Friday, June 29, 2012

Meet Friendswood Author Bob Arnold

Meet Friendswood author Bob Arnold at the Friendswood Public Library on Wednesday, August 15 at 7pm.  Bob Arnold’s book First in Texas chronicles the lives of three men who made significant contributions to more than one hundred and fifty years of Texas History. These men include Josiah Bell, successful entrepreneur and businessman and the founder of two towns, one of which was briefly the capitol of the Republic of Texas; Josiah's third son, James Hall Bell was the first native-born Texan to serve as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court; and Red Arnold, known as the "law in Northeast Texas," serving 25 years as a Texas Ranger.  

The book begins with the struggles of the early Texas settlements and continues with the slavery and states’ rights issues that led to a terrible civil war and the difficulties in reestablishing Texas’ rightful place within the United States after the conflict was concluded. The history spans the development of Texas law as a frontier justice administered by honest and moral men, through the infancy of written Texas law, and into the enforcement of today’s complex code of criminal law. Each of these men offers lessons of responsibility, commitment, and resolve to many of today’s difficult social and political issues. ~from the author 

Bob Arnold graduated from Texas Tech and entered the United States Army as a Signal Corps officer. Following his military service, he was employed by Union Carbide Corporation as a polymer chemist and had a 35 year career in various roles within the laboratory, manufacturing, and business organizations of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. After his retirement, Bob spent several years of research and writing First in Texas. 

The interview below was conducted and written by Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune editor Bob Palmer in July of 2011. Author Bob Arnold answers questions about his book, First in Texas.

Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2011 12:00 am
Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune

It's Like This By BOB PALMER - Tribune Editor and  

My memories of Texas Ranger Red Arnold are vivid. The first come from that period when the Arnolds lived next door to the Palmers on East 5th when I was about 10. The sight of Red’s sawed off shotgun mounted inside the driver’s door made an impression on me. Later we would interact as reporter and lawman. And then, I helped report his death.  When Red’s son, Bob, called a couple of weeks ago to tell me he had written a book, “First in Texas,” about Red and two of his mother’s forbearers, I was leery this might just be another exercise in ancestor worship. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Bob’s efforts are well worth the read.

I enjoyed getting to know Josiah Bell, a friend and associate of Stephen F. Austin, and Judge James Bell, who opposed succession and helped found the Republican Party in Texas. There were also several intriguing stories about Red, ranging from his service as a Marine Gunny Sergeant on Peleliu to cases Titus County residents will easily recall.

After I finished reading “First in Texas,” Bob and I sat down last week for a visit. 

Why the book? 

Originally, I had been asked to write a book about my dad. I had written a couple of articles for the Texas Ranger Dispatch Magazine. At the same time, I had begun research on my mother’s family. The research let me understand how interesting her family was as well. So, I decided to incorporate those two individuals in a book with my dad. 

What anecdote or story did you uncover in your research that touched or struck you the most? 

It was very easy for me to know about my father. I was not as struck by what he did as I was about the Supreme Court Justice Bell. His life was the most interesting part of the research that I did.

The Reconstruction era was the period that gave me the most new ground. Was there some point where James Bell or someone could have made the process smoother in Texas? Or was that moment when Bell met with Grant and convinced him to tell Gov. Davis to go? 

A lot of that information that I had in the book was new to me as well. I think the confrontation when E.J. Davis refused to relinquish the governor’s office to Richard Coke was probably the turning point in Reconstruction.

How painful was it for you to write about your father’s death? 

I’m doing this 30 years after his death. It was not as painful as you might think it might be. I accepted it for what it was. There were parts that were very painful that I chose not to include in the book. They brought back memories that were too painful for us. 

I found your picture of the Bells to be somewhat uncritical. Do you feel that you have missed something in their portraits or this was as complete a picture as you were willing to go?

I didn’t find anything (negative). I wrote what I could find on them. I had to piece together a lot of sources. For Josiah Bell I used primarily the letters of Stephen F. Austin. There was not a whole lot of other information. The same thing was true with Judge Bell. I didn’t find anything that might have shed a different view of them, other than he took positions that were out of the mainstream and he lost a lot of friends. I didn’t try to judge why he took positions or didn’t. I didn’t try to understand why he did what he did. 

What advice would you give someone contemplating a similar project? 

This is a long story. Most people writing a book for the first time think it will be easy getting a book published. Over a year, I learned that was wrong. Most publishers are not interested in publishing first time authors. I had finished my draft and was in a used bookstore in Fredericksburg. A man was there who had written a book on how to get a book published. He told me to throw away any thoughts I had about how to get a book published. You need to have a group of people to look at the manuscript and comment on it. He recommended about 25 people. I sent them portions of the book. Once the book was completely read, I sent them a questionnaire and used their comments to make quite a bit of changes. I did find a publisher, but unfortunately they pulled back. I decided to have someone edit the book; then, I had it printed without a major publisher. For anyone wanting to do this: make sure you have something people enjoy reading before you take it to a publisher, otherwise you will be disappointed.

“First in Texas, Three Texans and Their Contributions to Texas History, 1821-1978” is available at Hastings. I think you will find it as enjoyable and interesting as I did.

Monday, June 25, 2012

2 poems by poet and artist, John E. Rice

John E. Rice was born in Galveston in 1941. Rice is a writer and artist living and working in Houston but crossing the causeway onto The Island with some regularity. He has worked in medical research, horticulture and the maritime industry. His published works have appeared in TEXAS Magazine, literary magazines – print and on line, poetry anthologies, Texas Poetry Calendar 2005 through 2010, as well as other publications.  Rice was a juried poet at Houston Poetry Fest 2007 and 2010. His artworks are in several private collections around the world. Rice is president of Resk Maritime Resources, Inc., which provides commercial ship management, logistics and other services to the Maritime Industry.  He is married, has four children, four grandchildren and a wife who tolerates his vagaries and provides first-read criticism of his writing. 

John E. Rice is a member of Net Poets Society and has been a featured reader at FPL Poetry Series readings. 

6.6 at 1:00AM

Drumroll in the dark,
auto alarms warble and wail
            like banshees. I lurch on liquid legs,
                        pull on pants, stagger
on fluid floor, hold hands
           with bathroom doorframe. Rooms
on Piso 10 are rocking boxcars, a train
           on twisting tectonic tracks, a trip
                       into forever for which tickets are never sold,
finally slowing
           slowing      slowing
                       click   click     click        stops.
The barking dog goes quiet, alarms
are silenced.
Tiptoe to the window: just above
the mountain, the moon mocks
with its amber last-quarter smile
while the Southern Cross offers
no consolation.

John E. Rice
Santiago, Chile
April 17, 2012

Love Poem Number 157

One hundred fifty-seven Shakespeare wrote,
sonnets, that is, and plays, as well.
Millay and Plath set sonnets afloat,
and Ada writes them using Excel.
Petrarch, Milton, Spenser, Rosetti,
each one of them had his sonnet-say.
They tossed them about like so much confetti,
but each one writing his own unique way.
So many sonnets are songs of love,
some reciprocal, some unrequited,
lovers become metaphors: a rose, a dove,
a deer, a pair of swans forever united.
But we are not metaphors, don’t you see –
if there were no you then I wouldn’t be me.

                                  John E. Rice
                                  February 15, 2009

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Polynesian Rhythms at FPL

Young, older, and everyone between came out last evening to the FPL to watch and learn about Polynesian dance from the wonderful dance team Pele of Polynesia.  In celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Pele of Polynesia featured traditional dances from Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hawai'i. Group leader Bernadette (Pele) also expounded on some of the history of these traditional dances. A special thanks as well to Josie and Jim Travlos for helping to arrange this wonderful event, and for sharing their cultural knowledge with those in attendance. Audience participants of all ages had a great time learning these dances and listening to wonderful Polynesian music.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

3 poems by FPL Poetry Series host, Oscar Peña


Oscar C. Peña was born and raised in Kingsville, Texas.  His poetry reflects a love of family, growing up in a small town and a belief that joy, pain, sorrow, laughter and love are meant to be shared.

A member of The Poetry Society of Texas, Gulf Coast Poets, and the Galveston Poets Round Table, Oscar has been a featured poet at the Webster Barnes and Noble; Seabrook Coffee Oasis Poetry Reading Series; and was a Juried Poet at the 2007 Houston Poetry Fest.

The three poems below are from Oscar C. Peña's book Fire of Thorns.

Protest at Saint Martin’s

My mother gave me two dimes
before mass started---
one’s for you and one’s for God.

Men reached out with baskets
and she noticed I gave nothing.
Give the man themuuuney!
I cannn’t.
Did you lose your dime?
Nooo, just God’s, I whispered in reply.

Eight years old and dry-mouthed nervous
during first communion; when Padre José places
the hostia on my tongue the wafer flutters
in my mouth and hangs there like a bat.
My tongue stabs at the intruder, my eyes are melting,
I’m gonna vomit if I don’t spit.

A woman, in widow’s black, grabs
and pulls me to her bosom.  Her rosary worrying my teeth,
she jabs a gnarled finger and rams the cracker
down my throat.
It was a miracle---

That night…
Amá, I was kinda wondering…
Mom interrupted---
don’t worry, God will find his dime.

~~Oscar Peña


This mythical city of gold drew Conquistadores
to the new world in search of that which does not exist.

I look into the water
and see what others do not,
viridian, ochre, gold, beryllium ores
of rose, emerald and aquamarine,
coral, silver, yellowed reds and jade.

Dive deep,
reaching for what calls
a little deeper,
but I cannot touch.

Now afraid
the surface far above
I turn back
and swim, and swim, and swim.

Help me,
tired, too far---
I break into the light,
gasp the air and vow never…

I look into the water
and see what others do not,
viridian, ochre, gold, beryllium ores---

And I dive.

~~Oscar Peña


My father said,
    I took care of my sister
    when I was eight years old
    while Papá y Mamá picked cotton.
    We stayed under a tin roof
     hiding from the sun.
     She died.

My father said,
    I walked with Papá
    and other men to a ranch
    near the town of Carlotta to collect wages---
    no one went to knock
    or call the man out.

My father said,
    Ranchos always have dogs looking for an excuse,
    we were announced … we waited…
    kicked rocks and waited…
    talked about weather and women… and waited.

    The man finally came out and asked what we wanted.
     I hated that man.

My father said---
    Lo odio.

Seventy years and his words still dripped
strong and sweet as wild honey
waiting to sting.

My father never told me his sister’s name.

~~Oscar Peña

Friday, June 1, 2012

Standing room only for speaker Dan Illerich

A standing room crowd came to hear featured speaker Dan Illerich speak and answer questions surrounding the events documented in Judith Heimann’s book The Airmen and the Headhunters: a true story of lost soldiers, heroic tribesmen and the unlikeliest rescue of World War II. Dan is also the featured narrator of the Airmen and Headhunters PBS documentary.  Dan Illerich lives in Friendswood, Texas with his wife Mary. He is the last surviving Airmen in The Airmen and the Headhunters story. He provides the only first hand testimony of the American Airmens’ experiences with the Dayak tribes in Borneo. Of the ten men in the B-24 bomber crew shot down by the Japanese in November 1944, seven survived the parachute from the plane. Dan tells their story.