Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making Arrangements with Dr. Ted Estess

Yesterday evening, many members of the Friendswood library community gathered to hear Dr. Ted Estess, founding Dean of the honors college at the University of Houston, read stories from his fine book The Cream Pitcher: Mississippi Stories. These stories reflect upon the lives of the Estess family in the region of the Cream Pitcher of the Mississippi, or Walthall County, Tylertown, Mississippi. Dr. Estess read stories The Cream, Clabber, and Whey of Everything, Making Arrangements, along with other wonderful family stories. One audience member commented that these stories felt just like her own family stories, and that Dr. Estess really knew how to express them in a meaningful way. Dr. Ted Estess is also a scholar on the works of nobel laureate and author of Night, Elie Wiesel.  The Friendswood Public Library hopes to have him back to share his knowledge on Elie Wiesel sometime in the not too distant future.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's in my DNA by Kay L. Cox

          I come from a long line of women devoted to fabric and needlecraft.  Some of my earliest memories are of my mom sitting at a small metal black Singer sewing machine, her foot on the floor pedal and her hands pushing fabric along under the needle.  My grandmother seemed to have an embroidery hoop attached to her lap and no daughter or granddaughter married without a hope chest of beautifully embroidered cup towels, table cloths, napkins and pillow cases.

          My aunt, her sister, did the same and they both created most of their own daughters’ wardrobes.  Both sisters loved fabric and since my mom didn’t drive, they were thrilled when I got a hardship driver’s license at 14 and could deliver them to the grand opening of the Gem fabric store in north Austin, the first store in Austin to specialize in fabric and notions for sewing and needlework.  Previously fabric was only available at department stores downtown.  They loved walking among the rows of bolts of fabric standing on end, checking the prices and running attractive fabric through their fingers, testing its weight and feel.

          In the days during and following World War II, everyone sewed their own garments. By the time I got to junior high, it was certain that I should sew.  I sat at pattern counters for hours with my mom trying to decide on the perfect dress or blouse pattern.  I grew three inches between 6th and 7th grades which sent my mom into a sewing frenzy. 

          In 8th grade I was 5’9” and signed up for home economics with Mrs. Desta Jefferies, a tiny vivacious woman with sparkly brown eyes. I grew to adore her.  My first garment was a cotton dress of two shades of turquoise, pale for the sleeveless cowl-collared top and darker for the circular skirt with an orange cummerbund.  I really loved the way it turned out and my mom was proud of me.  She even took off work to come to the school for the style show.  I had my first pair of heeled white shoes to wear with it and my mom loaned me her garter belt to hold up the thigh-high stockings…this was long before panty hose. 

          The big day finally arrived. I was number 12 to cross the stage in front of an auditorium full of parents and students.  As I began my grand entrance, I could feel the garter belt begin sliding toward my shoes.  The only way I could keep it and my stockings up was to spread my legs wider apart as I sashayed across the stage.  My steps got wider and wider as I hurried toward the other side of the stage.  I couldn’t wait to get to the restroom to take the darn thing off.  Such was my introduction to hose.  Is it any wonder that I hate panty hose?

          I did learn to sew. When I graduated from SMU, a wonderful Singer machine with a zig-zag stitch was a graduation present from my in-laws, and it cranked out garments for me and for my children for years.  I loved appliquéing animals and trains on little jump suits and dresses.  When the children were older, I made costumes for the plays that they were in.  The pink and gray mouse costume hung around the house for years along with a pair of gold lame harem pants for an Aladdin performance.  As the children got into their teen years, they refused the idea of “homemade” and went for name brands like their peers.  So the machine grew quiet with just some occasional mending and repairs to zippers.

          But when the first grandbaby was coming along and I was working full time, I traded the old machine in for a new fancy Bernina that would do all kinds of fun stitches.  I cranked out blankets, crib sheets, burp pads, and curtains and had so much fun doing it.  I even began to sew a few things for me and some curtains for our new home, but that was about it for a long stretch.

          Then I discovered fabric as a new art form.  I have used it collaged into paintings on canvas; I have quilted drawings; I have printed photos on fabric; I have painted and dyed fabric; I have glued paper to fabric; I have made a large quilt in an abstract pattern; I have made fabric books; I have stitched on paper.  The love of all things fiber has turned into a passion and once again I’m sewing and stitching with abandon.  I even finally finished embroidering the baby quilt I started 10 years ago for my last grandchild now as a gift to my first great grandbaby.  I still have the Bernina and have been told to hang on to it by the dealer as it is one of the last full metal models.  As long as I keep it clean and oiled, it should last me the rest of my life with many more creations to come. 

Native Texan, visual artist and poet, Kay L. Cox is a retired art and family therapist. Her poems have been published in Sol Magazine, That Thing We Do, Map of Austin and the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar. She was the winner of the 2008 Robert Clark Appreciation Award and a member of the Poetry Society of Texas, Gulf Coast Poets, the Austin Poetry Society, Spectrum Writers Guild and the Galveston Art League.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Singing Down the Sun with Rebecca Hatcher Travis

Rebecca Hatcher Travis’ book Picked Apart the Bones won the “First Book Award for Poetry” from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.  
Singing Down the Sun

ancient voices sing down the sun
in the quiet hush of dusk
sacred fire grows stronger as we shuffle closer
sharing the night in common thought
fathers and sons chuckle softly to one another
mothers hum to young infants
elders gather once again
faces of content circle warm lively flames
dark time deepens unhurried                                              
little by little stretching to the other side of night
slowly light paints tip tops of nearby oaks
like torches lit to guide the dawn  
the fresh new day becomes

Urban Sprawl
urban sprawl seems an understatement
for this metropolis a few miles north of the Gulf
Spanish moss snarls in her hair
nighttime skies light up as if by magic

from refineries along her bloodline
the muddy ship channel
Buffalo Bayou to Galveston Bay
they resemble small towns aglow
with nightly festivals of bright lights    
bayous snake under crisscrossing freeways
an occasional alligator cruises 
silent waters unperturbed
you have got to love Houston
as she sashays in the sweltering heat
batting her long sultry eyelashes invitingly
at anyone who happens to mosey down her way

Poems by Rebecca Hatcher Travis

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Author Talk with Chester P. Karrick, Jr.

Those in attendance for author Chester P. Karrick Jr.’s program were treated to several lively and informative stories from his book Clyde and Chester, The Investigators: Fraud, Embezzlement, Theft. Chester’s book details dozens of investigative cases conducted by himself and legendary Houston private eye, Clyde A. Wilson.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Net Poets Society Elevates the Occasion

In celebration of National Poetry Month, host John Milkereit and the Net Poets Society read from their award-winning work at the Friendswood Public Library. Audience comments included fantastic, moving, playful, and a hoot.  Poets were Erica Lehrer, John E. Rice, Mona Follis, Dede Fox, Adamarie Fuller, and Kathryn Lane. Host John Milkereit concluded the evening with a reading in his inimitable style and had everyone laughing and hanging on his next word. The Friendswood Public Library is honored to host these artists and hope to have them back to read again.

Also in attendance was Dr. John Gorman, professor of literature at UHCL, who has accepted an invitation to read at the Friendswood Public Library in the not too distant future. Our next poetry event will be hosted by Oscar Pená on Wednesday, July 18 at 7pm.

left to right: Kathryn Lane, John Milkereit, Erica Lehrer (foreground), Dede Fox (behind), John E. Rice, Mona Follis, and Adamarie Fuller

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Undercover Man by Chester P. Karrick, Jr.

The following investigative report, The Undercover Man, is taken from the Chester P. Karrick, Jr. book entitled Clyde and Chester, The Investigators: Fraud, Embezzlement, Theft. 

On Monday, April 9th at 7pm, Author Chester P. Karrick, Jr. will be at Friendswood Public Library to discuss some of the investigative cases conducted by himself and legendary Houston private eye, Clyde A. Wilson.

A client owned and operated a mining operation just inside the California state line in Death Valley.  Suspecting thefts of materials and supplies, the client requested that Clyde and Chester review the operation.

As they were currently tied up on other matters, they decided to use an undercover man to observe the operation until they could review the matter in person.

Clyde and Chester did not as a practice use undercover operatives as it often could be very time consuming and expensive to the client.  Results could not always be predictable.

You may recall an earlier case in this book where a truck driver stole oil from oil production tanks and had hidden stacks and stacks of one hundred dollar bills in his freezer.  When that case was finished, the truck driver told Clyde and Chester he thought he would make a good investigator and wondered how he could get in the business.  He begged to work with them.

Clyde thought it would be a good idea to engage this man as an undercover man in the mining operation by getting him a job at the mine site.  The former truck driver was contacted and told to get some old, beat up clothes and shoes, hitch a ride into Death Valley, and get a job at the mine operation. He agreed as he thought this would be fun.  He successfully arrived on the scene and obtained a job in the parts depot.  At the end of every week he called Clyde and Chester to report on his suspicions and findings.

Soon he started to complain about the weather and wondered when they were going to be there so he could leave.  It was summertime in Death Valley and the temperatures approached 118 to 120 degrees during the day.  Summer is miserable there.

After about a month Clyde and Chester left for Death Valley.  They flew to Las Vegas and rented a car to journey to Death Valley.

Arriving late in a town called Furnace Creek, they decided to spend the night and go on early the next morning to the mine location.  At Furnace Creek there was only an old motel and a nearby small building called an opera house.

Entering the office of the motel, they noticed that the owner was frying potatoes and onions over an open fire on the dirt floor.

Chester asked, “Do you have any vacancies for tonight?”

The owner turned to his wife and said, “I don’t know about number six, as Ralph likes to stay there when he visits.”

Chester asked, “Does Ralph have a reservation for tonight?”

The owner said, “No, but he likes to stay in number six when he stays here.”

Chester asked, “How long has it been since Ralph was last here?”

The owner replied, “Oh, about six weeks.”

Chester said, “I don’t see any other cars in the parking lot. You must have some other rooms available.”

The owner and his wife talked among themselves for a little while and finally said, “I guess you can have number seven and eight if you are only going to be here one night.”

Chester thought that was awfully nice of them as it was obvious that no one else was going to be staying there that night and probably not for the next several weeks.

Entering their rooms, it was obvious that very few people stayed in that God forsaken place, as it was old and dirty.

As evening came, Clyde and Chester went next door to the opera house. The building was open and looked like an old country church with several rows of pews on either side of the aisle.  Stage curtains walled off a large stage in front.  Reportedly, a former renowned opera diva had settled in the area.  She had built the opera house in order to have a place to continue to perform various operas in which she had formerly starred in the New York area.

She performed about twice a week and only occasionally had a few attendees. She had painted the walls with bench seats.  Men and women had been painted in the bench seats so that it appeared when she sang that the house was full of people.  Fortunately, she was not scheduled to perform that night. 

Going to bed and asleep early, Chester was shortly awakened by the braying of a donkey which had been tied by someone to a railing just outside Chester’s room.  This went on for quite a while which kept Chester awake.

After finally falling asleep, Chester was again awakened this time by finding the bed soaked with water.  A thunderstorm had peppered the area with heavy rain.  The roof apparently had several major holes that had allowed the rain to leak through onto Chester’s bed. Chester got dressed and spent the rest of the night sleeping in the rental car.  This was probably the first time this area had seen rain in several years and they had to pick that one night to be there.

The next morning they proceeded to the site of the mining operation.  Upon arrival they noticed several young beautiful women, about 20 years of age, deeply tanned, and driving huge pieces of earth moving equipment. The wheels on the equipment appeared to be ten to twelve feet in diameter.  Later they found out that these women were chorus dancers or prostitutes from Las Vegas who were taking a few months off from their professional duties to rest and gain a good tan.  The girls were usually at the company bar every night.  However, they didn’t have anything to do with the men who worked there, which drove them crazy.

Clyde and Chester met with their undercover man to find out what he had learned while employed at the site.  The former truck driver had suspected that thefts of materials and supplies from the parts storage room where negligible.  He believed, though, that purchase orders were being issued for major purchases, invoices subsequently paid, but no deliveries made of the materials and equipment ordered. This indicated that a client employee had made a deal with one or more Las Vegas supplier companies to obtain kickbacks or split the proceeds from this activity.

Chester began checking various purchase orders against warehouse receipts and inventory records and found many items reportedly purchased but not received.  Clyde called in the purchasing agents and confronted them with the evidence and suspicions.

Signed statements were obtained from two purchasing agents who admitted that they had made a deal with two Las Vegas suppliers whereby they would issue purchase orders for items of materials and equipment.  No deliveries were made against these purchase orders.  When the company paid the invoices, the supplier companies split the money with the purchasing agents.

The client had incurred a loss of about $45,000 from these fraudulent activities.  The employees were unable to make any restitution and were terminated. 

The former trucker expressed his pleasure with his involvement in the investigation.  He expressed his desire to continue working with Clyde and Chester, but not in the desert area, as it was much too hot.  The truck driver returned home, and although he frequently called Clyde and Chester for new assignments, he was never used again.

Clyde and Chester left for Las Vegas to confront personnel of the supplier companies.  On their way Clyde complained of being hungry. They approached a grimy looking café in the middle of nowhere and Clyde wanted to stop.  Inside the dirty looking place Clyde ordered chili.

Chester told Clyde, “You can’t eat the chili here.  You don’t know how long it has been setting out.  You will get sicker than a dog.”

Clyde replied, “No way, I’m hungry for chili.”

Chester reluctantly ordered a piece of apple pie and ice cream figuring that probably wouldn’t make him sick.

Sure enough after they left the café and were about 50 miles from Las Vegas, Clyde complained of being sick. They had to wait a day or two for Clyde to get over his bout with the chili before they could confront the suppliers.

After Clyde recovered, they approached personnel of the two supplier companies.  Faced with threatened prosecution, the companies agreed to make restitution of the $45,000 loss to the client company and Clyde and Chester returned home without eating any more chili.

Also by Chester P. Karrick, Jr.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Over the Fence they will go