Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

 Dec. 9, 2002

Texas and its cowboys, the real deal

There are compensations for leaving Minnesota and living in Texas. Among them, I would list the King Ranch outdoor breakfast, which happens every year the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

For a $5 donation to the Kingsville Posadas, you get to eat outside, standing up. Minnesotans down here (otherwise known as the "winter Texans" or "snowbirds") flock to this like flies to a feedlot.

It draws around 5,000 people. Besides the food, you get to watch team roping, branding, horse shoeing, dogs rounding up cattle, the Kleberg County Mounted Sheriff's Posse, Mariachi bands, and horses, horses, horses.

I had thought there were no more cowboys left in the world, until I went to the King Ranch. There were at least 50 men lined up for the team roping.

Team roping is when two guys take off on a quarter horse chasing a yearling calf. One man tries to rope the horns and the other cowboy goes for the hind legs.

The fastest time I saw was 15 seconds. Most of the ropers missed. I asked one of them if there were very many cowboys left in the world, and he said that there were, but now they are all helicopter pilots.

This reminded me of the man who had many deer and elk heads mounted in his den. When he was asked why all the heads were looking up, he said it was because he shot them all from an airplane.

Besides Kingsville, the small towns of Texas all have their own claims to fame. On this trip, I discovered Littlefield, Texas, was the hometown of Waylon Jennings.

How do I know this? Because the water tower for Littlefield says so.

It may be that ol' Waylon painted this on by himself, like somebody tried to do in Waverly one time but had to pay a fine, like if you set off the fire siren just for the fun of it.

I wanted to take a picture of a water tower one time that said simply "Rum" because that was the name of the town. How would you like to turn on the tap and out flowed . . . rum.

The origin of the term "tank town" doesn't refer to the water towers, which are the hallmarks of small towns, but to the old days when there were steam locomotives. There would be tanks along the tracks here and there for the locomotives to take on water, so they could make the steam.

In some towns, the tank by the tracks was the only landmark, hence the term. There is another version that says that the boxers on the way up or down in turning pro would "go into the tank," in other words fake a knockout, and get paid for it. It was a slam on small towns.

I asked around in Big Lake, Texas, where the lake was. The fact there is no lake there is a very sore subject and most unfunny to the natives.

Some oil company had pumped the lake dry and there is a sign where the lake used to be that says, "Who pulled the plug on our lake?"

Big Lake is also the hometown of Jim Morris, whose life there resulted in a true story feel good Disney movie called "The Rookie."

He had been a high school coach in Big Lake and the baseball players talked him into trying out for the majors, even though he was in his 30s.

Since he could throw a baseball at more than 90 mph, they hired him, sure enough, and that made a good enough story for a movie.

The people in Big Lake feel badly that he is divorcing his wife and has now moved to Dallas. They sure had a happy marriage in the movie. Most of the Big Lakers have seen the movie, even though there isn't a movie theater in Big Lake.

There was a movie filmed in Waverly one time called "Ice Castles." It was based on a true story about a blind girl from Waverly, Iowa, who wanted to become a figure skater.

The film crews flew in from California and figured out that Waverly, Minn., was closer than Waverly, Iowa, to the airport. There were also warm restaurants and motels in the Twin Cities, so they used our Waverly for the background shots. After all, the signage was the same - Waverly Village Hall and so on.

I recognized frozen-over Waverly Lake. When we lived in Texarkana, they filmed "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" not far from where we lived. That movie gave the Hollywood term "bit parts" a whole new meaning.

There are wonderful signs out there in greater America. I didn't see all of these myself but they are all true, I am sure.

Spotted in the toilet of a Houston office:

Toilet out of order. Please use floor below.

In a laundromat:

Automatic washing machines. Please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.

In a Dallas department store:

Bargain basement upstairs.

In an office:

Would the person who took the stepladder yesterday please bring it back, or further steps will be taken.

Notice in a health food shop window:

Closed due to illness.

Spotted in a safari park:

Elephants please stay in your car

Notice in a field:

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

On a repair shop door:

We can repair anything. Please knock hard on the door. The bell doesn't work.

T-shirts have great messages also:

All men are idiots and I married their king

My dog can lick anyone.

Chicken little was right!

That's it! I'm calling grandma! (seen on an eight-year-old)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

My wild oats have turned to shredded wheat.

My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't.

Quoting one is plagiarism. Quoting many is research.

So now, dear readers, you can say I have done some research for this column.


A good friend sent me this, a friend who doesn't agree with my liberal politics or my pacifist stance. He sent it without any comment, but I think it applies to myself even though he was too kind to tell me that.

Here's the quote: "So, instead of loving what you think is peace, love others and God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetite and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed . . . but hate these things in yourself, not in another." Thomas Merton


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