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Dog coastin’

January 21st, 2014 by jomo

Leo Tolstoi’s War and Peace is my favorite book, and I
am reading it again with even more enjoyment than before.

There is a description of hunting hares with dogs which
reminded me of going with a friend to run his dogs many
years ago.

Gail Borden Tenant was in law school at the time. He wore
a white suit with a string tie and a panama hat. He had two
greyhounds. We went some distance out Webberville Road,
then turned off to the south.

We came to a long fenced arena perhaps 80 or 100 yards
long, maybe 35 wide. Cars were parked around the outside
of the fence. We were the only white folks there, but everyone
seemed to know Gail, and called him “The Judge,” as in “Hyah
come da Judge.” Many people had greyhounds (maybe some
borzois) on leashes and their attention was directed toward
the arena.

The far end of the arena was a corrugated tin wall separating
the arena from a brushy pen behind. In the tin wall were some
openings at ground level, about one foot square. At the near
end of the arena was a wood and hardware cloth box about
1 foot square and 12 feet long, divided into 10 or 12 sections
by sliding wooden dividers. In each section there was a live
jack rabbit. About 30 or 40 feet in front of that chute was a
line across the arena and at one end of the line was stationed
a man with a flag.

Three dog handlers would station themselves and their dogs
in line with the front of the holding chute, where another official
prepared to raise the door, which would release the rabbit in the
front section. The flagman raised his flag, the doorman raised the
door, and the rabbit bolted for the far end of the arena. When it
crossed the line, the flagman snapped his flag down and the dog
handlers let their dogs go.

Greyhounds running are magnificent – but so are jack rabbits.
Sometimes a rabbit made it through one of the holes in the fence
at the far end, but more often one of the dogs would catch up
with it, causing the rabbit to swerve away, into the path of the
trailing dogs. Then there would be a cloud of dust and tumble of

The dog that turned the rabbit was the winner of the race. The
owner of the dog got whatever winnings came from his bets on the
race, and he got the rabbit.

As we were leaving, someone called out to Gail “Whatchoo gonna do
wi’dat rabbit, Judge?” Gail answered “Why, I’m gonna give it to you,
you pretty thing.”

The folks there called it “dog coastin’.” Historically, it’s known as
“coursing” and was a sport of royalty. And it was hare coursing that
Tolstoi described, but it was dog coastin’ that I saw.

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September 26th, 2012 by jomo

All of these ideas go through my head that I could/should write about, but then I move on to other things since writing is not one of my primary focuses. But today I was writing stuff to fulfill the requirements for Faces of Austin, a program to showcase short films by Austin filmmakers, one of which I most certainly am and have been for decades now, so that put me in kind of a writing mode.

I have always identified my films as having been produced in Austin. I wonder if that has had any effect in helping Austin become the Mecca for creativity that it has become? Probably not – or certainly not very much.

In the early ‘70s I built a great big barn-like house around an old silo in the country. Someone later told me that they picked up a hitchhiker two or three states away who was headed down to see this house that some hippy had built around a silo. I guess that was my place – I like to think it was, and that my effort had impressed others enough that they had told people about it and word had spread that it was something worth seeing. But I never met that traveler and I sold the place and it burned to the ground one winter’s day…there were some design elements that I hadn’t worked out. We learn as we go along, eh?

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Sunday Funnies

July 1st, 2012 by jomo

This morning when I glanced at the Sunday Comics section of the American-Statesman, I remembered “Uncle” Roy’s Sunday morning radio show on KTSM in El Paso in the 1940s and 50s. He read the comic strip captions while his listening audience followed along at home, looking at the pictures. I remember that he had a wide range of voice characterizations. Listening to Uncle Roy’s show on Sunday was as much a part of my routine as going to church.

As I began to write this…note? little memory bit? whatever…I used the web to run a search to see if there was something out there about Uncle Roy, and I found this in memoriam piece – which made my fond memories fonder. He really was as nice a guy as he sounded on the radio.

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Robertson Davies

April 20th, 2012 by jomo

One of my very favorite authors is Robertson Davies. He created wonderful characters with insightful language and humor. I thought that I had read all of his novels and recently set about rereading The Fifth Business, volume 1 of The Deptford Trilogy. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that I had never before read the book, and I am enjoying it a lot. Now I will rummage through all of the Davies novels to see if there might not be others I missed.

Dunstan Ramsay, the narrator of The Fifth Business, has incidental girlfriends named Agnes Day, Gloria Mundy, and Libby Doe.

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Feeling betrayed by State Farm

April 15th, 2012 by jomo

In an Atlantic article I learned that my insurance company, State Farm, is a supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). I had known about ALEC for some time now, and had come to consider them fascistic and un-American, originators of legislation resulting in voter suppression, immigrant harrassment, destruction of firearms regulation, and privatization of prisons among other hard right loopy ideas. To find that a company that I have done business with for more than 30 years passes on to ALEC some of what I pay them each month is outrageous. So now I am looking for another insurance company.

Ambrose Bierce defined politics as “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” That summarizes ALEC’s purposes succinctly.

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Leslie Cochran

March 8th, 2012 by jomo

I didn’t know Leslie. I saw him around here and there through the years, but I had direct dealings with him only once.

I came out of Harrell’s on Oltorf one day and Leslie, dressed in housecoat and slippers, asked me for a cigarette. I told him that I didn’t smoke, and he said “Good. Nasty habit.”

Then he said “You might have noticed my house slippers…anywhere I go in Austin, I feel at home.”

Rest in peace, Leslie.

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Keeping cool

February 29th, 2012 by jomo

Around the northeastern side of the University of Texas campus, as well as out beyond Mt. Bonnell, up the Dry Creek Valley, much of the property 30,40 or 50 years ago was owned by a man named Fred Eby. He built many houses and apartments, and was a major landlord for student rentals. One summer in the early ’70s I thought that I had rented one of his houses on Mt. Bonnell Rd., just beyond Sara’s Dry Creek Cafe, but Eby’s property manager told me, when I went to get the key, that it had been rented to someone else.

I stormed over to Eby’s office, which was in an apartment complex just off of Duval on Elmwood. I knocked on the office door and went in. Someone called out to come on back to the bathroom. That brought me up short, but I went on back and peeked around the open bathroom door. Eby’s factotum was seated on the lowered lid of the toilet taking notes, while Fred Eby, in a bathing suit, was immersed in the bathtub. Ice cubes floated around him in the water.

It was a very hot day.

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Liveoak Spring

February 28th, 2012 by jomo

Liveoaks (Plateau Oaks?) keep their leaves through the Winter. In early Spring, last year’s leaves turn yellow and drop. There’s none of this poetic feathery drifting down – they fall like little pieces of leather, clunking on roofs and sidewalks to form drifts and swales, turning brown and rattley. The new green growth shoots form soon after, and then comes the catkins, which mature and open, then dry out and fall, adding to the mess on the ground and in roof gutters.

And this year’s go around has started already, here in Austin.

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February 22nd, 2012 by jomo

For some time now I have noticed that my websites regularly receive traffic from the Republic of Seychelles, a group of 150 or so islands northeast of Madagascar off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It is the most developed country in Africa with about 86,000 citizens, speaking English, French, and Creole, and its primary industry now is tourism. It sounds like it is pretty close to “Paradise With High Humidity,” having an annual average high temperature of 70-85 degrees F. It doesn’t get cyclones.

Who is it so far away that regularly visits me? Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.

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February 21st, 2012 by jomo

Last year there was a weekly lifedrawing session over at the art warehouse on W. Monroe. I went to it about 10 times, but stopped for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I didn’t feel like I was coming away with anything.

A few days ago I was looking at the drawings I made at those sessions and found one that is really pretty nice. So the sessions were worth it.

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