Texas Drug Store Cowboys Celebrating 50 Years as Dancehall & Venue Legends

50th Anniversary will be on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022 at John T. Floores Country Store & Dance Hall in Helotes, Texas. 3-7 p.m.

Admired by fiercely loyal fans, The Drugstore Cowboys have brought their electric energy to venues throughout the US and Europe.

The south side of San Antonio, in the neighborhoods surrounding McCollum and Harlandale high schools, are the childhood homes of many notable people in Country, Funk, Soul and Tejano Music.

Legendary Country Music DJ Hall of Famer and everybody’s “Cousin” Jerry King went to Harlandale in the 1960s. I can remember when King, along with other DJs and musicians, played with the likes of Willie Nelson and George Jones at a charity basketball matchup at the McCollum gym in the late 1960s.

During the 1972-73 school year Nashville recording artist Johnny Bush played on stage at the McCollum Auditorium. Country.

Down on Harding Blvd., a talented local newspaper country music and entertainment writer, John Goodspeed, served as an early inspiration for me.

The late Emilio Navaira, from the McCollum Class of 1980, was a Mexican-American musician who performed country and Tejano music nationally. His classmate from the year ahead of him, Yolanda Saldívar, is the convicted murderer of Latin music superstar Selena, and is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.

Especially in the late 70s and early 80s many of us would go watch Horizon perform. Southsiders Charlie, John, and Geoff Boggess joined classmate Freddy Carrillo and others (T-Bo Gonzalez, Bill Dudley, Larry Scott and Sahara Greer come to mind) and actually opened for the Commodores. The story goes they were offered to go on the road with Cool and the Gang but turned them down.

Through the years, southsider singers and musicians continued to play venues and dances as far away as Europe, on television and especially throughout the Lone Star State.

Some of the more enduring included Rex Allen McNeil, Walter “Tooter” Ripps, Ray Morris, Randy Potts, Lonnie Castleman, John Marsh, Leonard Wong, and the rockers, The Toman Brothers, Randy and Russell—and who could forget R

1972

In the fall of 1972, 17-year-old McCollum senior Dub Robinson had organized a country trio and began playing around a little bit. He went to go see Willie Nelson at the John T. Floore Country Store northwest of San Antonio in the foothills of the Hill Country town of Helotes.

Johnny Bush, Paul English, Willie Nelson

Nelson was to perform as a trio with drummer Paul English and Bee Spears on bass. The steel player didn’t show.

“I watched Willie play that gut string guitar and it didn’t lose anything,” Robinson remembers. Since age 12, Robinson had played professionally across South Texas, but on this night he was particularly inspired.

He called his drummer, Robert “Cotton” Payne, and his bassist, Tommy McKay the next day and proclaimed that if they could be a hundredth as good as Nelson was, they might have a chance.

They knew their taste in music was a blend of country, rock, and blues. McKay suggested the perfect name for their new band. It described the kind of “cowboy” who didn’t want to get his boots dirty.

I’ve followed Dub and other fellow McCollum Cowboys classmates over the years. He continues to be a favorite.

At a ten year class reunion in 1983 at the downtown El Tropicano Hotel Ballroom, Dub and his band honored his classmates as we danced in memories of “old times.” I was particularly honored. I knew the band was good, but when I was called over during a break, he asked me what Elvis song I was going to sing later that evening.

I suggested “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hearbreak Hotel,” and “Hound Dog.”

He grinned, and with guitar in hand, said, “Okay. Let me hear you sing them.”

1983 McCollum 10 Yr Reunion. Dub (guitar) was the ultra-professional. What an honor for me.

I only had to belt out a sentence or a few words of each. He immediately knew what key and chords to play.

Later, when some of our classmates were literally pulling my pants off while singing, I looked back at Dub. He was grinning big time. He and his band never missed a lick. I tried my best not to also. It remains a fun and wonderful memory in my heart.

In 2011, while interviewing George Strait and Ray Benson at a fundraiser for wounded veterans at Tapatio Springs outside of Boerne, Texas, Strait said something that reminded me of Dub.

“When everyone thinks of Asleep at the Wheel, they think of Ray.”

That’s exactly how I feel about the Drug Store Cowboys. When I think of them, I think of Dub Robinson.

The Drugstore Cowboys with Gary Stewart: Dub Robinson (left), Stewart, Randy Toman and Robert "Cotton" Payne.
Dub Robinson on the left.

Dub just announced the band will be celebrating their 50th anniversary with a new CD. What are his thoughts?

In his own creative words, the songwriter, musician and singer posted:

Originally, McKay lasted about a year and a half and Randy Toman, (who now performs with his brother Russell), became the bassist for 13 years.

They became the touring band for country stars Gary Stewart and Stoney Edwards. The Drugstore Cowboys also backed Johnny Rodriguez, Freddy Fender, Johnny Bush and Gene Watson.

Other artists they shared the stage with or even backed up include Nelson, Merle Haggard, Mel Tillis, Frenchy Burke, Greg Allman, David Allen Cole, Charlie Daniels, the Mavericks, Jerry Jeff Walker, and even Asleep At The Wheel.

“They joined Stewart, who was known for such hits as “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” when his backing band could not make a gig at the old Kicker’s Palace,” Goodspeed once reported. “The owner told Stewart they knew all his songs and he gave them a try. Stewart hired them and they toured coast to coast. Robinson quit after four years.”

“I didn’t want to be somebody’s backup band the rest of my life,” he said. “I’m a songwriter first and wanted to do my own thing.”

In 50 years, at least that many musicians have played in The Drugstore Cowboys.

Some of the members went on to play for the Bellamy Brothers, Janie Fricke, Bill Anderson, and Judas Priest.

“I believe it’s all about the song. It’s a lot of work running a band, but I do it just to play my music the way I want to hear it,” Dub said.

In God We Trust

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

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CLICK: PARK LANE by Rebecca Taylor

UPDATE! Body Found Near Home of Missing Shana DiMambro North of San Antonio

Update: At 7:50 p.m. June 29, 2022 local time, three searchers looking for evidence, found a body at the bottom of a dry retainage pond approximately 300 yards from the home of Shana DiMambro, who has been missing since July 19.

Donald “DJ” Seeger, Jr. and two associates from his water supply and service company have been vigorously searching for any signs of Shana since Sunday of last week after she was reported missing.

They called 911 immediately after discovering the body. Sheriff deputies and a forensics team arrived.

Seeger

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The Seeger search and rescue team provide individual information to law enforcement. The body, after the discovery site has been documented and examined, will be taken to a medical examiner for an autopsy.

During Seeger’s team’s first search effort, dozens joined him to find Shana. The Spring Branch native said her husband Chris Antos came with them.

“He cried for a little bit then he jumped in and tried to help the best he could,” Seeger observed. “He was just helping us scan the ground looking for anything and we were asking him a lot questions about her during the entire time.”

Seeger first learned about the missing woman after the Comal County Sheriff’s Office posted about the case online. He realized she vanished near the area and around the same time where his company was establishing a water system along State Highway 46. 

“We jumped in thinking maybe our truck dash cameras caught something but we didn’t get anything from it,” he said.

When Shana’s father arrived from Neveda, Seeger met him and became determined to help find her.

“I thought well as a company, we got the GIS maps to set up a grid to organize people, so we put a post out and brought people together,” said Seeger.

“I’m always looking for ways to serve,” he continued. “I served for seven years at the Crisis Center of Comal County as a volunteer for sexual assault and domestic violence. Any time I hear of an exploitation or a missing person or an abused victim or something, it’s always something I want to jump in and see if there is anything I can offer to help.”

—-Original Article Begins Here—-

The last time Brian DiMambro of the Reno, Nevada area heard his daughter’s voice was in mid-June, over a month before he was notified Shana was “missing.”

His son-in-law Christopher Antos called him from Texas to chat about various things and indicated he was worried about his upcoming court hearing for a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This was not Antos’ first DWI, but the only one where two people were injured allegedly by his drunk driving.

Chris Antos

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Towards the end of the phone call, DiMambro heard Shana call out, “Hi, Dad! I’m busy cooking dinner,” in the background. Hopefully, those were not the final words of a daughter to her father.

By July 19, 2022, the Comal County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) began searching for 45-year-old Shana Alison DiMambro after she vanished from her RV home at Texas 46 RV Park in Spring Branch, east of Bulverde and north of San Antonio, Texas that Tuesday morning.

Shana DiMambro

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Jennifer Smith, CCSO public information officer, said deputies were dispatched to the RV park in the 100 block of Mitchell Drive after DiMambro’s husband, Chris, reported her missing. Antos told deputies his wife was wearing a white v-neck teeshirt, light pink shorts and black flip flops when he left home for work at 7:10 am that morning.

This message was released to the public:

Brian DiMambro flew from Nevada to help with the search and talk with deputies. Detective Anthony Moreno was assigned to his daughter’s case.

By the weekend, word of mouth, social media and local news were reporting Shana’s disappearance. A San Antonio-based KENS 5 television reporter interviewed Antos for their exclusive 10 pm newscast. Here, in part, is some of the interview:

KENS 5 INTERVIEW

Chris Antos [Husband]: “I love you.”

Reporter [Sarah Duran]: “Chris Antos wants his wife, Shana DiMambro, to know he’s looking for her.”

Chris Antos: “Please come home. We want you back.”

Reporter: “He won’t stop searching ’til she’s found. He hopes she’s physically and mentally okay.”

Chris Antos on KENS 5 interview

Chris Antos: “I mean, there was some darkness the night before with her and the past.”

Reporter: “Antos said he left for work last Tuesday morning, and when he returned home for lunch his wife was gone. But he noticed DiMambro’s car, cell phone, wallet and dogremained behind. His search expanded into the neighborhood and the nearby gas station.”

Chris Antos: “Didn’t see anything. Came back here and I was like, ‘O.K. things aren’t right. I got to call the cops.'”

Reporter: “The Comal County Sheriff’s Office is searching for her, along with search and rescue non-profits, Texas EquuSearch and Project Absentis, and the couple’s families.”
[Note: Project Absentis is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization made up of retired and former FBI Agents, other law enforcement, public safety, and intelligence professionals who seek to assist families of missing persons in locating their loved ones.] 

.

Chris Antos: “I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

Reporter: “Holding out hope for DiMambro’s return, the family plans to host public searches soon.”

Chris Antos: “We’re not stopping, the fight is still there, and we’re not going to stop until we know something about where Shana is, or until she’s home.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON SHANA A. DIMAMBRO

🔹Shana attended John H. Wood Middle and Madison High Schools in San Antonio. Classmate Jennifer Court remembers Shana as, “Beautiful. Not a lady you forget once you meet her.”

🔹Shana and her future second husband, Chris Antos, would sneak out and meet to smoke cigarettes together as students of Madison High.

🔹While living in San Antonio, Shana began having behavioral problems. Often depressed, she began drinking and consuming various drugs.

🔹In 1997, Shana married her first husband, Christopher Anth Zarbaugh in Nevada. Since divorced, Shana suffered domestic abuse in this marriage.

🔹On October 14, 2021 at 4:40 pm, Zarbaugh, now 54, was booked in San Antonio’s Bexar County Jail “for assault on family, choking and strangulation.”

🔹On January 23, 2022 at 10:30 am, Zarbaugh was booked into San Antonio’s Bexar County Jail for “Violation of Bond and Protective Order.” It is not known by Shana’s family or friends if he remains incarcerated. His various jobs have been at fast food and family restaurants.

🔹With the help and guidance of her father and stepmother, Brian and Vickie DiMambro, Shana was able to get drug and behavioral therapy.

Vickie & Brian DiMambro

🔹Vickie is, or has, served in various directorship capacities for Rohan Ranch (drug rehabilitation), Rivendel Indepedent Living (mental health clinic), and Safe Embrace (safe house and counseling services for victims of domestic abuse).

🔹Shana successfully rehabilitated from the meth and drug addictions in 2012 in Washington state and Nevada centers.

🔹Shana opened a business, Rent-a-Daughter, doing various chores for families needing caring support in the Sparks-Reno area.

🔹Two years ago, while Shana had been living near her parents in northwest Nevada, Chris Antos located her on Facebook. They began chatting and it led to a long distance relationship. He began to visit her.

🔹Mike Hare verified she lived in San Antonio “most of her life. She moved away some years ago and then moved back a year ago. We worked together all through our 20s at an Italian Restaurant here in San Antonio.”

🔹Shana is a drinker and smoker. It is not known by family and friends that CleverJourneys has corresponded with, if she is back on drugs.

🔹Antos took some time away from his position as a Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) installation supervisor for a San Antonio service company to travel to Nevada, to marry Shana and bring her back to Texas in late 2020.

🔹Coworkers at this (2020-2021) HVAC company described Antos as a smart, skilled and reliable supervisor. “He was friendly and responsible,” a peer said. “He was productive, but sometimes, especially Mondays, he would come in worried about his wife. She was moody and physically combative. It made him nervous and he was concerned and caring for her, but when the two drank on weekends we could tell it was bad. He came in with black eyes and one particular Monday it was a huge black eye.”

“It was hard for him to take her out to our company events or social events because she was unpredictable or just plain drunk,” another coworker explained. “As far as we could tell, he never drank on the job, but I think he was arrested for drinking while driving in his past. I’ve only seen her a few times and after his last day of work here when he came in to get his check. She was always quiet and to herself with her head down. I just felt sorry for them both.”

🔹Shana has a pierced nose and several tattoos: A dolphin on the back of her neck, two sunflowers, a tribal tattoo, and a butterfly.

Anyone with information about DiMambro’s case is urged to contact the Comal County Sheriff’s Office at 830-620-3400.

A large scale search is planned for Saturday, July 30, 2022 at 8 am. The search party begins and organizes at the Wal-Mart parking lot nearby.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Southside San Antonio Seven Layer Dip

Jack and I attended the same two-room first grade school and later graduated from McCollum High on the Southside of San Antonio.

Today, we live in the beautiful Texas Hill Country but are fortunate having wonderful memories of good people, fun neighborhoods and great food.

Here is our favorite Seven Layer Dip inspired by living there during those younger years.

Seven Layer Taco Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar salsa
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 (6 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, blend the taco seasoning mix and refried beans. Spread the mixture onto a large serving platter.

2. Mix the sour cream and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Spread over the refried beans.

3. Top the layers with salsa. Place a layer of tomato, green bell pepper, green onions and lettuce over the salsa, and top with Cheddar cheese. Garnish with black olives.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 66 calories; protein 2.3g; carbohydrates 3.5g; fat 4.9g; cholesterol 12.8mg; sodium 178.1mg.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

‘Officer Down. Officer Shot’

I could tell the call was bad news. Dad opened the hall closet and reached for his gun and jacket.

My father, San Antonio police detective Walter “Corky” Dennis, answered the phone at our house about 10 p.m. on a cold snowy January 10th, 1973–my senior year at McCollum High School.

“Go get your coat, Son. A friend of mine has been shot on duty and we are going to go help find the son of a bitch that did it.”

Dad made a call to find out more information then told me what happened as we drove off.

“George Jacobs was shot and they are taking him to the South East Baptist Hospital,” he explained. “We’re going there to see if we need to give blood and help any way we can.”

Hands in His Pockets

Rookie patrolman David Matheson first worked the West Side of San Antonio after his graduation from the Police Academy in 1972.

“After about nine months they transferred me to the South East side,” Matheson recalled. On his first day there, officer George Jacobs contacted him to have coffee at a Jim’s Frontier Coffee Shop at Goliad Road and Lasses.

“I was impressed,” Matheson remembered years later. “The most important things I gleaned from our conversation was that George was a good man, caring and compassionate.”

“The other thing George said was NEVER talk to anybody with his hands in his pockets. NEVER talk to anybody with his hands in his pockets….I remembered his voice as I repeated that my whole career.”

Officer Matheson, years later, explained what occurred at the hospital emergency room.

“There were many officers there and we split up into groups of about six and panned out to search for two brothers,” Matheson said.

Officer Down

Upon hearing the plan, knowing there was not much we could do for Officer Jacobs there, Dad and I drove six miles west on Southcross Blvd to help in the search for two suspects who were brothers.

Most of the officers searching had been preparing to end their shifts around 10:15 when the dispatcher announced on their radios: “OFFICER DOWN AT RIGSBY AND CLARK.”

Police Sargeant Doyle Soden met up with Dad and me in the parking lot of the Fina Sunglo convenience store located at 1502 Clark Avenue where the shooting investigation was in progress.

“The store clerk told us he had just been robbed when George drove up about the same time not even knowing what was going on,” Soden explained. “The guy was already calling the robbery in to dispatch when George drove up. He was probably wondering why the bastards were running out of an ice house on a freezing night.”

According to witness testimony, forensics, and later confessions, one of the robbers took a shot at Jacobs and missed. The second shot struck the officer in the left temple. He fell in the street. A moment later a passerby found him and ran into the convenience store to notify the clerk who was already on the phone talking with the police dispatcher.

Immediately an urgent message was dispatched to all officers. They were asked to answer back with their assigned numbers.

“5-2 here.”

“5-5 here,” and so on. All working officers in the district of the shooting were accounted for–except George Jacobs.

“I knew it was him,” Soden said later. “I knew it was going to be bad.”

“OFFICER DOWN AT RIGSBY AND CLARK…OFFICER SHOT,” was immediately voiced to all units.

Officers Ed Kelly and Ted Mangold were the first to arrive at the scene. Jacobs was alive, but the injury was gruesome. An ambulance transported Jacobs to the hospital.

“There was no advanced life support then, just load and go,” explained Matheson. Reflecting in 2015, the retired officer noted they all knew Jacobs was gone, but they kept him “alive for 5 days on a respirator until that night on the 14th when (his) family ended the suffering.”

On the drive back home, just before sun up on January 11, my father explained to me that veteran Detective Frank Castillon was leading the investigation.

“We’ll track him down for sure,” Dad said. “We will ALL be on this case to make sure we get him.”

Suspect Surrenders

My father was right. Detectives and police officers worked diligently gathering evidence, but most importantly “doing hardline police work,” he described later.

“All of us went to our sources citywide, but especially on the east and southeast side,” he said. “Criminals, dope addicts and dealers, bartenders, snitches…we talked to everyone and put in extreme pressure. It scared the hell out of everyone enough to ask around and kick the intensity into high gear.”

Originally, the night of the shooting, “it was bogus info we got,” said Matheson. “It was not the French Brothers who robbed the store and shot George.”

Each day after school, I would come home to ask my father about any updates on officer Jacobs and the case. He looked weary and I knew he had been working hard, as well as the entire force, to find the robbers. I recall one evening particularly. Before dinner, we bowed our heads and prayed for Jacobs, his family and police officers everywhere.

“I was working the dispatcher’s office on Sunday, Jan. 14, 1973, when Sgt. Gonzalves came into the dispatch booth and gave me a note,” Matheson noted. It read “George had passed on. It was with great sadness that I read the note. It was approximately one hour later that Johnny Leroy Harris walked in the front door of the Police Dept and told the Sargeant that he was the individual who shot “that officer” the other night.”

Sargeant Soden, also my father’s best friend on the police force, called my Dad and they went to headquarters downtown to see who turned themselves in. It was a known drug addict, 26-year-old Johnny Leroy Harris.

Harris had been called in by police Captain Bill Weilberger on robbery charges. The legendary captain read him his rights and was able to work with Detective Castillon on the murder.

Jacobs Family

On August 15, 2015, Officer Jacobs’ daughter Michelle, responded to those who wrote on a legacy website about her father.

Mrs. Dorothea Jacobs, wife of slain San Antonio Patrolman George Jacobs, her two children, Michelle, 14, and Vincent, 9, and her brother, Patrolman Louis Ryan, sorrowfully sit at Mission Burial Park South, as last rites for the officer are performed. About 1,500 persons attended the funeral services for the four-year police veteran, who was found shot once in the head near a robbery scene at Rigsby and Clark avenues Sunday. Published in the San Antonio Express Jan. 18, 1973.

“After so many years it’s still very hard,” she wrote. “I’d like to thank everyone for such kind words. What a difference it makes to know my Daddy is still thought of! Not one day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him, sometimes I don’t think the pain will go away.”

“An update on Johnny Leroy Harris- After many years of trying to meet with him, we were able to get a mediation granted. Along with my brother Vince, my daughter Heather, mother and myself we were able to meet face to face”

“My brother and I talked to him and asked many questions as my mother and daughter were pretty quiet,” Michelle continued. “I know for a fact, as I did that day, that this man looked us in the eyes and blatantly lied to us about what took place that night, I didn’t care. I knew better and so does God!”

“…Thank you all for your continued support and God Bless our law enforcement, they are faced with an uncertain and cruel world even more so today,” Michelle ended her note.

Hands In Pockets

A week or so after the officer’s death, I was sitting in Bud Jones Restaurant on the Southside, listening as my father and several other policemen talked about the recent death of President Lyndon B. Johnson while in route to Brooks Medical Center in San Antonio. But primarily, they discussed the murder of George Jacobs.

“We have some hard nose homicide detectives,” one of the off duty officers and also a neighbor, Russell Spannagel said. “I will never forget when they arrested Johnny Harris. He said they were out of heroin and needed more. So they robbed the store. George didn’t even know when he drove up.”

Indeed at the trial some time later, “Harris testified that he and another man, Satterwhite (Applewhite, according to court records), had robbed the store ’cause we was out of heroin,'” Matheson described. “They got $57.00. Satterwhite ran east on Rigsby and Harris ran south on Clark. Harris had on a long overcoat.”

“George (Jacobs) was headed North to meet James Harrison to discuss plans for the night after work,” he continued. “George saw Harris running South…Harris said he had some warrants on him and didn’t want to go to jail so when ‘the Officer reached in to call in my name and such, I TOOK MY HANDS OUT MY POCKETS, aimed my gun and shot him in the head.‘”

Aftermath

A week or so later, in February 1973, I saw Officer Spannagel again at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. He was proudly riding his horse patrolling the grounds near the carnival.

“You need to get you one of those,” Spannagel laughed as he pointed to a display of live chameleons. They were selling them with a bobby pin so rodeo goers to attach them on their shirts or hats.

“I think I’ll pass,” I replied, petting his horse. “But Sir, if you want one bad enough I’ll be happy to buy you one.”

He grinned and we chatted a moment more. Before he rode off I asked him if he “was sure he didn’t want one of those color changing lizards.”

“No Jackie,” he retorted. “They look better on you. They go good with your shirt.”

After graduation in May, I went to work as a construction laborer for H.E.B. Construction in Corpus Christi. It was a summer job–helping build a new grocery store on Weber Street–to earn tuition for my fall semester at St. Mary’s University back in San Antonio.

The last weekend of June, I worked doing some jackhammering for overtime pay in nearby Portland, Texas. On Monday, back at the H.E.B. store construction site, my uncle, Sherman Sanders (the job superintendent), called me to his blueprint table and said I had a phone call. It was my father.

Dad had bad news.

“Sorry Son, don’t mean to bother you, but since you worked all weekend I didn’t know if you heard anything,” Dad said. “Russell Spannagel was shot and killed over in Kingsborough on Tidewind Street.”

“What happened?” I asked, knowing the neighborhood well as it was in our school district.

“Well, it was his last call of the night and it was a domestic disturbance,” Dad explained. “There were other policemen on the way right behind him in their cars, but he was struggling with the guy, Johnny Joe Garza. Garza was able to shoot him in the chest. They took Russell to the South East Baptist (Hospital) and they used all the blood they had there. Tried to save him but it was too bad.”

One of the happiest days of my life was when my father retired as a homicide detective from the San Antonio Police Department some years later.

God Bless our emergency responders.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

In Memory of Luis Vera: 1956-2021

A Fierce Fighter For Civil Rights and American Justice

Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (J. Dennis)

The Sunday, November 20, 2021 death of Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., 65, a prominent civil rights leader and Texas attorney, appropriately made national news this week.

I spent a few years interviewing over 200 people and researching (spending many hours side-by-side studying Luis) for a book, “Miracles of Justice.”

The common denominator in how most people described Luis, is the word “fighter.” That he fiercely was…especially in the case of Dominique Ramirez, who at 16, became the youngest Miss San Antonio in history.

During her tenure, Dominique was abruptly decrowned of her title by replaced leadership on the pageant board. Long story short, the beautiful Dominique’s plight made international news as she was unfairly kicked out by the board. After unsuccessful attempts to find an attorney, Dominique experienced her first miracle: enter Luis Vera, Jr.

Attorneys Steven Price, Dominique Ramirez & Luis Vera during 2011 trial. (J. Dennis)

This week, Vera was acknowledged by The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC, the nation’s oldest Hispanic civil rights organization, founded in 1929) as their national general counsel and worked with them for three decades.

LULAC’s National President Domingo Garcia issued a statement on the passing of Vera. 

We have lost a friend, and our Nation’s Latino community has lost one of its greatest defenders. Luis was a man whose fight for justice often took him from the streets of our poorest barrios in San Antonio to the marbled hallways of our federal courts. Judges knew when Luis Vera walked into their courtroom…He was widely respected, even by those who presented opposing legal arguments in landmark cases…Luis followed in the footsteps of those before him who have helped build LULAC into one of America’s most respected civil rights organizations. Vaya con Dios Luis Vera.

“Ironically, Luis lives on through the recent lawsuits he helped file in federal court that will forever carry the imprint of his love for justice and the voice that shall never be silenced,” LULAC National CEO Sindy Benavides said in a statement.

My wife, Loralyn, and her southside San Antonio Kingsborough Elementary and Middle School classmates, meet for lunch at least once a year at Don Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant for a mini-reunion–all paid for and hosted by Luis. He cherished his lifelong friends. The biggest smiles I’ve ever seen beam off of Luis’ face were with his classmates.

Luis with elementary school classmates, September 2021. (Walter Tenery)

In loving memory of Luis, here is Chapter 4 of “Miracles of Justice,” his introduction in the book.

(Note: Luis didn’t want to have the book published yet, because he indicated to Dominique and me that he was working on a potential movie deal–slowed by the pandemic–and didn’t want to intrude on that possibility.)

Miracles of Justice

Written by Jack Dennis, with collaboration from Dominique Ramirez-Wilson. Copyrighted by Jack Dennis

Chapter 4    Against the Odds

He’d been playing against the odds of death far too long. Politicians, CEOs, foreign and domestic governments, school district officials, and other organizational threats of courtroom confrontations didn’t faze him. Luis Vera emerged fiercer. If they spread lies to the media, it only strengthened his persistence. He didn’t flinch. When they decided to enter a game of chicken, they would play against a relentless, and very much alive, warrior beast!   

Vera grew up having high expectations for himself.  He attended San Antonio College, St. Mary’s University and the University of Texas at San Antonio simultaneously to finish his last two years of college in one year.  He met his wife Rosie in 1988 when she worked as a file clerk at the State School on South Presa and S.W. Military Drive. Vera was a new unit manager supervisor. It was a “place to park while I waited for law school to begin,” he said.

“What I first remember about Luis is that he was undergoing training and he was already wanting to change everything,” Rosie laughs. “He was a bit crude. He would ask me out to lunch, but I said ‘I just don’t think so, or that I don’t want to go out. It’s not going to work.”

Persistently, Vera continued to ask.

Luis & Rosie at 2019 Presidential Inaguration Gala, Washington DC (L. Vera)

“There’s something wrong with this guy,” Rosie deduced. “I thought he was too blunt and crude. He proceeded to try to talk to me. He asked me one day what was wrong with me so I told him ‘not everybody needs to stand up in the room when you enter.’ It was awkward, but he kept trying. So the first time we went to lunch we took another co-worker so there would be three of us there. I think it was uncomfortable for him.”

Rosie relented. Soon they had lunch together alone. Within a few months she became executive secretary for the Human Resources Director, while her new “boyfriend” continued to be the king of his domain on his unit. One of his personnel techs was a young man named Robert Cuellar, who would one day become president of the annual Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade in San Antonio.

“Church has always been very important to me,” explained Rosie. “Meeting Luis was a ‘God thing.’ I would ask people to go to church and they wouldn’t. He did. When I asked him about it, there was no hesitation. I found that his faith is very strong, but like everything, it’s in his own way. He started going with me every Saturday and Sunday to Living Way Christian Church in northeast San Antonio.”

Luis Vera says a prayer at la Virgen de Guadalupe Church after the trial for Dominique Ramirez in 2011. (J. Dennis)

Luis and Rosie became Mr. and Mrs. Vera within 11 months. Two weeks after their wedding, they moved to Massachusetts where he began law school.

“I enjoyed Massachusetts very much,” she remembered. “It was my first time out of Texas. It was a different life.”

Vera began working for prominent San Antonio attorney Oliver Heard after receiving his license to practice. One of his first cases was a lawsuit against the National Guard. Mexican-Americans were not being promoted even though some of them were career guardsmen.

“It was hard for some of the older ones to compete with rookie guardsmen, especially on the physical training exercises,” Vera recalled. “I went to Austin to meet with a large panel of National Guard leaders. There I was alone, just facing a group of distinguished men, or at least they thought they were distinguished wearing their ribbons and badges. I just thought to myself, ‘you guys don’t intimidate me. To me you are just cub scouts dressing up. Let’s get to the meat of the matter. Let’s talk about real justice.’”

He won.

The Vera’s had four children: Jerry, Michael, Anthony and Melanie. By 2017, with Rosie as a 6th grade teacher at Leal Middle School in south San Antonio, Luis continued to practice law. Their grandchildren included Girbrian, Olive, Vita, Maseo, and Anthony. Yaza, their first great-grandchild, was born in 2016.

“God uses Luis to help people out,” Rosie said. “People just see him at the trial, but his faith is what they don’t see. It is so strong. I’ve seen people come to him with nothing and no hope. One man, an African-American, had his children taken away from him illegally by their mother. He was from another state but knew they were in Texas. He kept coming back to San Antonio but there was no trace of them here.”

“His father, a minister, told his son that he had been praying for him and that he should return because he thinks he will find his children. When the father went before the judge in San Antonio, he told him he understood what he was saying, ‘But you need a lawyer to represent you in something this complex. There is one right there. You can use him.’”

“The judge pointed at Luis as he walked into his courtroom for other business. Luis listened to him and said ‘yeah, I’ll help you, but let me take care of this first.’ Luis was able to find the woman and secured the children to return legally back to their loving father. How did that happen? –that Luis happened to be coming through those doors at exactly the right moment to help this family?”

“Over the years, and during the big fights in court and with my health, I would be so exhausted, be sick with headaches,” Vera said. “People would see or hear about me and they’d say ‘he is not going to last or he won’t make it.’ I would force myself. Being sick made me better as a lawyer. I became more disciplined because now I was limited to so many hours in the day because of operations, doctor appointments, and all. Six to seven days a week, even if I traveled to San Diego, Tampa, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Tulsa, Miami, New York or Washington D.C., I would receive treatment.”

As his body aged toward 55, Vera became less afraid of exceeding his own expectations. He realized that the question of making meaning or purpose to our lives is constantly before all of us in a variety of ways. In the life of an attorney, stress, fear and loss is never very far. On any given day, Vera spoke with people whose lives were reshaped in an instant. In the morning he would speak to a man whose wife had left him after 22 years of marriage. Later, the parents of an ailing child came in to talk about medical malpractice because their daughter would never hear again. Towards the end of the work day, a man strolled in with a wheelchair, broken arm, and in a neck brace.  While injured in a work-related accident, he wasn’t ‘officially’ an employee of the business.

(L. Vera)

What all these individuals had in common was the staggering presence of loss in their lives. But, with Vera, each one had a choice. The loss could be seen as a sign of meaninglessness, or an opportunity to create meaning. Not only was it his job as an attorney to help them through legal remedy, he was their protector.  He perceived himself shield-like by offering choices that provided quality, dignity, and to some extent, a bit of joy.

The deepest losses of life may not be curable.  However, the greater the loss the greater the need for calmness of soul. Sometimes the calmness comes from the realization that distress has to be allowed so we can learn to bear it. We may share in others’ sadness, but we cannot repair the pain. In the book of Job, his friend’s response to his series of tragedies was to sit with him and weep. Although commendable, later they were condemned when they attempted to explain to him why he experienced the sequences of tragedies. What loss cries for is not to be explained or repaired, but to be shared and hopefully, to find some meaning.

Luis in his office. (J. Dennis)
September 2021 (Walter Tenery)

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Author Cindy Leal Massey was a McCollum High School classmate with Luis Vera, Jr.

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The Three Rescue Encounters of Becky Taylor by Angels

In 1980, driving north near the San Antonio Union Stockyards on Interstate 35, traffic stopped both directions on the overpass. Forward and to my left, was the cab of a jack-knifed 18-wheeler. It was literally hanging, perhaps 40 feet above a drainage creek that flows west of downtown parellel to the expressway.

Spurred by adrenaline, I jumped out of my car to join several others who ran toward the dangling truck.

The driver was mostly laying on his steering wheel looking down below. Of course, he was in near shock. We coaxed him to roll his door window down and try to climb out so we could reach him.

With some older men holding me and my belt, I stretched downward until the man and I locked arms. As we all struggled, someone yelled, “watch out. It’s gonna fall.”

I can only remember a woman screaming and a then a blaring, shattering crash as the side rail went down.

Three of us were able to get the trucker over the mangled guardrail and onto the asphalt with us.

Frank Cantu, the driver, clutched both arms around me in sheer relief.

“Thank you,” he cried out and hugged us each. “Thank you all. Thank God. YOU ARE MY ANGELS!”

Over the years, I know I have crossed paths with living “angels” and thought about those intense moments involving Mr. Cantu.

Often, we watch the news or hear about the evil and bad in people. It doesn’t seem to be as easy to notice the good that is constantly around us. But it’s true, there are human angels all around.

Police, fire, emergency responders, and ordinary people go to help others everyday in some of the most tense and trying moments of our lives. Hurricanes, floods and disasters cause us to step in and help those in need. There are heroes and angels abound.

Dodie is a devoted Bible reader and spends daily time with her devotionals and study guides. Her heart flourishes with kindness and care for others. Maybe that’s one reason she was a registered nurse since the late 1970s.

A very sweet friend from our youth, Becky Taylor–who also takes care of others with health care needs– recently enjoyed a good meal with us in the John Wayne Dining Room at the OST (Old Spanish Trail) Restaurant in Bandera, Texas.

Dodie and Becky had not seen each other in over 45 years since our days at McCollum High School in south San Antonio.

After the meal we went outside to a bench to chat and watch tourists, shoppers and cowpokes (Bandera is the Cowboy Capitol of the World) stroll by. It was almost midnight by the time we left.

Dodie, Becky, & Jack at OST in Bandera.

Becky had recently sent me an email about her three encounters with angels during her life. We wanted her to share these with us in person. They are included in this article.

When I was in the third grade, I escaped an attempted abduction by a sex predator who tried to get me in his station wagon. At the same age, Dodie also ran from a man who invited her into his car and when she refused, he stopped and started coming after her in her neighborhood when she was walking home from elementary school. She ran to a nearby neighbor who let her in.

In my case, I distinctly heard a voice or message tell me to run. I did run! Even today I wonder where the voice in my head came from.

Hearing Becky’s experiences prompted a search about angels.

“Angels are certainly real; the Bible repeatedly tells us about them and the work God has given them to do,” wrote Billy Graham. “They are spiritual beings, the Bible says, who were created by God to do His will. The Bible says, ‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14).

Graham said “one of heaven’s joys, I believe, will be the joy of looking back over our lives and discovering just how often the angels intervened to save us or bless us — although we weren’t even aware of it at the time. The Psalmist said that God ‘will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:11).”

The following are Becky’s three encounters with angels.

Angel Encounter 1

“The first one was when I was 4 years old.  We were raised in the church, and I remember Mama asking for prayer for me as I had to have surgery on my thyroid, but all I could comprehend was the anxiety of my parents and that I was going to be away, alone and I would not feel well.”  

“I was so afraid the night before I was to be admitted, I couldn’t sleep.”

“The way my bedroom I shared with my two sisters was arranged, the door to the bedroom was directly at the foot of my bed leading into the kitchen.”

“As I was lying on my back, worrying and being scared, I saw the sweetest lady, dressed all in white, whom I’d never seen before, walk from the right side of my bed to the left, looked at me and smiled, then walked through the door and into the kitchen.”

“It startled me but did not scare me. I jumped up and went into the kitchen but she was gone.  In my heart, I knew it was an angel to calm me.  (My subsequent surgery went well and I was home I think in about two weeks.)”

Angel Encounter 2


“The second one is rather sensitive as you know the husband here in this story.  But this one also has stuck with me through many hard times with and about him.”  


“We were still very young, in our 20’s, taking our first (and only) family vacation with our two small children.”

“My husband had recently received his pilot’s license so we were flying to Arlington, Texas for a few days to visit Six Flags Over Texas there.”

“We had already gotten the rental car and checked in to our motel room before heading out to the park. Even with the rental car, we had quite a distance to walk before being able to enter.”

“The youngest son was very fussy and would not settle down which frustrated his father so much so that he demanded we leave the park just after we had finally arrived.” 

“After pleading not to give up yet and try to salvage the day, an argument ensued.”

“And the argument continued.”

“To make a long story short, he then decided the vacation was over and we were to fly home that night.  He was very angry by that time, blamed everything on me, and I remember being very afraid of what would happen to me once we were home.”

“As we sat there in silence the whole flight home, I remember how I felt – scared, sad, confused, angry, disappointed, and praying.  Praying to just be happy and not be so afraid all the time (of his anger and subsequent demonstration of it), and just needing God’s help in what to do with this situation and my life.”  


“The little Cessna we flew home in only sat four people.  We had decided the best seating arrangements were for me to sit in the back with the youngest son and the older son sat in the front next to him as he piloted the plane back to San Antonio’s Stinson Field Airport.”

“I am sitting behind and to the right of my husband with only the window to my very immediate right (those planes are small and loud) and I distinctly and quite clearly heard a female voice I did not recognize, say to me in my right ear, “You will never be happy with this man.”  

“At the time I heard this, it really startled me. I looked around and even asked him if there was a radio on or something and if he heard anything.”

“There wasn’t.  And he didn’t hear anything.  But I knew what I had heard and through the years, that advice continued to help me.”

Angel Encounter 3


“Third time, was the morning of December 5, 2019. As you know I work overnights and I was driving home when a van pulled out in front of me and I T-boned him.”

“Standing close to the road and to the driveway was the nicest human angel.  As soon as my car came to a rolling stop, and I started to assess everything, he runs up to my car door and starts to help me.” 

“He was very excited and shook up saying he witnessed it all, and kept repeating “are you all right?”  He helped me get out of my car, my right foot was hurt and my shoe was stuck at the brake pedal, then he grabbed my shoe, helped me put it back on and helped me hobble a few feet away to safety.”

“Then he took an extra t-shirt he had and tied a tourniquet on my right forearm as I was bleeding.  He said a few different things that really stood out to me and that I’ve replayed in my head many times: he said he’s seen that type accident before and it killed the person and he was praising God I was alive.”

“He said he then understood why he was there at that time because he had been standing at a different gas station across the highway telling people about God and got run off, where he was waiting for his ride to take him to work, but this was where he was meant to be.”

“He said he was a new Christian and prayed over me. He gave me his name but didn’t have a phone or any contact info so he gave me a postcard/flyer from his church to try to contact him there.”

“But the one thing that really stood out to me and I remember being surprised and distracted from everything else going on, was his eyes.  They looked exactly like my daddy’s.”

“My earthly daddy, who passed in December of 1995.  He told me he would stay to talk to the police and be a witness for me because I was taken away in an ambulance.  But his name wasn’t on the police report and I was never able to find him calling the church.  Frank, and I can’t believe I’ve forgotten his last name.” 

“Do angels still appear?” wrote Rev. Graham. “I’m convinced they do on occasion — although sometimes we may not even be aware of them, because they have chosen to appear as ordinary human beings.”

“We should thank God for His angels, but at the same time, we shouldn’t become overly preoccupied with them,” Graham noted. “Nor should we worship them, for only God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is worthy of our worship.”

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Elvis Presley Memories on This Date

With this Facebook post today I heard from our McCollum High School Speech & Drama teacher/sponsor. What a nice surprise from almost half a decade ago.

April 16, 1972
April 16, 1973
1976 Met Elvis backstage & front row center seating
1977 article from Texas State University magazine after Elvis’ death.
10 Year Reunion Tropicana Hotel, San Antonio TX

30 year reunion in 2003 with Rock 66. Classmates 2nd Charles Harris, 4th Steve Johnson & 6th Randy Potts.

A Special Message From Jack and Dodie Dennis of CleverJourneys

Big Tech has launched a major assault on Americans’ right to free speech. In their most audacious attack, some of the most powerful big businesses in America joined together to force Parler off the Internet.

Parler, a social media site that rejects Twitter’s censorship policies, had millions of users until Google, Apple, and Amazon deplatformed the entire website, removing it from their app stores and web hosting service.

Americans must fight back against this blatant censorship. While Parler’s working through the courts to get back online, Big Tech continues to silence conservatives and trample our right to free expression.

Fortunately, independent bloggers such as CleverJourneys have found phenomenal growth in reporting what Big Tech try to censor and the “Mockingbird” Media dare not report.

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Some of our most popular articles are JackNotes, executive summaries of books, articles, speeches and other useful information that may save you the expense and trouble of reading the entire publication….or it may spur you on to seek more information from the original source.

We are now rolling out another new feature, Accounts of the Old West as a tribute to Jack’s great, great uncle Charlie Bassett, the first marshall of Dodge City, Kansas…and James Allison Morgan–a cattle driver and cowboy, Jack’s great grandfather. (You thought TV’s ‘Marshal Matt Dillion’ was the first didn’t you?)

We also feature “Top 10 Buzz Trends of the Week” highlighting some of the best posts, memes, and photos on the web the prior week.

Another feature is T.R.A.S.H. (Trivial Relevations of A Sick Human-being), an updated version of Jack’s national and Texas award winning column from back in his Texas State University days.

Remember, we don’t just write news. You will enjoy travel, recipes, lifestyle, humor, motivation, wellness and health, how-to, history, reviews, military, crime, police, heroes entertainment, interviews, fun and so much more.

Dodie has over 38 years in the medical, health and wellness field being a registered nurse. She has trained hundreds in nutrition, prenatal and post natal care, pregnancy, parenting, nursing, and general health. Much of her time was also devoted to immunology and vaccines.

Jack is an award winning journalist, investigative reporter, and author. He was an executive for H-E-B FOOD-DRUGS for almost 30 years, a founder and first elected president of Professional Retail Store Management Association (now CONNEX), life coach and private investigator.

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Meeting Willie Nelson

1976 was the Bicentennial of America and it was a big year for me.

A journalism major at Southwest Texas State University (SWT), I won statewide in reporting and columnist writing awards for news, entertainment, fine arts and humor.

My confidence was high, but being honored as Investigative Reporter of the Year Award at the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Press Association in Tucson that April, made me feel unstoppable.

By early May, I interviewed the one and only Elvis Presley in Memphis–an incredible feat at the time. That summer I scored an interview with Clint Eastwood at the McNay Art Institute in San Antonio.

How could I follow those up?

‘Cousin’ Jerry King and George Strait

A friend of my family, Country Music DJ legend Jerry King, was able to arrange a sit down with Willie Nelson for me. I’ve known King since the days he was part of “Jerry & Ray” with Ray Smith in the early 1960s.

Smith lived on the Southside of San Antonio, around the corner on Commercial Avenue, from my childhood home on West Ansley Blvd.

Jerry and Ray would perform on our front porch, along with my Uncle Sherman Sanders, for family and neighbors. Smith passed away in 1973, I believe and King carried on with his fabled career at KKYX.

It was Jerry King who played the first song of George Strait ever aired on radio.

Nelson was at his peak.

I did my research. King was kind and helpful. I went to the now legendary Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, where a fellow classmate and wanna-be country singer named George Strait would sometimes appear.

Strait, tired from the weekend gigs, would sit next to me in the hall outside our business class in the BAM (Business-Agriculture-Math) building.

George Strait at Cheatham Street during our SWT days in San Marcos.

Most of our conversations were small talk as we crammed for class, but I do remember him as a sincere and conscientious guy. Plus, he was the student who turned me on to the Cheatham Street scene.

From King and the staff at Cheatham Street, I learned two things about Nelson that might have helped me.

1. He had a sister named Bobbie. My sister is Bobbi.

2. He liked Manske Rolls, a local treat–a better and larger version of a cinnamon roll.

The Interview and Lone Star Beer

“All I can say is thank goodness for our grandparents,” Willie Nelson told me. “If it weren’t for them, I’m not too sure where Bobbie and I would be, or if even we would be.”

It was the fall of 1976. Nelson was in San Marcos, Texas for a show in conjunction with the Chilympiad, a festival and cookoff to determine winning contestants who would be graduating up to compete in the World Championship Chili Cookoff in Terlingua, near Big Bend National Park.

I had seen Nelson play a few times, the first being at a touring Grand Ole Opry show at age seven, in 1963. It was in the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium. Roy Orbison, Minnie Pearl, Claude King, and Don Gibson were also there.

In 1972, Nelson joined other music and radio personalities at a Country and Western Stars versus Your Favorite DJ’s Basketball Tournament for charity at San Antonio’s McCollum High School’s gymnasium. It was there future Country and Western DJ Hall of Famer, “Cousin” Jerry King was able to help me in for my first significant high school reporting interviews.

Jana Gower, the editor for the University Star, Southwest Texas State University’s student newspaper, would interview him later that evening. Although her interview would be much longer, as managing editor it was okay by me, because I had scored (with Jerry King’s help) some quality time with him that early afternoon at Gil’s Broiler on LBJ Drive.

We sat in the far back booth of the narrow restaurant, him with his back to the front counter and door. It’s hard to fathom that at this point in life, Nelson was already 43, a year more than what Elvis Presley would be just 11 months later, the year of his death.

Nelson wiped the crumbs of a Manske Roll from his famous mouth and began talking about his paternal grandparents. Not long after his birth on April 29, 1933, Nelson’s mother, Myrle Marie Greenhaw-Nelson, died. His father, Ira Doyle Nelson, a mechanic, remarried and moved away. Nelson and his sister Bobbie moved in with their grandparents.

Willie and Bobbie were taught music and sang gospel songs in their local church in Abbott, Texas.

Willie picking at Cheatham Street Warehouse.

“My Grandpa, William, was a blacksmith, and he bought me this guitar, you see, and showed me a few chords,” Nelson grinned. “I was six.”

By the next year, he wrote his first song and by age ten, Willie was playing guitar with a local band called Bohemian Polka. He became their lead vocalist by high school and enjoyed singing the music of Hank Williams, Bob Wills, and Lefty Frizzell.

He joined the Air Force in 1950 but was discharged because of back problems. Nelson went to Waco and studied at Baylor University for a couple of years but continued to be drawn to country music.

“Yeah, I knew I needed to be in the music business by then,” Nelson said. “I cut my teeth deejayin’ here and there (in Texas), but started out with Dr. (Ben) Parker, there at KBOP down in Pleasanton, and moved out to Vancouver (Washington) for a spell. That’s when my writing started to take off.”

“In the late 50s, while Elvis was joining the Army, I moved back to (Houston) Texas to join D Records,” Nelson explained. “That was pretty much a worthwhile time for writing songs and then I decided to go up to Nashville.”

During this period in Houston, Nelson penned classic country hits like “Crazy,” “Hello Walls,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Night Life,” “Mr. Record Man,” and “The Party’s Over” which were recorded by artists such as Patsy Cline, Faron Young and Ray Price.

Nelson with Ray Price.

He joined Price’s band as a bass player in 1960 while living in Nashville and by 1962, Nelson recorded his first album.

“Well, that album helped me out and I have to say I was proud to get a contract with the same label as Elvis, with RCA (Victor in 1964), and was asked to join the Grand Ole Opry,” Nelson recalled. “I eventually came back here (to central Texas), we started this July 4th Picnics (in 1973), and the rest is history.”

That history includes 1973’s Shotgun Willie, 1975’s Red Headed Stranger, 1978’s Stardust and 1980’s Honeysuckle Rose. He evolved into one of the founders of what was called “Outlaw Country,” to buck the Nashville system, with friends like Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash. Along the way he recorded mega-hits such as “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and “Pancho & Lefty.” Cash, Jennings, Kristofferson and Nelson became The Highwaymen.  

When I asked what plans he had “going on now,” he grinned.

“I’m kind of doing what Lone Star Beer is doing. I’m marketing myself to the college crowds, people like you.”

“We call it the ‘Youth Market,’ so I’m informally sort of teaming up with them (Lone Star) and they make sure I have plenty of beer.”

I thought he was joking with me, but later noticed during his show, he raised a can of what would eventually be known as “The National Beer of Texas.”

Willie at Cheatham Street swigging Lone Star.

“Cheers,” he winked, and took a big swallow. His entire band had Lone Stars lined up.

On the Road Again

Jennings and Nelson ended the 1970s with giants hits “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “Good Hearted Woman,” and began the 1980s with “On the Road Again,” and “You Were Always On My Mind.”

Willie Nelson became a bona fide movie star in 1979 with the success of The Electric Horseman, with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. He starred in Honeysuckle Rose with Dyan Cannon and Amy Irving in 1980. This led to roles in Thief, Barbarosa, Wag the Dog, and Stagecoach.

I took this photo of Nelson, Dyan Canon and Amy Irving during the filming of Honeysuckle Rose, 1979.

In 1993, Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and he received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998.

On April 9, 2015, Nelson twittered that he “just completed filming Waiting For The Miracle to Come with Sophie Lowe. She’s an amazing talent.” On May 5, 2015, Willie Nelson’s autobiographical book, “It’s a Long Story,” was released.

Today, he has been restless like most of the world dealing with the pandemic and anxious to be on the road again. His album, “First Rose of Spring,” was released during the peak of summer but he was unable to tour and promote it as usual. Concerts in Alabama, Kansas, New Jersey, Indiana and Oklahoma were postponed.

In September, he took his Farm Aid 2020 to SiriusXM on “Willie’s Roadhouse” for a virtual concert. John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and others joined in.

The Orpheum Theater in Memphis is set to host him on November 22, 2020. Other dates on the schedule include Abilene, Texas-March 19, 2021; New Buffalo, Mississippi-April 23, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky-April 21,2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 26, 2021; Nashville, Indiana-April 28,2021; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-August 5,2021; Brookings, South Dakota-August 11,2021; and back to Texas in Arlington-August 21 and New Braunfels-October 8 & 9, 2021.

Willie and George.

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The Buzzard Lesson: Words May Lie, Bodies Don’t


“Finding her body was easy. The buzzards signaled the way. Finding the killer was the hard part.”

So said my dad at the kitchen table at our home on Ansley Boulevard in south San Antonio.

Having a homicide detective for a father made for conversations I was aware my classmates didn’t experience.

Normal talk at dinner time in the Dennis family often centered on Dad’s latest crime cases. He’d skirt around the particulars while we ate, but later he’d give me more detail. Usually there were intriguing nuggets
of wisdom peppered in.

Detective investigation was a fantastic topic for a curious 10-year-old kid. In retrospect, I realize Dad allowed me to follow along in such a way that I could begin to solve a crime or unravel a mystery.

Going into teenage years,  it became obvious he would purposefully include clues and red herrings for my mind to tackle.

He paid attention, even if people didn’t think he was. I noticed around some individuals, he’d actually play dumb–even ignorant, when I knew he was keenly aware and knowledgeable.

His sense of observation and ability to get information from others was amazing. Brilliant.

“Remember that body language is always truthful and what people say isn’t necessarily true,” he coached. “They are especially easy to read when they’re hungry or thirsty–especially for coffee.”

He drilled me to rely on all the senses to observe my surroundings. It evolved and as I grew closer to adulthood, he would step up the challenges and test me.

One Saturday, in the summer, we stopped off to eat lunch at Bud Jones Meal-a-Minute Restaurant, a Southside institution on Commercial Avenue and S.W. Military Drive.

“When we go in there, we’re going to sit down with some men I’ve known for a long time,” he said as he turned off the ignition. “When we’re done,  I want you to tell me about them based on what you observed.”

What an unexpected challenge, but I was ready. “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” was playing on Bud’s jukebox. I heard two ladies talking about “Marcus Welby, M.D” as we approached a man waiting at a table for four. Dad sat across from him and I went to the chair between them on the man’s right.

About the time we shook hands and my father introduced me, the second man joined us.

It was just as much fun observing them, taking mental notes, as it was enjoying the All You Can Eat Fish plate in front of me.

“Tell me about the first man,” Dad asked as we drove off. “What did you notice?”

“He’s outside a lot and works or lives south of here, maybe in Pleasanton or somewhere around there. He probably smokes and drinks a lot too.”

Dad was listening carefully, and as he backed his pickup out of the parking space, he glanced straight at me for more than a second.

“What else?”

“When he shook your hand he seemed nervous, but he slipped something to you in the handshake. Then he was like instantly relieved.”

Dad grinned.

“He, maybe is like, either accident prone, very careful or used to spilling things.”

“Ha. How did you get that idea?” Dad laughed.

“Every time he took a sip of coffee, he didn’t just drink it like you two did,” I continued. “He leaned over to the cup and held it with both hands. He didn’t bring the cup to his lips with one hand. His lips went to the cup.”

“He works in Jourdanton, tending cows, goats and chickens,” Dad responded. “That’s close to Pleasanton. How did you know that? We didn’t even talk about that.  That’s pretty good.”

“His fingers and boots,” I proudly answered, somewhat relieved I was getting the hang of this. “Hands are tough and calloused. When Grandpa Dennis took me to Dilley to get watermelons (I had a produce stand) one morning, we came back through Pleasanton so he could show me their hanging tree where he saw a man hang from there once.”

“He showed it to you?”

“Yes, he said people came from all around to see it,” I answered. “I think he was a cattle rustler or stole some cows or horses He even showed me where he was standing when he saw it. Anyway, there’s red dirt–almost like sand in Pleasanton–on his boots and the knees of his khaki pants. He also doesn’t have a ring on his finger but no tan where it used to be. His teeth are yellow like some smokers I’ve seen. His lips are chapped. “

My father was pleased and emphasized how good my clue gathering was. It turned out my Dad had loaned him some money. The man was a friend from their school days at Harlandale High. He recently went through a divorce and had a Driving While Intoxicated arrest. Dad had loaned him some money to bail him out. That’s what he passed to my father’s hand.

I surmised the other man may have been in the milItary or was a veteran because of his crew cut, polished shoes and regimented demeanor.

“When he walked up to the table, he stood like he was in attention with his hands behind his back,” was one of the things I recall telling Dad. “It was like when you put your hand forward to shake, it was his ‘at ease.'”

“You’ve been paying attention,” Dad acknowledged. “What else?

“They knew each other but hadn’t seen each other in a long time. (The second man) looked stern at first but when he told (the first man) to order what he wanted because he was paying, the intial tension at the table went away. But I’m not sure what that was all about. Maybe I was just noticing too much and making a bigger deal out of it than it was.”

“No Son, you’re right,” he explained. “It was a big deal. Doing something good can make you feel better about something bad that’s happened. Or it can make you feel less guilty about doing something bad later.”

As a 14-year old, I needed elaboration. Whew, did I get it!

Look for the signals.

Man #1 was divorced because his wife left him. He never really knew why.

Man #2 was the reason.

After the divorce, the ex-wife left Man #2 for another man (let’s call him Man #3). #2 was both angry and hurt, but most of all felt great guilt for what he did to Man #1.

I never knew if #1 found out about #2, but I do know this:

1. A few weeks later I was a laborer replacing roofs on houses working with #1 and #2. We all worked hard together from dawn to dusk, except for lunch and naps under nearby shade trees.

2. The ex-wife/ex-girlfriend and Man #3 were later arrested and charged with writing hot checks and other thefts. #3 was on probation and was sent back to the penitentiary. The rumor was she moved to Alabama where she belonged.

3. The hard work, valuable lessons and acknowledgement received from my Dad were rewarding.

4. In a homicide investigation, the spouse is always the first suspect. And buzzards signal the way.

This is an excerpt from my next book in progress, tentatively entitled Whataburger With Ralph. See Lesson 1 here.

Tell Me Something About Yourself That Sounds Made Up But Is 100% True

I posted “Tell me something about yourself that sounds made up but is 100% true.” Hundreds replied,  all interesting, some incredible. Here are some of the answers. “✔” received the most attention.

Kathy Alexander Power: I was electrocuted and died.

Ray Morris: I had a small part in a porn flick

Johnny Means: I spent a night with headhunters on the island of Borneo.

✔Karl Link: My dad n 8 other crew members in a refueling plane in Air Force, were lost in Bermuda Triangle in 1962, when I was 4 n my brother was one.

My mom still has all the telegrams, from Air Force telling her what was going on, during those 6 weeks. Their little story in a book called Limbo of the Lost…I’ve carried a copy of that article in “all” of my wallets, since I was 20… my mom had a rough beginning, first dad goes missing, then I’m 10, n brother dies at 7 from leukemia…

just me n my mom from then on, she finally remarried when I was about 25. They were married about 30 yrs. n he died from a stroke. She’s 81 n still living in Helotes, by herself, but has a ton of church friends, who keep an eye on her for me. I live in Dallas. I’ll move her up here, if the time comes.

Yeah, my whole life, the looks on people’s faces, or their reactions, when they hear about my dad n the triangle…

I guess not too many people know anyone who has experienced the triangle mystery. What’s even worse is he was in for 2 years, civilian life for a year, but couldn’t find a good job, so re-enlisted, then bam…I remember reading one of the last telegrams, about 6 weeks after missing, that said not one piece of anything from plane was ever found…

Holly Friesenhahn: I can shoot the bird with my middle toe

Deborah A. Clary: I write upside down.

Donna Brady: I can sing the National Anthem with a fabulous soprano voice without missing a beat or the lyrics.

Valerie Loop: I don’t have a belly button.

Chuck Ellenwood: I have a green thumb.

Dortha Ayres: I hitchhiked from San Antonio, TX  to Denver, CO.

Sandy McCulloch: Owned/operated  18wheeler, hauled cattle, chickens and produce throughout U.S.

✔Catherine Schwartz: I was abducted when I was 4 1/2 years old after becoming seperated from my mother and younger brothers while shopping in downtown Liverpool, U.K. (birthplace). A well dressed young woman told me she would help find my mummy. We got into a backseat of a car and sped off. Long story short, I left through a back door while the couple were fighting. I believe to this day, God led me out of that dangerous situation. Was found by police walking on a road. Had been gone 13 hours. Police told my mother she was lucky to get me back. I’ve been ‘lucky’ ever since.

Carlene Gladman: I called the Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati and pleaded my case for tickets to see Elvis in March 21st 1976… I told him, I just had to see him, as I never am in time to buy the tickets….he told me if I can get to Sears in 45 min…they will come through their teletron, he’d only be in his office for that amount of time, if they would say there are sold out, then call my number, and Sears did, and my tickets came through…..almost down in front…..now who would ever think of calling the Chamber of Commerce, it just came to me, best time of my life!!!

Denise Cryer Haenel: I used to wear real lizards as earrings.

✔Susan Jackson Belsey: I am related to Micheal Jackson,  cousins.

Michael T. Dennis: According to my wife(since I can’t see it), I have a nipple on my left buttock.

Kathleen Richardson-Prager: 1. I have over 100 Dopeys , yes Disney’s Dopey , they are all different. 2. I have photographed 57 of Prince Edward Island’s 60 lighthouses ( 3 are accessible only by boat).

Jamie Joslin: I survived a yard dart to the noggin’.

Cindy Oates Couch: I have giving birth to 3 sets of twins.

Tina Zoe Carpenter-Kannady:  I’ve had 6 back surgeries.I saw Elvis Presley in concert in 1976 when I was 14 years old.

✔Bill Barrett: I fell out of a bed of a truck when I was 10 years old ,the truck was traveling between 40-50 mph didn’t even get a scratch !

Kristen Springer: I have belly danced with lights on my costume,  the downtown streets of San Antonio in the pouring rain  Fiesta flambeau 2013

Geneva Lang: I married when 15 years old in 1961 still married to the same man!

✔Kyle Brittain: I once blew myself up while attempting to clear a gas leak. Leak successfully cleared!  It was pretty epic! It blew me off my feet and I landed on the prep station. My friend on the other side of the line said the entire kitchen was a fire ball, wall to wall. Not sure how I didn’t get burned.

Patti Ortiz: My dad use to throw fireworks at me on New Years or 4th of July when I was a kid.

Mitzi Keeton: I once cleaned human brains off the floor and walls after someone committed suicide in my son’s home.

Kathy Callahan Cury: I ran away from home and joined a circus

Mike Clary: I once nearly blew myself up while trying to ignite a very old jar of black powder !!! 勞 Thanks to my brother John Clary…
Oh and I had a 5-1/2’ pet Rattlesnake in my bedroom in a aquarium for several years…

Roger Robinson: I performed on stage with Willie Nelson

Joe Bernal: I worked at the airport in San Antonio for American Airlines before I moved to Arlington. I upgraded a couple going on their honeymoon from coach to first class. Elsa Anaya (high school classmate) was the bride in that party of 2.

Christopher Tebo: I am direct decendent of Leopold I, II and III the Princes of Anhalt-Dessau. Two of these were Fieldmarshalls in the wars of Austrian, Spanish and Bavarian Successions; and  also during the Seven Years War all fighting for the kings of Prussia.

Also decended from William of Orange. Albert the Bear who founded Berlin. And am descended from William the Conqueror too.

I am also related to Catherine the Great(she is from the House of Anhalt too) Empress of Russia (she was crazy). And am decended from the House of Hannover which later became the Windsors going back to George the 1st but my connection is further back. This also means I am related to the Kaiser of Germany and Czar Alexander of Russia. As well as the current queen of England and her family.

All of this from my mother’s side of the family. Technically she is the Baroness Von Seherr-Thoss. The old land holding is in Braunfels, Germany belonging to her great grandmother. I have no clue as to the disposition of the property since WWI or WWII. As her only child, I would inherit her title if ever reactivated.

I only discovered much of this, this month. My mother did tell me of being descended from William the Conqueror but I thought it must have been of indirect decent.

On my father’s side we had an ancestor that fought in the American Revolution for only a few months. This means my ancestors fought on opposing sides of the Revolution… lol
He changed his name from Frankenburg to Frankenberry due to anti-Hessian sentiment.

Marvin Hepworth: I once spent an hour trying to talk a cop out of arresting me for something I didn’t do, while my cousin hid in the bathroom.

Patti Herred Werley: My grandfather donated Santa Anna’s pistols to a museum in Austin.

Bob Berger: My uncle was a demolition engineer in Hitlers Army during WWII. 

Debbie Berger: I was a disco dance instructor

Peg Watson Malicki: I am more Native American Indian then Elizabeth Warren!

Sheryl Marker: I was John Schneider’s (aka Bo Duke) bodyguard during an event in San Antonio.

Dodie McMeans: I met Jimmy Buffet when he had his recording studio on the island of Montserrat. Before the volcano blew.

Debbie Anderson Crowther: I have 2 grandchildren who are descendants of Lucy Maude Montgomery.   For those that don’t know who she is she wrote Anne of Green Gables

Dominique Marie: I was invited on the Ellen and Oprah show ‍♀️

Linda Bachhofer: I jumped off a moving train!

Barbara Cullum Masters: I broke my back rollerskating down parking  garage ramp

Jennifer Manning Dunmire: I took accordion lessons when I was in elementary school.

Judith Coghlin Lewis: Years ago I saw Mohammed Ali in the Atlanta Airport I ran up to meet him and on my tiptoes I could barely tap him on his shoulder.  He was very nice to me !!! I am 5’7 inches tall and my head was just a bit above his waistline.   He was huge

John Anglin: I’m related to LBJ

✔William Hammac: I was hit by a car when I was 6, ran over by a car when I was 10, and ran into a van when I was 14, and fell out of a van when I was 18. 

Lisa Thomson: I’m not a natural blonde. No it’s true.

Wallace Dunn: I flew on Con-Air shackled hand and foot.

Michael Kotze: I used to race pigeons as a kid with my grandfather.

Gary Roe: I was in a play at Magik Children’s Theatre.
I was also in the movie, Johnnie B Good.

Stephen Moody: I once swam a flooding San Antonio River to kill a 200lb hog my dogs had bayed.  He jumped in the river, swam towards me and we wrestled in the rushing water until he drowned. 

✔Diane Runyan Johnson: I was pronounced dead at 18! My dad said no she’s not! I could hear him but I couldn’t answer! I was above the bed and watching them work on me! And I’m here today cause my dad keep telling them I wasn’t dead! I’ll be 69 this year! (I can remember it like it was yesterday)

Traci Doherty Mercui: I jumped off a ferry into the Atlantic the day after a shark tournament for the swim leg of a triathlon on purpose… three years in a row.

Vicki DiMambro: I was so shy in school that I couldn’t talk to anyone, but now I have over 20.000 YouTube subscribers.

Glenda Coyle: I carhopped for a restaurant in Florida wearing short shorts and roller skates!  Lol!

Dale Inman: I spent 13 hours in a hyperbaric chamber

Rick Linn: I wrote and recorded a blues/r&b song that was actually played at a wedding.

✔Bill Schoening: I was the AP Radio correspondent for 29 lethal injections at the Walls Unit in Huntsville. 

Walls Unit, Huntsville, Tx

Steve Butcher: I once sat in the back seat of a limo alone with Joey Heatherton.

Melody Green Booth: After engaging in conversation and Bible back & forth for over an hour, a Jehovah’s witness said he had to go when his people were gathering and waiting for him.

LonnieandJeanneMurdock: I once flew in a piper cub airplane with my Dad & we went so low that we were under the high line wires! Scared the bejesus out of me!

Susan Banta Farris: I arrested Ann Richards. (Former Governor of Texas).

✔Nancy Davis: When I was 15 I met a rock n roll band, was held up in their hotel room while everyone was looking for me

Abigail Hepworth: I once crossed a flooded river jumping over logs and stuff on the way so I could get my dance bag that I then had to carry above my head on the way back so it wouldn’t get wet. Wasn’t even late for ballet class

Walter Hepworth: Myself and my crew were held hostage and forced at gunpoint to make pizzas for 10hrs… Patrick Swayze was a frequent customer of mine at Pizza Hut.

✔K.C. James: I’m 60 and have never had a soda of any kind in my life..

Martin Klein: I rode an elephant in my backyard…My grandmother was my dad’s first wife. Had she lived I would never have been born.

Roy Stroman: Was part of a movie in Japan

Lois Pickart: I have a picture with Tina Turner backstage at one of her concerts.

Gayle Brown Land: I was at a party with Telly Savalis, Bo Derek, Gene Hackman, Wayne Rogers, and behind Jimmy Conner’s at a concession stand buying a hamburger.

Gayla Huerta: I bribed a Mexican prison warden to spend the night in their not so nice facility.

Roger Perry: Does being friends with Elvis’s cousin count , or dinning with General Patton’s Grandson, or flying with a cousin of Alvin York, or meeting the pitcher whose first MLB game tossed a no hitter?….Mork is my cousin!

Sandra Kivett Leonard: I am seventy plus & have never been drunk; not even close!

✔Sherry Freitag: I fell out of my family’s car on Military Drive.  Lost my two front teeth, split my lip, and hurt my big toe. 

Belinda Creekmore Zimmerman: I was a pregnant roughneck in the west Texas oilfields in 1980. I broke my back 3 times and am still not paralyzed.

Cindy Pozos: Ramon has swam in the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico before he was 13 years old… Ramon and I climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and saw both ends of a rainbow in Mexico on our honeymoon

Allison Clark: I caddied in a foursome in Heidelberg, Germany in 1969 with General Westmoreland, General Polk,  Lieutenant General Hinches and Lieutenant General Taylor.  General Westmoreland had relinquished command in Vietnam and the Pentagon sent him to Germany for R&R.  He arrived in street clothes. The golf club gave him new clubs, new bag and new golf shoes and sent him out to play.  We all rode-in in golf carts from the 15th hole because Westmoreland said the new shoes pinched his feet…I met President Reagan at Walter Reed AMC and Bush 43 at Madigan AMC, Ft Lewis when they came to visit.  I met SecDef Rumsfeld, twice in the same tour, in Baghdad in 2007.  I gave Toby Keith a hospital tour when he visited the same year…I met Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long in Kosovo in 2003…My great, great, great, great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War with the New Jersey state militia in 1777. His son,  my great, great, great grandfather fought in the War of 1812, US 15th Infantry Regiment, 1812 to 1817.

Carol Watson: I’m 55 and use to play rugby league

Rosario Perez Polanco:  one year I took my children to the public library where they had arts and crafts and the media took my photo along with two of my children. We came out in the paper.
On TV, I was working the Santa booth, part time, and TV crews snapped a video of me taking pictures of kids with Santa and saying, “say cheese”.

John Marsh:
I received 2nd place in a Texas State swing dance competition in 1987.

✔Carol Nowell: Elvis kissed me four times!! 

✔Tim Langston: I was named by the Big Bopper

✔Suzanne Pope Kirchstein: I had Ozzie Osborne kicked out of a night club in 1982.

Kay Lett: Well I did play hooky and go roller skating the day JFK got shot. Yes sisters got home before me and I was in some kinda trouble.

✔Susan Galle Garner: My ancestor Johann Gottfried Galle helped discover NEPTUNE (it’s also in the National Space Museum in Washington) and therefore is a crater on the moon named Galle and it looks like a smiley face.

✔Patricia Hensen: I lived a block from Lee Harvey’s Oswald. Did not know his family!!

Andrienne Hurley Wagenknecht: Rode on a plane and Ted Nugent  he sat just ahead of us.

Doug Clark: In my party days, I use to stand on my head and drink a beer

Joanne Cruz Tenery: I’ve got 2:  (1) Pete Incaviglia has my number and calls occasionally regarding his baseball teams.  (2) I first talked with Don Henley as we crossed the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin.  I knew he looked familiar, and I thought he might have been someone from high school or college.  The second time, we were paying our checks at Mia’s Tex Mex restaurant in Dallas, and chatted about the food.  I have never encountered my next door neighbors ANYwhere, yet I’ve chatted with Don Henley twice.

Bob Haenel: I have been on the federal taxation rolls since I was 13 years old.

Ted Shedd: As a kid.   I jumped off a 3 story building in a snow pile I just shoveled off a roof in Vermont

Connie Winters Hearne: I was robbed at gun point  a few years ago at Rollings Oaks Mall.  Only had $5.00 cash. Lol

Bobbe Bergen Dennis: I had lunch with Isaac Perlman, ultra violinist. Just the two of us and an interviewer.

George Cook: 1985 I dreamed about the Space Shuttle launch and explosion in October and 3 months later on my mother’s birthday January 28th 1986 it happened…1986 I met Barbara Eden at the Emmy awards in Pasadena California. I was driving limousine and she thought I was her driver! I said “I wish I was!” Then we both turned towards the media and smiled.  I looked good in a tuxedo!

Debbie Riddle: I got to visit with Debbie Reynolds as we rode in the limousine together going to Bush Intercontinental Airport. Also got to sit next to Charlton Heston at a special dinner. But the best of all, I get to be the wife of Mike Riddle and enjoy an amazing life with him. We also are so blessed to have all our kids and grandkids. That is an amazing blessing…I was named chairman of a gala – so I could choose the theme. Because I love Audrey Hepburn I wanted it to be the theme of “Run For The Roses”. My dress was made in NY an exact replica of the one Ms. Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady. We brought some of our show horses & Clay Walker brought some of his horses. We walked those horses down the center isle at Shirley Acres (it was new) & everyone had a great time. Clay Walker even sang a few songs! It was an amazing and most unusual evening!

✔Dawn Anthony: I almost drowned in a hotel swimming pool at Rockport TX when I was 7, and had an outer body experience. I ran into the Street when I was eight and let a car drive over me because I was centered, they were pissed. My coat got caught in the door when my mom drop me off at school like we are you were in fast and knocked on the window she stopped. I was hit by a truck’s side mirror on graduation night at 35 mph, Threw me on to the hood of my car, I was standing by my door. I ran into the back of a delivery truck, pushed the dash into my lap. I blocked a suicide bomber from entering the dining facility in Afghanistan.A sniper came within 6 inch from my head in Afghanistan. I survived a horrific storm in a small private plane. I survived a fire on a commercial airline and got to go down the yellow blowup slide. I survived the big earthquake in Seattle 2001. I received a direct commission on my birthday and the next morning 9/11 occurred. I shattered my right ankle in an accident last year.

Jane Fore: I kissed George Straight at a New Year concert!

Howard Kern: Won a regional acting award

Carey Hill: Married my husband 20 May 2000, he was 29 & I was 47! Yes, you read that correctly! On Friday the 13th of June 2003 I was laid off from Southwestern Bell after 29 years & 7 months but because I had turned 50 the November before, I actually got to retire.

During Thanksgiving week 2005 I started school for 3 weeks for my next career & in January 2006, I became a team truck driver w/my husband & our dog – our only child, our daughter (she was his by then because he adopted her 13 August 2003) was in the US Army  stationed in South Korea, so why not? In 18 months, my hubby, our dog & I saw 41 states! This is one beautiful country. I called myself a PPT – a paid, professional tourist!

My ride came to an abrupt halt when we lost our wonderful son-in-law to a sniper bullet in Afghanistan 23 June 2007 when his son, my only grandchild was only 9 months old (he’s 13 now & the light of our lives!). At our daughter’s request I got off the truck, a wonderful ole Freightliner to stay w/her & the baby. My 49 y/o hubster & I (I’m 67 now!) will celebrate 20 years of marriage in a coupla weeks on 20 May 2020 & that’s my greatest accomplishment – my family!

Delicia Dawn: I was a bud light girl ambassador for Budweiser!

Bailey Watson:  I was dropped from an 8 story tower.

Mi Mi Chucki: It was my experiences documented that had a Governor illegally jailed, pardoned, and Clinton being forced to sign United States Public Law 103-150
The “Apology Resolution”  For it I have lived in quarantine for the last 22 years forced to close my business doors over night to stay alive just like everyone else is now. I am like JFK Jr  Andrew Breitbart and many many others who chose life

Deborah Buckner Grona: My niece married the Governor of Michigan, John Engler, and had triplets in 1994.

✔Cheryl O’Keefe Sjodin: Elvis kissed me and it was awesome

Wesley B. Fletcher: I’m a licensed contractor who has 3 diff jobs!

Perris Marie: I was named after a squirrel in a Disney, live-action adaptation of a children’s story book, “Perri, the squirrel”. My mom loved the name Perri but she didn’t think it would be a good name for a grown woman. So, she added an “s” to the end.

Sandra Heflin: I was in a Coke commercial at age 3.  In spite of being abandoned by my parents and raised solo by my Grandmother who lived in abject poverty, I had a Nanny who took me all over the globe from 8 weeks until I was 8 years old. 

I have a history of “just doing” things like walking into a newspaper office and asking for a job.  I walked out with a Reporter job at the age of 16.  A couple of months later, a teacher suggested I audition for a play in a nearby town.  I accidentally got the lead role and then had to figure out how to travel 20 miles to rehearsal. 

In college, a Professor complained that the Honors Program was being defunded.  I called the Texas Governor’s office and got us an appointment to talk about it.  The program was saved and mysteriously got double the funding the next year. 

I became the Matriarch of my family at age 32.  I’ve almost died twice.  I took a startup from seven states to 24 states and 7 countries with zero marketing budget and some creative LinkedIn tactics.  I now have a Marketing/PR firm and I get to build other people’s companies, which is so much fun.  I have a TEENAGER who has no attitude.  I have been married/divorced twice and finally met the love of my life last year.  It’s been a rollercoaster and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Steve Yancey: I spent a few hours with Robert Redford on a trip to Rome in 1974.  Late night flight to Rome from JFK. I was on my way to Tehran. It was via Pan Am. (note to Jack…You know why I was on that trip)

John Tice: A six time world championship shootist (James Ted Bonnett) wanted me to join his team after shooting against me

Mitzi Keeton: I once covered my house and car with polka dots to piss off the homeowner’s association.

Lora Miller Machost: I went to an elementary school football game at the local deaf school to see one my new stepsons play, on my wedding day, after the limousine dropped us off at the hotel…

✔Linda Robbins: The FBI knocked on my door, and asked me what I knew about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.     I had lived in Michigan, but was living in New Jersey, had an Italian boyfriend who was road manager for a popular group, all Italians. I had dinner with their friends many times.. “Italian businessmen.”.   I told them I only knew what I had read, and heard, and though a family member, and some friends had worked in the auto industry, been in the Union, I never met the man.   Within a month, for several reasons, I had moved to another state, away from my Italian friends.

Elizabeth Ames Coleman: I was yelled at by incarcerated terrorists at our Guantanamo Bay detainment facility ( jail) which was by the way state of the art, cushy, and provided organic olive oil to those terrorists who demanded it) 

Guy McKeon: I have actually touched a nuclear weapon, ah more than once!

Doug Becker Sr.: Guy McKeon me too

Marvin Hepworth: I met and told Bob Hope a Joke.  He didn’t laugh.

✔Marrianne Sorhi Lonergan: At the age of 5 or six I was with my Dad in a small Wisconsin town almost to the upper Mi. peninsula. There was a pin ball machine near me but Dad had no change. A man he was having a beer with said: “Here kid!” and handed me some change. It was Ralph Capone- Al’s brother.

Walter Ripps: I had three holes drilled in my head

How Our Father’s Junk Saved People

A few years ago, when Johnny Jennings was just 86 years old, he gained a bit of positive notoriety when he donated some money to the local Georgia Baptist Home for Children.

It wasn’t a small chunk of change. The Ringold, Ga. resident was not wealthy.

Johnny Jennings at 86.

Mr. Jennings had been collecting junk and recycling since 1985. It started out as something for his son, Brent and him to do together. It was a way to bond and show his only child the value of working and earning money.

“We used to use it as time together,” Brent Jennings told ABC News in 2017. “We’d walk roads and pick up cans and sell it and take the money and put it in a savings account. When I bought my first house, I had enough from recycling to make my first down payment on my home.”

After Brent left home at age 20, his father continued to recycle. Mr. Jennings wore out three trucks and countless sets of tires in the process.

He began donating the proceeds to the Home for Children along the way. By 2016, Jennings donated just enough money to make his grand total donated $400,000.00!!!

Yes you read that right!!! Mr. Jennings, at age 86 donated $400,000 to the Georgia Baptist Home for Children over a time frame of 32 years!

An account of his Recycling Report that year (2016) revealed….

Paper Sold 401,280 lbs (201 tons)
Aluminum Cans 51,565 (cans)
Pennies collected 32,040

Total for 32 years
Total Paper Sold 9,810,063 lbs
Total Pennies $20,275.20 = 24 miles
Trees Saved 79,000

Mr. Jennings (right) presents another donation.

During each weekday residents would likely see Jennings driving around town picking up paper from local businesses and churches and taking it to the Chattanooga Recycle Center on Central Avenue.

From there he would head home and load the truck up again with recyclables that people have dropped off at his house. Jennings normally loaded his truck by himself. In 2020, his donations coupled with monies others have contributed due to his influence, are closing in on $1/2 million.

At 86, when the rest of the world found out he’d experienced two mini-strokes, neighbors began to pitch in and help with some of the lifting and loading.

The Christian ministry that provides care for troubled children and families has been a focus of Brent Jennings since he was a teenager.

Mr. and Mrs. Jennings (early family portrait)

“He went with a member of his church and when they got ready to leave, three little boys grabbed his legs and asked him if he would be their daddy,” Brent said of his father. “He said right there, ‘I’m going to do what I can as long as I can for the Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes.'”

Jennings, has been a trustee emeritus, delivering a check usually in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 to the charity every year at their annual board meeting. As long as his father is able, Brent Jennings drives his dad the three hours to the nearest campus.

“They’ve been a mom and dad to thousands of children through the children’s home,” said Brent. “My dad doesn’t see the $400,000. He sees the faces of those kids.”

My own father was a natural junker. I started out at age five, living on the Southside of San Antonio, accompanying him on his junk routes. (Years later, my sister Bobbi would join us. As I became busy with important things like Little League, sometimes she’d go solo with him.)

On his days off, Dad, or San Antonio Police Officer Walter “Corky” Dennis, would strike out early mornings on his route that included places like Precision Manufacturing, Walter Keller Battery Company and H-E-B Construction (Yes, of H-E-B Food/Drugs fame. Ironically, years later as Director of Facilities Management for them, I officed at that same location).

Our father, Walter ‘Corky’ Dennis managed my Little League baseball team in 1966 and 1967.

I learned to sort and separate different types of metals (copper, iron, tin, aluminum…) into 55 gallon drums on the back of his 21 foot “junk trailer.”

For years our goal was to strip as much copper wire, haul as much metal and gather as many used batteries as we could to get them to Newell Salvage, Monterrey Salvage, Ashley Salvage or other recycling centers before they closed each junk day.

I suppose, being born after the Great Depression and during the rationing days of World War II, junking was in Dad’s blood.

Once my Grandpa Jack L. Dennis announced to his grandkids he was going to start a fund for each of us. The deal was, for every penny, nickle, dime or even quarter we saved and put in the Rexall pill bottle with our individual name on it, he would match it.

Immediately, on the days Dad was at work and couldn’t junk, I’d hook up  my red wagon (modified with a ‘fence’ to maximize loads) to my banana seated bike. My mission: gather and sell as many soda (.03 cents each) and beer (.05 cents) bottles as I could.

Pulling that wagon on Commercial Avenue as far south as Gillette and north to S.W. Military Drive (including the motherlode areas of Six Mile Creek), I’d earn a good $4-$6 a day. It might have taken 2 or 3 loads to Paul Woodall’s beer joint on the corner of Hutchins and Commercial, but I’d get the job done. Every now and then, on especially hot days, Mr. Woodall would treat me to a cold Big Red in an ice cold frosted beer mug for good measure.

Well, eventually Grandpa Dennis had to put a halt to the grandkids savings accounts. He’d swear to me for years that he stopped after I’d “graduated from pill bottles to Foldger’s Coffee cans. Grandma said we couldn’t afford it anymore.”

Now Dad was always helping people out. In my preteen and early teenage years he owned a used car lot with another police officer, Sargeant Doyle Soden, on Commercial. I worked there washing cars, charging batteries, and repairs.

We’d spend a lot of time going to automobile and truck junk yards to salvage parts for not only his cars for sale, but many times to rebuild junk cars TO GIVE (yes, for free) to those in need.

Usually these were starter cars for teenagers that were in some kind of trouble, or maybe they were from a broken or abusive home. But on at least half a dozen cases he would give a car to some guy he may have arrested or found drunk and took him home instead of to jail. It didn’t matter if they were Mexican, Black or Anglo, I saw (and often helped) him get cars ready and give them away.

“If they’ll stay out of trouble, be good to their family and get a job, I’ll give them the title,” he said.

Being a policeman, Dad saw some of the worst in people, but he also didn’t mind helping anyone who was willing to help themselves.

During the later 1960s and early 70s, when there was floods from hurricanes or bad storms, Dad and I would take his wrecker and we’d actually go rescue people stranded in their cars or in trees. Usually it was along Six Mile Creek, but also around areas south if Espada Park.

He’d wade out with a rope attached to his waist, holding some rigging and the hook from the cable of the wench. Sometimes it would be pouring, but I’d wait for his signal. At the right time I’d turn the handle and the next thing I knew there’d either be a vehicle or a person attached with his rigging being wrenched toward me. It was an amazing thing for an 11 or 12 year old boy to see–and actually participate in.

At age 14, I sold my first car at C&D (Corky and Doyle) Auto Sales. It was a 1958 Edsel. When he came home from work that evening and found out, he was so proud. I earned $50 and it was more money than I had ever had in my wallet. Today that’s the equivalent of $368.54.

With that $50, money from selling bottles and buying stamps for a U.S. Savings Bond booklet in elementary school (Mom was Homeroom Mother and sold them each Wednesday, grades 2-6) and other odd jobs, I opened my first ever savings account with San Antonio Savings Association with a balance of $212.56 (worth $1561+ today).

On my 16th birthday, in 1971, after I blew out the candles and we cut the cake, I opened up a present–a small box, gift wrapped–and inside were car keys.

“Your car is outside waiting for you,” my Dad grinned.

It was a seven-year-old 1963 Chevrolet Impala, freshly painted green and gold, McCollum High Cowboys school colors. What a proud moment, but I worried how my parents could ever afford such a nice car for a present.

Years later, my mother told me how. When we would go junking and recycling over the years, Dad would keep some of the day’s earnings in a hidden spot. Together, with the proceeds he held from the profits of selling that Edsel a couple of years prior, he was able to buy and paint that Impala.

Today, my sister and I both have empathy and special feelings for those who recycle, reuse or repurpose anything.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso… This is Mr. Jennings favorite quote and he sure lives by it.