comey as he leaped out the tower window into the chasm with a river at the bottom far below.

What happens in the next episode of the saga of the hero named after devil fart bread?  Only time will tell.

thescarletpumpernickel (22)

Interesting way to introduce my latest Monkey President cartoon attempt to depict Trump… no?  You do realize he’s a German American too?

C360aaa

 

Leave a comment

Filed under angry rant, cartoons, goofy thoughts, heroes, humor, politics, satire

Rememberries

Yes,

I am stupidly planning to do it again. A book of essays like I did before, but now with fewer of my best essays to choose from. So, essays with fewer calories, but also less nutrition. Laughing Blue was a success from the point of view of what I wrote it for. I know people generally don’t read essays for fun.

But I write them for fun. And for better health. Healthy thinking is as necessary as a proper diet.

You see, I am definitely not in good health. I retired from my job as a school teacher six years ago because of poor health. It was a job I truly loved and defined me as a human bean (by which I mean a human being, but with a careful balance of protein and carbohydrates.) Being retired is more restful. But you reach a point where doing nothing leads to sitting and rotting. I find I need the extra vitamin C you get from cooking essays with a lot of berries in them. Specifically rememberries.

Okay, I know that is a rather dumb food pun. But the vitamin C is still there to boost my immune system and make me feel better. Vitamin C for Comedy… Clarity… Creativity… and Cartoons.

So, let’s start with a berry from the 1960s. Let’s start with Moonberries.

I was twelve years old when the Apollo Program landed Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the LEM Eagle on the Moon at Tranquility Base. I was very much a child of the Space Age. I had a model kit of the Apollo 11 from Revell, all the pieces in white plastic. The tiny struts on the Lunar Expeditionary Module were maddeningly breakable, and even would warp under the dissolving power of Testor’s airplane glue. I spent hours with sticky fingers putting that together in December of 1968 and January of 1969. I was twelve, in the middle of my wonder years, and totally obsessed with the flavor of the whole Moonberry experience.

For several years through Gemini and then Apollo we watched the story unfold on our old black-and-white Motorola television set. All of it narrated by Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra. All of it… space walks, docking maneuvers, orbit reports, a special Christmas message from Apollo 8, splashdowns bringing home heroes like Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders… the man who had spoken the words;

“For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.”

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

“And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’: and there was light.

“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

And then that late, late night when we all stayed up on July 20, 1969… And we knew they could fail and never come home again… We learned that with Grissom, White, and Chaffee on Apollo 1… That horrible fire… The somber funeral parade on TV that called to mind JFK and what befell him after he started the dream…

But no, we heard those words, “The Eagle has landed.”

And then later, “One small step for man… One giant leap for mankind.”

And then I knew it. For me, real life had finally begun.

I promise, there are more rememberries to come, and some might even be nutritious.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, commentary, healing, health, heroes, humor, metaphor, Paffooney

The Artist Who Masters the Darkness

Do you know who Bernie Wrightson is?

Bernie Wrightson in 1972, when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school, created for D.C. comics the character known as The Swamp Thing.

Of course,

being a stupid kid at the time, I totally ignored his genius with pen and ink, ink and brush, and fascinatingly dense forests of intricate detail.

I didn’t really get it until he joined The Studio with Jeffery C. Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith (whom I idolized for his work on Conan.)

And while in college, consuming everything available by The Studio that I could find and afford, I fell in love with his deeply dark and brooding illustration work for a new edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Frankenstein had 50 illustrations by Wrightson that firmly established the fact that by drawing with black ink you could show in startlingly real ways the qualities of white light. That appealed to me both literally as a way to make beautiful art and metaphorically, as that last thing was what I was doing with my own life, drawing the darkness to get to the beautiful light.

Most of his work

was drawing monsters; werewolves, zombies, the creatures of H.P. Lovecraft, and numerous things from nightmares.

But it has a definite beauty of its own. Darkness, evil, and corruption brings out the quality of what is light, righteous, and pure. There is truth in approaching reality from the dark side of the equation.

Of course, he would also do work on heroes like Batman, because the darkness breeds its own defenders of justice.

I am not so much a fan of monsters as I am a believer of taming the monsters who beset us as we try to make a worthy life for ourselves. But I can definitely see where Bernie Wrightson has been doing exactly that with his brilliant pen-and-ink artwork. Sadly, he will be doing no more of it since we lost him in 2017. But it is a legacy he left behind that will make his light continue to shine forth from dark places for a long time to come.

Leave a comment

Filed under artists I admire, artwork, heroes

My Favorite Cowboy

When he walked through my classroom door for the first time in August 1988, the start of his seventh grade year, Jorge Navarro was a tiny little third-grader-looking thing. But one of the first things he ever told me in English was that he was a cowboy.

He had two older brothers. Sammy was an eighth grader that year, and Jose was in tenth grade. So, I already knew his brothers. Big strapping lads. They didn’t speak English really well and couldn’t read. But they were smart in a pragmatic, workman-like way. They all three came from a ranch down in Encinal, Texas. Fifteen miles closer to the Mexican border than where I was teaching in Cotulla, Texas. But they were not Mexicans. Their grandparents and parents were born in the USA, and their great grandparents, and possibly further back than that had lived on the same ranch-land all the way back to when everything South of the Nueces River was Mexico. These were Tejanos. Proud Americans from Texas. Hard-working, dedicated to the ranch owners who paid them to do what they loved, getting the most agricultural benefits possible from the dry South-Texas brush country.

Jorge was, at the start, a little man with a big voice in a small package. He was smarter and could read better than either of his brothers. He could even read and translate Spanish, which, of course, was his native language. And he had strong opinions that you could not argue with him about. He was a cowboy. That was opinion number one. He not only rode horses, he fed them daily, curried them in the morning to loosen the dirt and stimulate the production of natural oils that kept their coats shiny, and he even told me about the times he bottle-fed newborn colts when their mothers were sick.

And he strongly believed that a boss, or a teacher in my case, should never ask someone to do something that he didn’t know how to do himself. That was opinion number two. And he held me to that standard daily.

You should never use bad language in front of a lady… or a teacher, was opinion number three. He had a temper though. So, unlike most of the other boys, on those days when he lost it, he apologized as soon as he was back in control of himself. It made the girls giggle when he apologized to them, but that was an embarrassed reaction. He impressed them. They told me so in private afterwards.

He had a cowboy hat in his locker every day. You never wore a hat inside. Strong opinion number four.

And when he was an eighth-grader, he almost doubled in height. But not in width. He was what they call in Spanish, “Flaco,” skinny as a rail. He was taller than me by the time in mid-year when he started competing like his brothers in rodeos. And he was good. Something about the way his skinny, light frame could bend and twist under stress allowed him to stay on a barebacked horse longer than his brothers, or even the older men. He was pretty good at roping steers too. But it was the bareback bronc riding that won him trophies.

This is not a story about someone overcoming hardships to succeed. It always seemed like Jorge was blessed with it from the beginning. But it was the fact that he did what was needed every single day without fail. You could depend on it. He had a code that he followed.

The drawing that started this story is one that I did for him. I gave him and every member of his class that asked for one a copy made on my little copier at home.

And he taught me far more than I could ever teach him. Jorge Navarro was a cowboy. And you couldn’t argue with him about that.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, Cotulla, cowboys, education, heroes, Paffooney