By Steven D. Malone
Hurricane Harvey was mostly a rain event for me. We are a decent distance from the Gulf, a “no evacuation zone,” and live on one of the highest elevation areas in our county. Makes my biggest worry wind damage to the roof.
We are lucky. Luck enhanced by a certain amount of research before we laid down our earnest money.
Don’t doubt that I love rain and storm. A calloused, selfish passion as I stand awed before the tempest. And I allowed myself to be swept up into the majesty of Harvey – until I turned on the TV.
Desperation and despair, horror and heroics. All the wind and waves a necromancer’s curse could desire. Towns all up and down the coast erased. Towns I’d visited. Beaches scrubbed. Beaches I’d camped on, made love on, surfed, and fished from.
The monster roared ashore, came to a skidding halt, and squatted in the sky above us. Rain and wind. Day and night. For days. Not far from my home, a weather geek measured near forty inches of rain. Forty inches. More to our east.
Everything in this city is relatively new. It was a pimple of a city before World War II. Maybe 200,000 people. Maybe. Oil made it grow. Greater Houston now has five million. Maybe more. Very western (as in Western Civilization). Very American. The TV showed something more like Indonesia during a monsoon.
Despairing, desperate people now drug their babies and meagre belongings through waste deep, filthy water for only the hope of higher ground. A woman drowned in an underground parking lot unable to get out before the rising water found her. A cop drowned, two grandparents and four children drowned, as their cars were swept away. Families pitched tents on their roofs, those that had tents, for days waiting rescue. People began posting phone messages saying a final goodbye to their loved ones. The rains kept coming and the waters kept rising.
Heroism of the heroes kicked in quick enough.
The “Cajun Navy” showed up, bringing their bass boats in from Louisiana. Some high-profile vehicles from the National Guard rolled into – well rolled as close to town as the drowned roads allowed. Businesses with big wheels on their delivery trucks started wandering the streets. In fact, just about anyone with a kayak or an air mattress got into the water. Many of the desperate got helped to whatever piece of high ground could be found.
Shelters opened. Not organized. Just people seeing need that had keys to schools and churches. One big hero, Mattress Mack, even opened his chain of furniture stores to all comers. Donations of blankets, towels, clothing, and food went from trickle to its own flood. Volunteers flowed to wherever they were needed.
But then the dams opened.
A man would have thought that the worst of Harvey was just about spent. The rivers and bayous continued to rise. Our water sheds filled. The storm surge stacked up against the coast. There was nowhere for the water to go.
It was the water sheds. Out west of Houston. Whole square miles of captured flood. More than the levees could handle. Signs of weakening appeared. Something had to give. They had to let the water out.
When the water sheds were built they were surrounded by corn fields, sugarcane fields, and cattle ranches. Houston expanded and this land became primed for development. Upper middleclass development. The west end became saturated with suburban neighborhoods. These half-million dollar houses sat between the burdened water sheds and the flooded rivers.
Overnight these environs filled with eight or more feet of water.
My parents, when they lived, lived there. The families of several young ladies I dated lived there. In my misspent youth, I helped build many condos, apartments, and commercial spaces there. Today, the trash piles lining the streets there make the area look like 1945 Germany.
High, dry, and lucky, Hurricane Harvey was a rain event for me. A Biblical epic played out on TV, to the sound of thunder and wind. Like a car wreck, I could not take my eyes off it. Couldn’t stop counting my blessings.
Couldn’t help feeling guilty. So much hurt and desperation only a few yards to my east and south. I never even lost power. Not even Wi-Fi.
My wife and I had to do something to help. Not much of a salve for our survivor’s guilt, but these folks needed so much.
As soon as the rains lightened we drove. We bought out all the blankets at the nearby Good Will outlet. Towels, Clorox, baby food, diapers, cat food, litter, and more at the local Target. Found two nearby churches that had opened shelters. Delivered our goods. Sent money to appropriate charities. Offered our guest bedroom to friends with water in their houses.
Not much really, but we were so lucky. High, dry, and safe when so many others were not.
Then we went home to watch Irma sweep the Caribbean.
A Strong Female Character
Women in the 1920s
By Steven D. Malone
I have some wonderful female characters coming to life in a mystery I’m now writing. Rich, strong, fully alive women, real enough to whisper in my ear their stories as I fit them in the novel.
The novel takes place in the Jazz Age, a time when women were seen to be emerging from the “cultural cocoon” imposed upon them before the First World War.
Or so they say.
I challenge this. As a writer and researcher of Historical Fiction I have found many strong females, in all eras, whose stubborn wills and farsighted vision stood as a model for my characters. Without much effort I could see them as representing women whose stories did not get written. From Valeria Messalina, Joan d’Arc, Alyson (Wife of Bath), to Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst (Catherine the Great).
You can include on that list my ancestor, Rhoda, widowed pioneer and one of the first women listed on Mississippi tax roles as a ‘head-of-household’ (rare for women in the 1840s). My aunt, Berna, who joined the others of her high school team in rolling up her gym shorts to show their legs in the class picture. And my grandmother, Virginia, a college educated teacher who was a dancing, smoking, flapper in the 1920s.
Politics, Work, and Fashion
I think the War caused women to more fully realize that politics affected their daily lives. Sound familiar? More and more, many started to take politics seriously. With Women’s Suffrage and their new right to vote, they worked their way into political committees on all levels and began to influence the political agenda.
Women were on their way.
I didn’t get carried away. The final goal of women in the 20s continued to be marriage. Most women quit their jobs when they married. However, in the 1920s, 15% of white women and 30% of black women with wage-earning husbands worked. By 1930 one in four held paying jobs.
Wage earning jobs gave women independence. Society accepted that they were independent. They could and would make choices in education, work, marital status and careers. In public and in home life.
That meant they (many of them) became “flappers”. Flappers symbolized this new freedom.
Deposed were the previous restrictions on behavior and dress.
However, becoming flappers, women had to have money and free time enough to play the part. Working women became consumers.
Itinerate salt sellers, I remember, always included colored yarn, dyes, needles, jewelry packed on their mules. Notions, clothing, perfumes, shoes, lace crowded the shelves of dry goods stores in the Old West.
Media of the times, moving pictures, newspapers, and magazines, often showed these women smoking. Clothing stores, hair salons, and cosmetics manufactures seriously pursued female buyers. The first safety razor designed and sold to women showed up in 1915 as the new fashions lost their sleeves and raised their hems.
That short skirt, short hair, heavier makeup, and a fun-loving attitude symbolized the flapper. Symbolized the new freedom. Flappers raised those hems, drank prohibition liquor, smoked and defied norms of proper behavior. Hemlines, straight or uneven, gradually crept up, and waistlines dropped, Tubular, sleeveless styles featured beading and fringe. Flesh-colored stockings were worn with decorative shoes.
Ladies, you were on your way.
The women you might want to get to know.
Fanny Brice – “If I can’t be the prettiest girl on stage, I’ll be the funniest.”
Considered one of America’s great clowns, Fania Borach (1891 to 1951) worked in burlesque, vaudeville, radio, drama, film (the first woman to be cast in a “talkie”) and musical revues (including nine Ziegfeld Follies) as an “ethnic (Jewish) comic” in the usually male dominated field. Look up Sadie Salome and Baby Snooks.
Never comfortable before a camera, Fanny declined to pursue a career in television.
With many other women in the 20s, Fanny would be a working mother and a single parent. She died of complications from a stroke in May of 1951.
Janet Gaynor – “A petite, wistful, waif-like bundle of joy.”
Janet, always determined to find her way in show business, covered her bases on her way to being the first woman to win an Oscar (Were they called Oscars then?) in the first Academy Awards in 1928. She, with her sister, enrolled in a secretarial college to work as she tried to get into films.
She got bit parts in Hal Roach comedies, some westerns, and landed her first big role in “The Johnstown Flood” (1926). This role earned her one of the 1926 WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) Baby Star awards along with such notables as Mary Astor, Joan Crawford, Dolores del Río, and Fay Wray.
Her Academy Award was the first and only one given for multiple roles in one year. Three: “Seventh Heaven”, “Sunrise”, and “Street Angel.” Before 1986, Janet was also the youngest actress to win Best Actress.
In the 1930s, Janet appeared in the original “State Fair” and “A Star Is Born.” She retired from movie making to raise her son but returned in 1957 for one last film, “Bernardine.”
In 1982, Janet was injured in a taxi crash, from which she never recovered, dying of pneumonia in 1984.
Aimee Semple McPherson – “The Four Square Gospel Church.”
She was one of the first female evangelists, the first divorced evangelist, and the founder of her own brand of Christian church.
The pretty, dynamic, crowd charming evangelist, cut her teeth through her mother’s membership in the Salvation Army and the organization’s training toward religious work. By high school, she began to question her religious beliefs. Guided by her future husband, Robert Semple, she converted to his Pentecostal church. The couple went to China to spread religious teachings. He died soon after arriving, stranding his pregnant and penniless wife. Aimee returned to the Salvation Army after giving birth.
In 1913, she married grocery clerk, Harold McPherson, divorcing him five years later. After that, Aimee became an untrained lay evangelist of Pentecostal-type revivalism in Canada. She perfected her skill and rising to the forefront of the “professional revivalism,” engaging in a “hand-to-mouth” existence on the “tent revival’ circuit along the east coast of the U.S.
Aimee gravitated toward larger cities in America, England, and Australia, gaining huge turnouts with her faith healing and “speaking in tongues.”
In 1923, McPherson settled permanently at her Angelus Temple, Los Angeles, California. The Temple seated over 5,000 people and became the center of her “new breed” of Christian church. She called it “the Foursquare Gospel”. “A complete gospel for body, soul, spirit, and eternity.”
The popular evangelist flourished and prospered on sensationalism and publicity, engaging in slander suits (one against her daughter), publicly quarreling with her mother, and participating in wildly public vendettas with other religious groups.
She died of a sleeping pill overdose in 1944. Her Foursquare Gospel church thrives in America today.
So many choices.
Mary Garden, director of the Chicago Opera Association. Edith Cowan, first female elected to the Australian Parliament. “Ma” Ferguson, first female governor of Texas. Josephine Baker touring with “The Negro Review.” Greta Garbo. Agatha Christie. Muriel Siebert, first female to have a seat on the N.Y. Stock Exchange. Elsie Eaves, first woman elected to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Mae West. Coco Chanel. Bessie Smith, “The Empress of the Blues.”
I didn’t have the room to write about them all.
In October, 1929, Black Thursday crashed the Stock Market and the ensuing Great Depression ended the Flapper fad.
Pulchritude: n. physical beauty; comeliness. from Latin pulchritūdō, from pulcher beautiful.
The Urban Dictionary goes a bit further: Pulchritude denotes beauty so extreme that it creates a grotesque state of excess. Note that pulchritude is not a mixture of beauty and grotesqueness; rather, pulchritudinous persons or objects are only grotesque in that their beauty is so awesomely disconcerting as to render onlookers trepid, if not to repel them altogether.
Nothing like beauty in a grotesque state of excess.
I do so love that word. I even love its adjective: pulchritudinous. Well I did love it more yesterday than today.
I loved it for what pulchritude is synonymous of. I loved it for its pure shape looking at it on the page. I love it for how it rolled on the tongue when said.
Well I once loved it for how I thought it was pronounced. Researching for this article took some of that away. Yesterday I thought pulchritude was pronounced ‘pul’ as in people, ‘tra’ as in the ‘ch’ sound of the beginning of truck, and ‘tood’ as in dude. Pul-tra-tood.
I find, however, that it has a hard ‘ch’ or k in it. Pul-kra-tood.
But, I have digressed.
The International Pageant of Pulchritude is on my mind today for it is the mother of all beauty pageants (it is the beginning of the Miss Universe contest) and the recent controversies got me to remembering.
The Pageant is a Texas product, Galveston to be exact. Born in 1920 as the Annual Bathing Girl Revue. When ladies from foreign parts began to enter the contest in 1926 they changed the name to The International Pageant of Pulchritude and they started calling the winner Miss Universe. The “leg show on the seawall” became so popular that crowds of more than 150,000 people gathered to watch the bathing suit parade on Galveston Blvd.
By 1932, the Depression, the morality campaign of Bishop C. E. Byrne, and criticism like that of chewing gum magnate Colonel W. E. Easterwood (who quipped “the foreign contestants wore enough makeup "to paint the Washington Monument") brought the contest to an end.
(From Wikipedia: Today's Miss Universe pageant was founded after Yolande Betbeze, the winner of the 1951 Miss America pageant, refused to pose in a swimsuit from its major sponsor, Catalina Swimwear. The brand's manufacturer Pacific Mills withdrew from Miss America and set up the Miss USA and Miss Universe contests. The first Miss Universe Pageant was held in Long Beach, California in 1952.)
My pagan friend, Judy, says that boys have a nerve that runs directly from their eye to their “woo-hoo”. I don’t know if that is true but it seems so.
Girls, we’re boys. We just can’t help it. Posed and poised, you girls are a delight. In motion, you are shear poetry. You just can’t help it. You turn our heads. I think this has been true since before humankind walked erect. (Pun intended.) I feel that it is the nature of beauty that I and others who are “the girl-watchers” are helpless before the wonders of nature.
From TV Tropes:
Two (or more, or not so many) men look at a bunch of women and discuss them. Or vice versa. An old, old trope, but given that guys do this every day, likely to continue till mankind goes extinct or at least until men do.
I know that there are those that descend into gross rudeness, even ugliness. They do, in fact, ruin it for the rest of us. The men with no respect. With no sense of the great gift you woman are to us and to the beauty of the world. I condemn them.
I subscribe to Donald J Sauers (in The Girl Watcher’s Guide, 1954). "Although we believe that girl watching has it all over bird watching, we feel that these two hobbies do share one important feature. They are both genteel. They both respect the rights of the watched ... A girl watcher never leers, nor does he utter any sound which might betray his joy."
That said, I know that there remain women, justifiably angry and unsettled, who will continue to remind me; “Hey, I’m up here.” Do please forgive me the god given disability.
So, I will close with “The Men’s Prayer” (The Red Green Show, CBC):
“I’m a man. But I can change. If I have to. I guess.”
Made Attack. Got Whipped.
“Made attack. Got whipped” wrote Judge Scrutchfield in his diary on January 8, 1865. A precise and laconic description of the Battle of Dove Creek fought on this date 150 years ago today.
Dove Creek stood as the largest fight between Native Americans and whites in the State of Texas and probably the second largest fought between plains Indians and whites in our history. A disparate collection of Confederate cavalry, Texas Frontier Defense forces, and called-up state militiamen ambushed some 1,200 Kickapoo warriors, women and children in a peaceful winter camp along a pretty creek some miles beyond San Angelo, Texas.
“He thinks we are Comanches.”
Said Oo-lath-la-hi-na when she volunteered to go out and talk with “the white captain”. The battle came to the Kickapoo group in a case of mistaken identity made by men locked up in a generations long blood feud, where no quarter was given nor asked for, between white settlers and the Comanche tribes. The whites looked for vengeance not particularly caring to ask who was who.
I wrote a historical fiction novel of that tragedy from the point of view of several white men swept up into this tragedy. I thought I would share something of the Kickapoo point of view. One tribesman is not identified but his testimony appears in an article by John Warren Hunter (Hunter’s Magazine, 1911). The other is a talk given to an agent (May 31, 1867) by No-ko-aht, or No-ko-what, the chief of the Kickapoo encamped along Dove Creek.
“Our old men held a council”
The Kickapoo are referred to as “The Lords of the Middle Border”. These brave, tenacious, and well led folk stood toe-to-toe against the fearsome Comanche for all of known history. For that reason Spanish, Mexican, American, and Texas authorities sought them out as warriors. For generations they called upon the Kickapoo to act as a buffer between “civilization” and the wild Plains Indians. When our Civil War began both North and South recruited Kickapoo warriors to serve in the armies. They stood witness to all the horrors of state-of-the-art European style war fighting in all major battles in the Western Theater of War.
Our anonymous Kickapoo stated: “The great war came on. We did not know why our white friends wanted to kill each other. They led some of our young men into war and some never came back because they were killed. They went in for twelve months, then they came home and said they did not want to fight with the white soldiers anymore. Our old men held a council. They kept the fires burning three days. The white men had been fighting three years. Soldiers came and killed our cattle. They took our corn… Our old men said it was not our war, and no man could say when peace would come back. They said as long as there was no peace, the war trail would lead through Kickappo’s country. They told our people they must go to Mexico where they could live in peace…
“Five of our chiefs went to see General Smith. He gave them papers. He told them they could take their people to Mexico. When the corn was ripe and all gathered, we started. It was a long journey but we had strong arms and hearts, and we wanted to get away from the war. We crossed the Red River and kept above the settlements all the way. Six white men came to us on the Brazos (River). They were friendly. They asked many questions. They saw all our horses. They did not claim any of our horses. We told them to look at all our horses. After that we saw few white men until the morning of the fight. We had a fight with the Comanches two days before on the Concho (River). They shot one of our men in the eye with an arrow. He died that night.
“When the soldiers came up that morning, one of our chiefs wanted to talk. He went out of the thicket with a white cloth. They killed him. Then a young woman went out with a white cloth. (Witness accounts from the whites say that she carried a piece of paper thought later to be the paper they were given by Union authorities. She approached the whites with her baby strapped across her chest.) They shot her down. They killed her baby also. Her name was Oo-lath-la-hi-na. She had gone to school at Fort Gibson. She could write, and read. She spoke good English. She said “I will go and talk with the white captain. He thinks we are Comanches. The white men won’t shoot a woman” They killed her. Then we had to fight or stand still and be killed like rabbits. Our young men wanted to follow them when they ran off, and kill all. Our chief and old men said no. We must go quick. They will bring more soldiers and surround us. We buried our chief and Oo-lath-la-hina (sic) that night. We carried our wounded with us. Many died on the way. We traveled day and night till we crossed the Rio Grande. We were hungry all the way. We were sad and wanted revenge. We took no scalps in that fight.”
“And, leaving a white flag, went on.”
Kickapoo chief, No-ko-aht, led this the third of the major treks south into Mexico during the fall and winter. He shared his thoughts to Kickapoo Indian agent, Franklin G. Adams dated May 31, 1867.
“In the winter we had a fight with the Texans. It was very cold… We traveled slowly along over and hunting buffalo on the plains. We joined the other two parties – not until after the fight. The other two parties had no trouble…
“Our first trouble in going out was the killing of one of our number by one of the wild tribes – Kiowa, on the Red River, pretty well west. He was cut off while out hunting. After that we went on till we got to where we saw some tracks of soldiers. We camped and sent a messenger to hunt them up. We failed to find the soldiers, and leaving a white flag went on…
“I was out hunting horses, and I went across a mountain, and as I was going home I was fired upon by soldiers. I saw as I was on the mountain, a good many horses, and thought they were ours, but think they were soldiers. All our young men were scattered that morning hunting horses, and one or two were killed while out.
“Then the soldiers came upon our camp. There was a stream between the two camps. The first killed was Aski. The Indians continued firing yet. Then a woman was killed. This was before we fired. The fight was but a few minutes. A good many were killed on both sides. When we drove them to one side another force came in behind us. Then we whipped the second party back and the third one attacked us and we fired on them once. We killed a good many of that first party, a few of the second and none of the third. When we were first attacked we divided, part pursuing the first Texan party and the others fighting the rest. The second and third Texan forces went to the mountains and we couldn’t do anything with them. We followed the first force quite a distance. The two parties at the mountain went and drove up all our stock. After it was all over, we went up to the mountain and saw a good deal of blood. After the Texans drove off our stock we pursued for awhile, when we returned. We saw bodies of two or three Kickapoos who had been killed before the fight. They had taken two of our boys prisoners before the fight, and they took them along with them. Afterwards they got away. We had fifteen killed altogether…
“All our stock was taken away nearly; some families had none. We were obliged to leave most of our things. Aski tried to shake hands and make peace with the Texans, but they shot him.
“We found some papers among the Texans which showed that they had followed us ten days…
“We think we killed about forty Texans. They left their dead on the field of battle. They came back and buried them…
“From there we had a hard time. Some had to walk. We had sent for water – it was a dry region…”
Facts, descriptions, casualty counts, all vary greatly among the white witnesses. The common thread is that white participants believed, despite much evidence to the contrary, that they were following a major incursion of Comanche. They wanted revenge. They wanted to quash future depredations by Comanche in their endless blood feud.
The bloodletting did nothing to ease the situation and in many ways made things worse.
“In Hamilton County alone, from the end of the war to July 1867, three people were killed, two wounded, and one child captured and the reclaimed. Four cattle and 215 horses were stolen. During that same period in the seven counties surrounding Hico, thirty-one men, women and children were killed; twelve wounded; fifteen captured, and 1,122 horses stolen. And that list is incomplete. In 1867, Governor James Webb Throckmorton reported that, since the end of the Civil War, Texas has seen, 162 persons killed, 43 carried off into captivity, and 29 wounded.” (Ike Malone – Westerner, True West, Feb. 1993)
For years after the Dove Creek battle, vengeful Kickapoo warriors raided back into Texas, often joining Apache and Kiowa raiding parties. By the 1870’s, depredations became so destructive Texas citizens demanded that the cavalry “invade” Mexico and suppress the tribe. General Phillip H. Sheridan did just that ordering the Fourth U. S. Calvary into Mexico near Remolino. Many were captured and some 300+ more surrendered later. These were removed to the Indian Territory. Most that were not caught or killed chose to remain in Mexico. However, the Kickapoo Nation was suppressed.
The Ghosts of Justice
A Halloween Story
By Steven D. Malone
Making Texas Justice
They robbed Ike Malone in his bed. The aging frontiersman broke his hip in a fall. He was bedridden and his friends and second wife, Eliza Jane, cared for him. Acting on rumors that Ike kept his money hidden in stone jars, three men attacked his house. They forced those present to stand together between Ike’s bed and the fireplace while they threatened and abused the ailing old man. Family legend says that Ike refused to give them any information and told them they could go ahead and shoot him because he would die soon anyway.
Frustrated with the tough old man, the bandits left.
The alarm sounded. The people of Hico rallied and rode down the bandits near Waco. The posse returned the culprits to Hico and locked them in a log shed that served as a jail. In the night when the guards were ‘away eating supper,’ a mob came to the shed and killed the robbers by shooting through the chinking between the logs. Hico citizens placed the bodies on display for several days so people who came from miles around could ‘view the end of a life of crime.’ The bandits’ take from Ike Malone’s home had been one silver dollar.
Making Texas Ghosts
Hico citizens deemed the shed “The Slaughter Pen.” These were not the only men that met Texas justice there.
They did not, however, find peace in the Slaughter Pen. The following article appeared in the town’s newspaper several years after the events:
A Haunted House In Hamilton County Where Several Men Had Been Killed.
From the Hico Times.
In Old Hico is a house in which, at different times within the past 30 years, some six or seven men have been killed for divers offenses. The house, which is known as “The Slaughter Pen,” is situated on the farm of Mr. G. H. Medford, and occasionally some renter moves into it, and also moves out in haste, and the house is rarely occupied it is said the place is frequented by the restless and disembodied spirits of the man whose material existence was so suddenly terminated there, and the result is edifying only at a distance and in broad daylight.
The parties whose mortal coils were shuffled off forgot, on the spur of the moment, to remove their boots, and they therefore, make a great deal of unnecessary noise in their midnight peregrinations, and are anything but seemly and fastidious ghosts. They also seem to be on unfriendly terms with each other, and their bickerings are so open that the neighbors have noticed it and deprecate the lack of secresy that the skeleton in the closet observes. The last addition to this select circle of ghost were two gentlemen who about two years ago, stole some money from old Mr. Isaac Malone.
They were found in a barbershop in Waco and brought back and placed in this house. During the night, while chained together near the fireplace, their spirits escaped to another world. Since then these two ghosts have seemed rather “stuck up" to the other ghosts, probably because they were clean- shaved and wander off to themselves, clanking the chain to irritate the other low-down ghosts. We've noticed that fresh shaved ghost always act this way. The old ghosts retaliate by driving these two away, as, having branded the wrong yearlings only, they cannot associate with ghosts who steal.
Because of these quarrels it is very disagreeable to remain in the house at night.The last occupant moved out two weeks ago, because, as he told Hol Medford, a barrel of pistols had been thrown into the house and all fired off at once; he didn't mind the ghost, but he said the pistols were really dangerous. He was an Englishman and hadn't got the hang of Texas ghosts.
(As reprinted in the Brenham Weekly Independent. Vol. 1, No. 15, Ed. 1, Thursday, April 20, 1882, page 5.)