Monday, March 31, 2008

Old Bathing Suit

With springtime here, I took my daughter bathing suit shopping yesterday. The picture shows the one I helped her pick out. She seams happy.

Just kidding. I did visit my Mom yesterday, and she still had the old bathing suit she was wearing in yesterday's old picture. My daughter put it on for this picture. Too bad I could not find a little monkey . . . I could have taken my daughter to the beach to make a modern redo of yesterday's picture.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bathing Beauty

This photo was taken in about 1949. The girl in the old style bathing suit with the monkey is my mom. I had posted earlier about this little monkey, Junior, that worked at my grandfather's gas station. Each year my grandfather would take his wife and three daughters to Port Aransas, on the Texas Gulf Coast for a week of fun at the beach. Naturally, they had to take Junior the monkey along with them, as he could not run the gas station by himself.

I guess my mom was not satisfied with the amount of attention she would generate by showing up at the beach with a smart, cute little monkey, so she decided to wear this 1910's era swimsuit as well. I am not sure who the little blond girl is, but she seams amused by my mom, and her monkey.

If you look down at the end of the pier, you can see my grandfather, "Poachin' Jack", fishing from the pier. You can pick him out, as he was the only one wearing a hard hat to the beach that day. My grandfather was very proud of being a roughneck, and I never saw him that he was not wearing his hard hat. As always, he was fishing without the required Fishing License.

A photographer for a San Antonio newspaper was at the beach that day, and took this photograph of my mom, and Junior the Monkey. It appeared in the San Antonio newspaper, and then got picked up by a news service, and appeared in many newspapers across the country. So, my mom pulled off a pretty good little publicity stunt at the age of 17.

So whatever happened to my mom, you ask? She grew up to be a well known Texas artist. She was known for her wonderful bluebonnet landscapes of the Texas Hill Country. She had paintings that hung in the US capitol building, and President Johnson had one of her paintings hanging in his home. She does not paint any more, but is happy, healthy, and living in her country home on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. She is a wonderful cook. In fact, I will go visit her this afternoon.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pontoon Bridge

This picture shows a Pontoon Bridge across the Appomattox creek. The picture was taken in 1865. You can see how bridges like this one could be put together quickly. The pontoons had mounted wheels, and could be transported overland quickly, and then floated into position. The top wood would then be laid, creating a bridge capable of allowing an army to cross a river.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wall Street Stock Brokers

This picture was taken in 1920, and shows Curb Brokers on Wall Street in New York City. Up until 1929, the American Stock Exchange was known as the New York Curb Exchange. This is because brokers would meet outside, on the curb, with lists of stock for sale, or that were wanted. It became so crowded, popular, and loud, that hand signals had to be introduced as a means of communication between buyers and sellers. The exchange moved indoors in 1921.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Native American Man

This photograph was taken by Edward Curtis, and shows a Native American man. I love these old Curtis photos, but wish we knew more about the people in the pictures. There stories are left to our imagineations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Children Workers

This picture was taken in 1911, and shows children who work in a Virginia Cotton Mill. It is nice how far we have come in the United States in overcoming poverty, and protecting children. Unfortunately, this picture would reflect conditions that still remain in lots of places in the world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

This picture shows a scene in New York City, with a horse-drawn fire engine on its way to a fire. The fire was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This fire turned out to be the worst work-place fire in New York City history, with over 148 people killed. The fire was at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which still stands, and is known as the Brown Building. In the fire, the victims succumbed to the flames, smoke, and some jumped to their deaths from the upper floors of the building. The tragedy led to the implementation of improved factory safety standards in the United States, and the formation of the International Ladies' Garment Worker's Union.

The fire occurred on this day, March 25, in the Year 1911.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Buffalo Bill

This picture was taken in 1907, and shows Buffalo Bill Cody on horseback, riding beside a Native American. It is assumed that the photo was taken at one of his Wild West shows. His show ran from 1882 to 1917, and has been called the most successful traveling show of all times.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nellie Williams Christian

Today we feature a photograph of Nellie Williams Christian. The photograph was taken on August 23, 1900. It was taken on the occasion of her 17th birthday.

Nellie was my Great Grandmother. She lived to be 96 years old, so as a young boy, I had the great honor and privilege of knowing her. She was the most selfless person I ever met. She was always first to serve others, the first to give, and the first to help. She was never one to draw attention to herself, and had a humble spirit. She never sought fame or fortune, she worked quietly behind the scenes, always doing her part, and more. Her happiness came not from how much she had, but from how much she gave. Her beauty was not skin deep . . . it went all the way to the bone.

As a child, I can remember the stories she told me. She grew up on the Texas frontier in the 1880's near Camp San Saba. She vividly remembered troubles with Indians, and troubles with outlaws. The family ate what they could grow, catch, or shoot. Every day, the challenge was to survive. It is amazing how different things were back then.

I can remember that she always loved to tell me stories of her childhood. It was as if a Louis L'Amour book would come alive right in front of me. She would vividly relive the adventures of her childhood. I can remember one day though, she sat me down in a much more serious manner. She said that there was a story that she had not yet told me, but one that I needed to know. It was not like the other days I had visited her. I could tell that this story was very different, and was one that she did not often share.

She told me that when she was 16 years old that her family had no running water, and no water well. Each evening her and her younger siblings would take buckets down to the creek, and carry water back to the cabin for use that night and the following morning. Each evening all the children would run down, and then bring back water. It was always a happy and carefree time. On this one particular evening, she was standing in her room alone as the children were all getting ready to go fetch the water. As she stood there alone, she heard a voice from behind her call her name. She was startled, and turned to see who had spoken. She said that she saw a man standing there in radiant white clothing. She said she saw him as clear and as real as anything she had ever seen. The man spoke her name again. He then told her that that evening, on the path down to the creek, there would be a large rattle snake right where the path turned to the left. He told her that she was to walk in front of the other children than evening, and she was to take a jar of kerosene, and some matches. When she found the snake, she was to pour the kerosene on it, and then throw a match on it to burn it. Then she said the man was gone.

No one else was in the room, and no one but her saw and heard this thing. She took to heart what she had seen and heard. She went and got matches and a jar of kerosene. Normally the younger children would have run down the path ahead of her, but this evening, she was careful to keep them close to her, and behind her. When she got to the turn in the path, there almost completely hidden, she found an enormous rattle snake. She took the kerosene, poured it on him, and then threw a match on him. She described how the snake struck and turned and lunged as it burned. While no one else in the family had seen the man she saw, they did believe her story, since there was no other explanation as to why she would have taken such care that evening to keep the younger children behind her, and why she would have taken kerosene and matches to the creek that evening.

My grandmother then told me that it was important that I know that there is a God in Heaven who loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his Son into the world to die for our sins, and that by trusting in Him, we have eternal life. Not something that we earn or deserve, but something that He gives as a free gift. She then told me that he also sends angels that watch over our lives, and that we should always be attentive, because we never know when we might encounter one.

My prayer for each of us this wonderful Easter day is that we would share in the faith that Nellie had, and that it would bring us the same abundant life, and eternal blessings it brought to her.

Bootleg Still

This picture is from the 1920's, and shows a couple of guys by an old Bootleg Still, during the days of prohibition. Prohibition came to an end on this day, March 22, in the year 1933. Roosevelt signed a law making it legal to make and sell beer and wine. Bootlegging continued even after prohibition ended. Even though it was legal to make, sell, and consume alcohol, a heavy tax was levied on it. Bootleg whisky was untaxed, so it remained popular for a long time.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Asbestos Worker

This picture shows a worker spreading asbestos on the boiler of a locomotive. It was taken in 1942. It is amazing how many old pictures you find like this one, showing someone working with asbestos, without any breathing protection. Also notice that his hat and coveralls are covered with asbestos. It was in the 1940's that people really began to suspect that there were health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. It was found to cause both asbestosis, a form of inflammation of the lungs, and Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that can almost always be associated with exposure to asbestos. It affects the linings of organs, especially the lungs. It has been found that even the family members of those working in the asbestos industry can be susceptible to these diseases.

It really makes you wonder what types of things they might tell you are safe today, and then you find out years later they were dangerous. When I was a teenager, I worked in a cotton gin for $1 an hour. While there was not any asbestos there (that I know of), there was a large amount of fine cotton fibers, which I have heard can be a concern. I only worked there one summer, so hopefully it will not be an issue. I do believe, though, that overall, worker safety has greatly improved in the United States. I think the greatest work danger these days is due to stress to get too much done in too little time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Albert Einstein

Today we feature a portrait of Albert Einstein, who on this day, March 20th, in the year 1916 published his General Theory of Relativity. I find it interesting that as technology advances to increase our power of observation (cosmos, atoms, etc.), science becomes more and more complex to explain what is observed. Then once in a generation someone like Einstein comes along and shows that there is a simple explanation behind everything being observed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First Air Combat Mission

Today we feature a picture of a biplane that participated in the first aerial combat mission. This occurred on this day, March 19, in the year 1916. You see, Pancho Villa was involved in a revolutionary movement in Mexico. Then in March of 1916 he decided it would be a good idea to invade the United States. He sent about 1,000 Mexican Raiders across the border, and attacked Columbus, New Mexico. Yep, he really wanted to hit us where it would hurt. Anyway, President Woodrow Wilson did not take to kindly to the offense, so he sent General John J. Pershing down south to deal with the situation. Pershing took about 6,000 troops to find Villa. At the same time, the existing Mexican government was using Carranza's army to find Villa. Bottom line is that there were lots of people looking for Villa in 1916.

Pershing used biplanes like the one pictured above to try and locate Villa. Pershing's expedition was eventually called off after he was unable to find Villa. The Mexican Army was also unable to find Villa. I have always been interested in Pancho Villa. I always like underdogs who were able to find success even when facing overwhelming odds.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Calamity Jane

Today we feature a picture of Martha Jane Burke, AKA Calamity Jane. The picture was taken in 1901, which would have been 2 years before her death in 1903. Calamity Jane was a genuine frontier woman. Her family lived on the frontier in Utah, and by the time she was 15 both of her parents had died. She took responsibility for raising her 5 brothers and sisters. During her life she served as a scout for the US army, was an Indian fighter, and was good friends with Wild Bill Hickock. Later in life she was a star attraction in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Deer Poaching

Today I feature a picture of my grandfather, Elmo Jackson Elder, aka "Poachin' Jack" (for those of you who might not know, a poacher is one who hunts without a license, or without permission from a landowner). I had mentioned Poachin' Jack in some of my earlier posts . . . he is the one who had a monkey working in his gasoline station. Some people have emailed me suggesting that perhaps I had made up old Poachin' Jack, that he was the result of an overactive childhood imagination. So, I wanted to provide some photographic evidence today that A) Yes, he did exist, and B) Yes, he was a poacher. Unfortunately the picture reveals an ugly truth . . . generational poaching. It looks like my brother had gotten sucked into the ugly little practice at about age 5. The funny thing is that my brother liked to poach in style . . . as you can see in the picture, he would put on his finest clothes to go poaching. Poor little guy did not have a clue that what he was doing was wrong.

Anyway, you can see that my brother and grandfather had been successful on this day, way back in May of 1962. The deer was too large to fit under the hood of the little Volkswagen Beetle, and they could not very well drive through town with it thrown over the top of the car, so they just concealed as much of the deer as they could under the hood, and left the head hanging out. They drove right through town, and to the casual observer it just looked like a dandy hood ornament.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Run on Bank

This picture shows a Run on the Bank that occurred in New York City in February of 1912.
Did any of you follow the financial news yesterday? We had what looked like a full blown "Run on the Bank" at one of the countries largest brokerage houses. It was sort of scary, and you wondered if the institution was going to survive the day. The government did step in, and indicated that that they would step up and provide liquidity for the institution.
As this was going on, I called my dad up, to ask him for his thoughts. He was born in 1920, so he remembers the roaring 20's, and he vividly remembers living through the Great Depression. I asked him if he had any advise for me. He said, "Son, the thing you need to know about a Depression is that He Who Panics First, Panics Best. If there is going to be a run on the bank, you want to make sure you are first in line." You know, it is always hard for me to tell when my dad is joking, and when he is serious. This was one of those cases. So, I chuckled a little bit, and then asked him if he really had any advice for people when the country might be facing tough economic times. He said, "There are three things that are very important. None of them are easy, but all of them are necessary." Below I summarize what he told me.
1) Control Your Spending. Now he was a master at this. I'm talking real old school here. When I was growing up, I would get in trouble for pulling an entire paper towel off the roll. He would yell at me, "Don't tear it off at the perforation, that is what they want you to do. Just tear off only what you need for the job at hand." In the 18 years I lived in his home, there was never a job that he thought required more than 1/8 of a paper towel. He always had a nice car, but he always bought it used, and always paid cash. He says you should never borrow money to buy a car. If you were to tell him that you don't have enough cash to buy a car without borrowing, he would tell you that you are trying to buy too much car . . . buy an older and less fancy car. He also believed in taking a lunch rather than eating out, and he believed that if you had to eat out, then order water with the meal to save the price of a drink. It is funny, when I was growing up I thought of him as being cheap, now that I am older, I think of him as being wise.
2) Get Out of Debt. My dad viewed debt as a terrible thing. Almost a form of slavery, or at least indentured servitude. When a person goes in debt, they no longer control their finances, their finances control them. First step is to tear up the credit cards, and not dig the hole any deeper. Then you should first pay off your credit cards. After that, pay off your car loan, and then finally pay off your house. This is not an easy thing to do, but if you really do a good job on rule 1, rule 2 becomes manageable.
3) Save and Invest. My dad says that after you get out of debt, you should concentrate on saving and investing. He says most people do not have the temperament to play the stock market. Human nature motivates people to usually do exactly the wrong thing in the market. He says the only thing that always works is to: 1) Stay widely diversified between cash, property, stocks, bonds, and hard assets, and 2) time cost average into investments, putting a fixed amount each month into the market.
I should point out that my Dad did not go to college, and has no formal financial expertise. I will say though, that his family made it through the Great Depression, and never missed a meal. In fact, they were able to be generous throughout the depression with both friends and strangers. I can honestly say that I never saw my dad turn any one away empty handed. He was always generous with anyone in need.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Old Race Car

This picture shows a race car at Indianapolis. It was taken in 1913. Even back then, these race cars could go very fast, probably better than 100 MPH. Notice the relative lack of any type of safety equipment for the driver.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


This photograph shows a group of union Civil War soldiers next to an artillery piece. The picture was taken in 1862 near Fair Oaks, Virgina. These men look very proud to be having their picture taken.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Flu Pandemic

This photograph was taken in 1918, and shows two nurses treating a victim of the 1918 Flu Pandemic. The first confirmed case of this outbreak occurred on this day, March 11, in the year 1918. While this pandemic is largely forgotten today, it is estimated that 50 to 100 million people died worldwide, making it one of the most deadly pandemics in history.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Nicholas Trist

Today we feature a picture of Nicholas Trist. He is remembered as the person who negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican American war. The treaty was ratified by congress on this day, March 10, in the year 1848. It established the southern border of the United States at the Rio Grande river. The United States also received California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming in the deal.
The Mexican American war is not a popular topic these days . . . not something many people care to study about. I think the war was really about some unfinished business associated with Texas. I think Mexico was still sort of miffed about Texas breaking away from Mexico, and then later joining up with the United States. The funny thing is that the Texans had really never wanted to break away from Mexico. When the Texans fought at the Alamo, they did not fight under a Texas flag, or a United States flag . . . they fought under a Mexican Flag, with the number "1824" on it. Their beef was not with Mexico, but was with Santa Anna, and how he did away with the 1824 Mexican Constitution. Early provisional governments in Texas did not declare independence from Mexico, but declared allegiance to Mexico, and the 1824 constitution.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Georgia Woods

Today we feature a photograph of my Great, Great Grandmother, Georgia Lavinia Woods. She shared that name with her Mother, so she was known simply as "Little Sweet". She was born on August 15, 1855 in San Marcus, Texas. Her father was the respected physician Dr. Peter C. Woods. With the start of the Civil War in 1861, her father laid down his medical instruments, picked up his sword, and mustered up a Confederate Cavalry Regiment, which became known as the 32nd Texas Cavalry. Dr. Woods was elected commander of the unit, and he became Colonel-Doctor Peter C. Woods. In 1862 Little Sweet watched her father, and his cavalry unit ride off to war. The plantation was left in the care of her mother, Georgia Virginia Lawshe Woods, and the family slaves (note- I am embarrassed that my family owned slaves. I am proud of many aspects of my family history, but am sorry that this dark spot stains that history). They effectively managed the plantation in the absence of Peter. As the Civil War came to a close, union troops moved into Texas, acting as sort of an army of occupation. At this time, southerners really did not have any property or other rights, and were pretty much subject to what amounted to martial law. The practical implication was that you pretty much had to do whatever someone in uniform told you to do, right or wrong. If you did anything to resist, the reprisals would be much worse than the original offense. As union forces reached San Marcus, a group of soldiers approached the family plantation. As the senior Georgia went out to see what they wanted, Little Sweet was perched up on the balcony of the home with a rifle, and she took a shot at the group of soldiers (She would have been about 10 years old). She missed, but did startle them, and they all scurried for cover. As Little Sweet was reloading to fire again, one of the slaves was in the home, and saw what was happening. He ran out onto the balcony, took the gun away from her, and whisked her out behind the house, and into the woods. He likely saved her life because there is no doubt that the soldiers would have soon returned fire on her. Not much was said at the time about the incident. The soldiers did tell Georgia, however, that they were commandeering her home and property. She had one day to vacate the premises. The family was given the option that they could remove themselves from the property completely, or they could live out back in the slave quarters with the (former) slaves. They moved back into the slave quarters.

The soldiers were very abusive to the family, and the abusive behaviour became worse and worse. Of particular concern was that Little Sweet had a very beautiful older sister named Cherokee. One of the Union Officers had a very strong interest in Cherokee. His inappropriate advances became more and more aggressive, and he began to make explicit threats of violence to the family if Cherokee did not become more receptive to his inappropriate advances. It was very clear what the tragic endpoint of these unwanted and most unfortunate advances would soon be. The family had no choice but to take action to defend themselves. They had Cherokee approach the officer and express interest, and make arrangements for him to meet her that night in the barn. When the officer showed up, Cherokee was waiting for him inside, but the remainder of the family was hidden in the barn. When he entered the barn, they jumped him, overwhelmed him, and killed him. His body was disposed of some miles away. Being an officer, his disappearance was noticed by the authorities, and they did suspect foul play. The only good thing was that he had been abusive to many, many people. So, while they suspected foul play, there were scores of people who could have had an axe to grind with him.

Peter C. Woods did eventually return from the war. He had been seriously injured, and he had lost the use of his entire left arm. When he returned from the war, he freed all his slaves. The slaves would have really already been freed by the government, but Peter thought it was important for them to see that they were not just free in the eyes of the state, but that they were also free in the eyes of their former owner. Upon freeing them, he split the plantation into equal parts, giving each of the former slaves an equal part of the land. The only stipulation was that when he deeded them the land, he made a provision in the deed where they, or their descendents could not sell the land for 100 years. He did this to ensure that no one would be able to ever cheat them out of the land. By making this provision, he ensured that they would always own property.

Little Sweet had a long and happy life. She married, and had a very large family. She lived through, and had loved ones fight in the Civil War, The Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. In her life she observed the impact of both the mini-ball and the Atomic Bomb. She died on October 11, 1946 in Christoval, Texas at the age of 91.

Child Coal Miner

This picture was taken in 1908, and shows a young boy working at the Turkey Knob Coal Mine near Macdonald, West Virginia. I am really captivated by these old pictures of children in such dire circumstances. The really sad thing to consider is that child labor remains a serious problem in many parts of the world. Sometimes when I buy cheap products at large discount chains I wonder how many times child labor was involved in their production.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Daniel Webster

This is a portrait of Senator Daniel Webster. It was on this day, March 7, in the year 1850, that Webster presented his famous "Seventh of March" speech to congress. In the speech he argued for sectional compromise on the issue of slavery. The result was the Compromise of 1850. This, along with the earlier Missouri Compromise delayed the Civil War for another ten years. Neither of these compromises really addressed the fundamental issues, and hence only delayed the inevitable.
I often wonder if wiser men could have avoided the Civil War.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Alamo

Today we feature an old photograph of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. It was on this day, March 6, in the year 1836 that the Alamo fell to the Mexican Army. Davie Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis, and another 184 Texans had held off the more than 3,000 strong Mexican Army for 13 days. During the siege, seeing that the Texans were outnumbered 20 to 1, commander William Travis sent out this impassioned plea:
FELLOW-CITIZENS AND COMPATRIOTS : I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continued bombardment for twenty-four hours, and have not lost a man. The enemy have demanded a surrender at discretion ; otherwise the garrison is to be put to the sword, if the place is taken. I have answered the summons with a cannon-shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of liberty, of patriotism, and of everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid with all despatch. The enemy are receiving reinforcements daily, and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. Though this call may be neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible, and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. Victory or death!
"W. BARRET TRAVIS, Lieutenant-Colonel commanding.
" P. S.—The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight, we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found, in deserted houses, eighty or ninety bushels, and got into the walls twenty or thirty head of beeves. "T"
I think this letter helps to explain why Texans have such pride in their state. The spirit of the Alamo still runs strong in the Sons and Daughters of Texas.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

President Andrew Johnson

This is a portrait of President Andrew Johnson. Johnson was Lincoln's Vice President, and he took office with the death of Lincoln in 1865. Johnson had a rather tumultuous presidency. It was on this day, March 5, in the year 1868 the US Senate organized a Court of Impeachment for the purpose of impeaching Johnson. The impeachment attempt failed, lacking one vote to achieve the 2/3 majority required.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Apache on Horseback

This picture was taken in 1903, and shows 4 Apache men on horseback crossing a stream. The photograph was taken by Edward Curtis.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Junior the Monkey

Today we feature a nice portrait of Junior the Monkey. Junior belonged to my grandfather, Elmo Jackson Elder, AKA Poachin' Jack. My grandfather was known as Poachin' Jack because he had a particular affinity for venison, and he did not let little things like the laws of the Great State of Texas preclude him from enjoying this delightful meat year round.
In the 1930's he worked in the oilfields, and then he left that work and started his own gas station. He and his buddies in the oil fields were always pulling pranks on each other. I am not talking about simple little harmless pranks, but I am talking about big, hairy, complex, ugly pranks. This was something my grandfather was particularly adept at, and he just about always came out on top. Then one day his buddies got together and decided that they would fix his wagon once and for all. They wanted to pull the worst prank on him possible, and one that he would never be able to top. They thought, and planned, and connived. They stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, and held mini-conferences at the local coffee shop studying the possibilities. Then finally, after careful consideration, they determined that they had devised the ultimate prank. They would all pitch in together and they would order a monkey, and make the order out like it was from my grandfather. Well they set their plan in motion. Then one day some time later my grandfather steps out on his front porch and finds a large crate. Inside the crate was a monkey. Now he did not know what to do. Taking care of a monkey is a hard job, and it is even harder to try and get rid of a monkey. He was sort of stuck with it, and realized he had been had. The one thing he was determined of though, was that he would not let his buddies get the best of him. He started thinking of how he could get back at them. He thought of one thing, and then another, but had trouble figuring out how to outdo them. He finally came up with a plan. He would turn the tables around by making the whole monkey deal a good thing. He decided to put the monkey to work at his gas station. He had my grandmother make the monkey a little set of coveralls, and put the Philips 66 logo on it. The little uniform was just like my grandfather's, only smaller. He named the monkey Junior, monogrammed the name on the little uniform, and took Junior to work. He taught Junior how to wash a windshield. He also taught him how to take the bill to the customer, take the customer's money, and run it in to the cash register attendant. The attendant would make change and give it to Junior. Junior would then run it back out to the customer, climb in the car window, sit in the customer's lap, and then hand them their change. Now Junior was a smart monkey. He learned quick, and he was a hard worker. Well, the first few customers were absolutely amazed when they drove up and saw Junior at work. This was like something they had never seen before. Junior could clean a windshield like nobody's business. People were absolutely fascinated that a monkey could actually have a job at a gas station, and word spread like wildfire. Before long, cars were lined up two blocks long waiting to buy gas so that they could see this monkey. Junior loved his job, and enjoyed all the attention he got. He got along well with his coworkers, and he never complained about anything. He received excellent marks in all his reviews, and he was named employee of the month on several different occasions. He was never late for work, and always was the first to jump up when a customer drove in. He really was one of the boys down at the station.
Well, my grandfather never admitted to his buddies that he knew that they were the ones who ordered the monkey in his name. Just every time he saw them he would tell them how well he was doing, since there was always a line two blocks long of people wanting to buy gas from him. He let them know that the best day of his life was the day that monkey showed up on his doorstep. Well, this pretty much put an end to the practical jokes. My grandfather's buddies realized that they would never be able to get the better of him.
Junior always did well at the station. He enjoyed all the activity. He did not always do so well at home. Monkeys are highly developed, social creatures. He was very jealous, and my grandparents could not have any other type of pet around. Also, sometimes when they had company, Junior would exhibit some unfortunate behaviours that would be embarrassing for my grandparents, and their guests. He could never be left alone in the house. He would figure out a way to get out of his cage, and would go in and wreck the kitchen. I don't know if he did it because he was bored, or because he was angry that he had been left behind. So as long as he was busy things went pretty well, but when things slowed down, problems emerged (It is true, monkeys really should not be kept as pets). Anyway, there came a time that my mom met my dad, and they got married. When they were expecting their first child, my older brother, old Poachin' Jack realized that he would have no choice but to get rid of the monkey. It would just be too dangerous to ever let the monkey near the baby that was on its way. Despite how much my grandfather loved Junior, he made arrangements with the zoo in San Antonio, and shipped Junior off to the zoo. Poor Junior never even saw it coming.
Well I tell this story today because last week I was in town shopping for a car. The salesman was an elderly gentleman. The salesman told me that when he was younger, his parents had bought the old filling station from my grandfather. As they were refurbishing the station, there was a long cabinet and counter along the back wall that they had to tear out. Back behind that counter they found the most amazing things. They found thousands of ink pens. They also found a wide assortment of other things . . . packs of cigarettes, combs, eyeglasses, and pocket calendars. While there was wide assortment of things hidden behind the counter, the things all had one thing in common. They were all things that a man would carry in his shirt pocket. You see, unknown to my grandfather, or anyone else, when Junior jumped up in the customer's lap to hand them their change, he was at the same time picking their shirt pocket. He would then hide the goods behind the counter. Our family was devastated to learn that Junior, while appearing to be a model employee, was actually robbing people blind. All I can say is that I am thankful that my grandfather did not live long enough to learn the terrible truth that his favorite primate was actually a common thief.
UPDATE: I recently found a letter my grandfather had written about his monkey in an old trunk. You can click here to read about his Pet Monkey in his own words.

Yellowstone Natoinal Park

This is a picture from 1905 of a horse drawn wagon in Yellowstone National Park. What a magnificent ride this must have been. I have never had the chance to visit Yellowstone, but I hear that it is a beautiful place. Yellowstone became the first National Park on this day, March 1, in the year 1872.