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Charles Dean "Deanie" McKay Sr. at the house on Elm Street, Navasota, Tx, where I was raised the first 10 years of my life, before the move to Kettler St.

Charles Dean “Deanie” McKay Sr. at the house on Elm Street, Navasota, Tx, where I was raised the first 10 years of my life, before the move to Kettler St.

Things I like to remember about my Old Man:

– How he liked to rake leaves on a crisp, autumn day and stand there with the rake and enjoy the zen of a burning pile of leaves.

– How he’d get up at 4:30 a.m. and sip coffee till the Post was delivered at 5:10, give or take five minutes. (“Get it while it’s news.”)

– How on hot, Saturday afternoons when I was outside playing with friends while my mother was working in the linens department at Penny’s downtown, we kids would go inside for popsicles or Hostess Cupcakes and he’d be sitting at the kitchen table with hot cornbread crumbled into a glass of milk (a cornbread milkshake) and reading The Houston Post with a fan blowing on him.

– How, till the day he died, he was never seen without a fedora on his head or with one in his hand or close by on a hat rack. (And never mind that the formerly fashionable fedora went out of style forever with John Kennedy’s distaste for fedoras. Deanie was a fedora man.)

– How he liked to sit under the shade on Elm Street and crank out homemade ice cream and watch all my friends on Elm come running down to our house when he sent me to fetch them for ice cream. (Most of which he consumed himself.)

– How calm he could be under pressure, as when a friend in childhood fell out of a tree in our yard and hit her head a little hard on something and all us kids on Elm Street were scared spitless, she cried so much. (Everything turned out OK and he had an ice cream party later that same day.)

– How much he loved to cook and how he liked to cook food that was so spicy (especially Texas chili, of course)–”it’ll make your head itch.”

– How cool it was to ride at his side in the chuck wagon when, for many years, he was the “French Fry and Chili Chef” on the Salt Grass Trail Rides into Houston for the parade for the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo on those cold, February trail rides.

– How he put me on a horse and we rode up to where the TV star and Fat Stock Show & Rodeo parade marshal Hugh O’Brian was camping so I could meet the star of the huge hit TV show “Wyatt Earp.”

– How he had “the gift of gab” and never met a stranger.

(He was fast friends with Hugh O’Brian and they talked a good while, probably talking horses, food, clothes or cars–the Old Man’s favorite subjects, with me, a child, in awe and disbelief at Wyatt Earp’s shiny boots. It was way better than sitting on Santa’s lap ever was.)

(And anyway, whenever Santa Claus was anywhere in Navasota, he always looked suspiciously like daddy’s great friend and occasional drinking buddy Ike Ashburn.)

"Wy-att Earp, Wy-att Earp, brave, courageous and bold--long live his name, and long live his glory and long may his story be told." -- Wyatt Earp theme song

“Wy-att Earp, Wy-att Earp, brave, courageous and bold–long live his name, and long live his glory and long may his story be told.” — Wyatt Earp theme song

– How he’d take me down to the arena rails at the end of the Rodeo Shows that starred Roy Rogers and Dale Evans every year in Houston so we could shake hands with Roy and Dale and their kids when they kept circling around the arena in a jeep at the end of their shows.

– His wit. (“It’s easy to quit smoking; I’ve done it a thousand times.”)

– How spicy his language could be at times. (As when he tried, again, to stop smoking, or when a son sassed him–not a very smart thing for one of the McKay boys to do, really.)

– How off the wall his colorful language could be. (Description of a dancer on TV one time: “He’s a dancin’ Jesse.”)

– How open he was to changing his life sometimes in radical ways without ever looking back.

Example: Growing up on horses, and owning and riding and enjoying his white mares (there’s many pictures of me or the brothers on those white mares with the Old Man when we were babies–he must have taken home from the hospital on his horse), he sold his last horse when he was 46 and never owned or rode another one, deciding that with no more feeding and keeping horses he could buy more food to put in the freezer. (My mother Goldie was thrilled.)

– What a clothes horse he was. (My mother Goldie–not so thrilled that all the savings from horse upkeep went to new threads, shoes and, of course, fedoras for Deanie.)

– How cold he could be as when he’d put a cube of ice on my back at 5:15 a.m. when I wouldn’t get right up at 5 in the morning to go to work at the cotton or cow farms where I worked in summers. (“Get up now!” he explained.)

– How he abruptly (and at great risk) quit a long, good-paying career as a blue-collar man in the oil patches as a roughneck, and then as a pipeline inspector, traveling all over the Southwest U.S. and Mexico for Humble Oil Co. (forerunner of Exxon) so he could finally settle in with his family and get to watch his last son (yours truly) grow up.

[His explanation that I forced out of him once and wrote down, since he was one never to look back much in the interest of family history: "I got sick of being homesick and living in hot deserts with fools who drank and gambled away their paychecks all night. A lot of fools never outgrow that foolishness. Your kids don't ask to be brought into this world. You feed them first and send them to school with good shoes and clean clothes and if there's anything left over for a little poker or a party, fine and good. By all means, have your fun after you've fed your family and saved a few dollars."

– How much he liked to buy, sell or trade anything–especially cars and especially Ford Mustangs he restored.

– How he could break down the engine in a car, hang it up in a garage and totally overhaul it.

– How he (a jack of all trades if ever there was one) could make or build most anything. (Some of the dads in town bought go-karts for their kids. He built me a go-kart out in the garage.)

– How much he loved to do woodwork in the garage. (Come to think of it, the Old Man pretty much lived in the garage.)

– How he built a very Southern Living patio with an awning in the back yard when we moved from the house on Elm to the house on Kettler so he and Goldie could host parties out there for friends and neighbors on Saturday nights, pre-grandchildren days.

– How much he loved Methodist preaching and his beloved First Methodist Church, where he ushered for a hunnerd years after coming home from the oil patches.

– How he told me several important things outright that stayed with me:

1. “Never let a horse, a snake or a bully smell fear in you.”

2. “Your family and a decent house is all that matters–and really that and a little good food is all you need.”

3. “Don’t ever dress up without your shoes shined.”

4.”I just like to get up and go to church on Sunday morning and hear good preaching and singing and shaking hands and hugging people that care about you and you care about even when you have your differences. It’s just always a better way to start the week.”

Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.

“In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4: 11-13<

Surfing, Belizean bush style.

Surfing, Belizean bush style.

We shower our children and grandchildren with all kinds of dazzling, high-dollar toys for Christmas, birthdays and special events–dolls that actually cry and wet themselves and Lord only knows what else, and toy assault rifles the size of sofas that (oh boy!) light up when a kid shoots it.

And yet little ones all over the world–the rich and poor kids alike–still attach themselves to rag dolls and teddy bears, rubber balls and wooden blocks, little toy cars and fire trucks or rubber duckies that quack.

You may have noticed how content a child still in diapers is to have pots and pans to bang on with a wooden stir stick from the kitchen.

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In the mountainous part of Belize where I live, I’ll often see some child, who might have toes sticking out of worn-out, hand-me-down shoes, tying a long string around the neck a big, plastic bottle with a few pebbles he dropped in it for rattling. Then he’ll go running up or down a hill with the string in hand and the bottle bouncing and rattling behind him. I see a lot of older boys outside their homes after school playing marbles, that simplest of games, or girls playing hopscotch in the sand.

And I see a lot of tots entertaining themselves banging on pots and pans with sticks.

Maybe the seductive simplicity of these toys and games says something about how less is more in terms of happiness and contentment, even for we adults who love all our electronic games and the latest “toys” from the malls and Apple Stores and Best Buys and Wal-Marts and gun shows.

Our purpose is to teach our children, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty to teach us.

Snack time for the youngbloods in a backyard at Placencia the beach town.

Snack time for the youngbloods in a backyard at Placencia the beach town.

If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having. -- Henry Miller

If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having.
– Henry Miller


There's the Bush Doctor, back from San Pedro where he sold some herbs, spices and bitters, jewelry, CD/s of his music (he played with Marley and the boys a hundred years ago back in Jamaica where he grew up) and his "Veggie Recipes" book. "CAUTION: This book will make you hungry," says the doc, whose Ras name is Ras Far I. His birth name was Boysie Miller, born March 27, 1945, St. James Jamaica. Moved to Belize in '83. Knows everything you ever wanted to know about every plant, bush, tree, herb, tropical fruit or vegetable in the rainforest, savannas and coastal areas of Belize. And oh, yellow snakes and wildlife.  A kind and gentle man and a good one to know if you're going to live here and tramp around the bush at all.

There’s the Bush Doctor, back from San Pedro where he sold some herbs, spices and bitters, jewelry, CD/s of his music (he played with Marley and the boys a hundred years ago back in Jamaica where he grew up) and his “Veggie Recipes” book. “CAUTION: This book will make you hungry,” says the doc, whose Ras name is Ras Far I. His birth name was Boysie Miller, born March 27, 1945, St. James Jamaica. Moved to Belize in ’83. Knows everything you ever wanted to know about every plant, bush, tree, herb, tropical fruit or vegetable in the rainforest, savannas and coastal areas of Belize. And oh, yellow snakes and wildlife. A kind and gentle man and a good one to know if you’re going to live here and tramp around the bush at all.

Anybody up for a game of Fussball?

Anybody up for a game of Fussball?

The Mennonites' melons are a big seller this time of year.

The Mennonites’ melons are a big seller this time of year.

Dinner, adult beverages and solving all the world's problems with American expat friends Joell, her new husband Alex (left), Sheri and Father David the excellent young priest assigned to St. Andrews Anglican.

Dinner, adult beverages and solving all the world’s problems with American expat friends Joell, her new husband Alex (left), Sheri and Father David the excellent young priest assigned to St. Andrews Anglican.

Two generations of American expats, my friends Sheri (left), who's lived all over the world her whole life and dug into Belize years ago, with young Joelle.

Two generations of American expats, my friends Sheri (left), who’s lived all over the world her whole life and dug into Belize years ago, with young Joelle.


It's always crowded here because they have the best street snacks--salbutes, garnaches and panadas, and ice-cold lime and watermelon and orange juices, in San Ignacio--or some of the best. Lots of great foods of all kinds around here and San Ignacio/Santa Elena have excellent restaurants with first-class chefs as well as great "street" food. And no, I've never gotten sick eating anything in Belize in almost a year living and eating here.

It’s always crowded here because they have the best street snacks–salbutes, garnaches and panadas, and ice-cold lime and watermelon and orange juices, in San Ignacio–or some of the best. Lots of great foods of all kinds around here and San Ignacio/Santa Elena have excellent restaurants with first-class chefs as well as great “street” food. And no, I’ve never gotten sick eating anything in Belize in almost a year living and eating here.

STORM CHASER: That is, the storm chasing him with 40 pounds on his back and him hauling ass up a hill to shelter. Happy to report the storm decided to go the other way.

STORM CHASER: That is, the storm chasing him with 40 pounds on his back and him hauling ass up a hill to shelter. Happy to report the storm decided to go the other way.

Somebody chopped down a poison wood tree. That little black around the cut is the sort of sap, which sometimes verily gushes from poison wood trees, is like acid and will feel like acid to the skin. It's like a Belizean yellow snake--you don't want nothing to do with it.

Somebody chopped down a poison wood tree. That little black around the cut is the sort of sap, which sometimes verily gushes from poison wood trees, is like acid and will feel like acid to the skin. It’s like a Belizean yellow snake–you don’t want nothing to do with it.

Off of Hummingbird Highway.

Off of Hummingbird Highway.

Life is really challenging in a developing country sometimes. A real beach in fact.

Life is really challenging in a developing country sometimes. A real beach in fact.

Yoli's new pizza place at the Welcome Center in San Ignacio. The old Yoli's Pizza is a local pizza institution. Excellent pizza, even though I like Mr. Greedy's Pizzeria better because they have a fully stocked bar  with the coldest Belikin in town and the wimmen who work there are kind to old goats like me. There's also a large screen HD tv and speedy internet. And dirt floors. And tables outside that catch the evening breeze just right. I think I just talked myself into moseying over there.

Yoli’s new pizza place at the Welcome Center in San Ignacio. The old Yoli’s Pizza is a local pizza institution. Excellent pizza, even though I like Mr. Greedy’s Pizzeria better because they have a fully stocked bar with the coldest Belikin in town and the wimmen who work there are kind to old goats like me. There’s also a large screen HD tv and speedy internet. And dirt floors. And tables outside that catch the evening breeze just right. I think I just talked myself into moseying over there.

Mr. Greedy’s, the best Pizzaria and best Happy Hour hangout in town. It’s like Abilene–wimmin there don’t treat you mean.” But they do have mean pizza, maybe the best in the West of Belize.

The rowdy Tolstoy at 20, long before the conversion to radical Chrsitianity 30 years later. Witnessing a public execution in Paris had a profound impact on his thinking–and contributed to his conversion and brand of what is known in theology as “Christian anarchy.” In later life he wrote a number of Christian books, including “The Kingdom of God is Within You” and “What I Believe.”


If you see that some aspect of your society is bad, and you want to improve it, there is only one way to do so: you have to improve people. And in order to improve people, you begin with only one thing: you can become better yourself.” (My italics for emphasis.)

— Leo Tolstoy, “A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul.” (Also known as “Path of Life.”

The only "self-improvement" book you'll ever need--none of the breezy "New Age" wisdom here, but enduring, classic thoughts--and good thoughts at that.

The only “self-improvement” book you’ll ever need–none of the breezy “New Age” wisdom here, but enduring, classic thoughts–and good thoughts at that.

It’s been said by many people in many ways that any one person can make a big difference for the betterment of the world. Taking the broad view of this, even one person who is making a difference in his or her little town or village, even with seemingly small but habitual acts of kindness and generosity of spirit, is making an impact in the world.

As Christian revolutionaries like Dorothy Day and Tolstoy–two Christians high on my list of “faith heroes’–and so many others have said, making the world a better place begins with what Day referred to as “a revolution of the heart.”

One of Dorothy Day’s life projects was figuring out how to do that, to spread the revolution that happened in her own heart when she left behind radical communism and communist friends in her huge conversion to radical love Christianity.

* * * *

In the quote from Tolstoy at the top of this posting, note that the literary genius said that in order to make a better society and improve the people in it, “you can improve yourself.”

He didn’t say you should improve yourself, or you must do it. He didn’t use that kind of preachy, Old Testament language in his Christian writings. He simply said you can do it.

He believed you can improve–if not by immersing yourself in the radical love teachings of the New Testament and putting those teachings into radical love action–by immersing yourself in the wisdom of high-minded philosophers and theologians and great spirits who made a difference.

That’s the very reason that he published A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, his last major work. He said he considered it his greatest contribution. That was a mouthful coming from a writer far more famous for classic tomes like War and Peace, Anna Karenina and so much more.

But that was Tolstoy, a Christian who, for all the deep and heavy and enduring body of literature that he produced, simply believed that you can improve yourself and thereby improve other people and society, right where you are.

Amen to that little nugget of Leo’s wisdom.

More on Dorothy Day here.

And for more on Mr. Tolstoy, including his conversion and “Christian anarchy” theology of radical love and theology of non-violent resistance, based largely on the Sermon on the Mount, click here. Or here for the Wiki treatment.

Guys from the bush wash their horses down below the San Ignacio Library where I spend a lot of time reading, writing and looking out the window at people washing their horses and doing whatever else they do down there in that shallow water.

Guys from the bush wash their horses down below the San Ignacio Library where I spend a lot of time reading, writing and looking out the window at people washing their horses and doing whatever else they do down there in that shallow water.

My sweet and lovely friend the street vendor Emcy and her sweet and lovely young beloved whom the locals call "Emcy 2" (I just call her Junior). I buy my 50-cent bags of juicy slices of morning papaya from the Emcy girls every morning, along with a bag of sliced watermelon, pineapple or mango. (I think it was Jesus--or was it Cheech--who said, "Man cannot live by morning papaya alone.) Emcy's brothers help out with the street vending business and they always have the best tropical fruits in town somehow. "

My sweet and lovely friend the street vendor Emcy and her sweet and lovely young beloved whom the locals call “Emcy 2″ (I just call her Junior). I buy my 50-cent bags of juicy slices of morning papaya from the Emcy girls every morning, along with a bag of sliced watermelon, pineapple or mango. (I think it was Jesus–or was it Cheech–who said, “Man cannot live by morning papaya alone.”) Emcy’s brothers help out with the street vending business and they always have the best tropical fruits in town somehow.


Ferry operator cranking it at the river crossing to Spanish Lookout--not a job I'd want all day.

Ferry operator cranking it at the river crossing to Spanish Lookout–not a job I’d want all day.

Waiting to cross the river over to Spanish Lookout, that great, sprawling and beautiful farming and ranching and dairy community that has everything you could want at its excellent stores--they  import maybe more American made products and groceries than anyplace in Belize. It's also one of the cleanest, most litter-free and safest places in Belize--and has the best and most paved roads in the country. It's predominantly German/Dutch Mennonites and they do farming and commerce about as well as anybody in this world. And with its rolling, green pastures--as I've noted here before--it looks a lot like the rural Texas I grew up in. Of course, a friend from rural Missouri once told me it reminded her of where she grew up in Mizzou. (Of course, she's a St Louis Cards fan so what would she know about anything. Just sayin'.) It's a wonderful, peaceful community, Spanish Lookout. They have a little police department but the cop is never in town it seems. Seriously, it's also the safest place in Belize, which ain't to say there' never ever crime. That's anywhere in this broken world and there ain't no Utopia.

Waiting to cross the river over to Spanish Lookout, that great, sprawling and beautiful farming and ranching and dairy community that has everything you could want at its excellent stores–they import maybe more American made products and groceries than anyplace in Belize. It’s also one of the cleanest, most litter-free and safest places in Belize–and has the best and most paved roads in the country. It’s predominantly German/Dutch Mennonites and they do farming and commerce about as well as anybody in this world. And with its rolling, green pastures–as I’ve noted here before–it looks a lot like the rural Texas I grew up in. Of course, a friend from rural Missouri once told me it reminded her of where she grew up in Mizzou. (Of course she’s a St Louis Cards fan so what would she know about anything. Just sayin’.) It’s a wonderful, peaceful community, Spanish Lookout. They have a little police department but the cop is never in town it seems. Seriously, it’s also the safest place in Belize, which ain’t to say there’s never ever crime. That’s anywhere in this broken world and there ain’t no Utopia.

Farmer’s Center at Spanish Lookout, where the stores have everything you could want from imported rugs, great American-made tractors and farm machinery, American gum and locally produced chicken, beef and dairy products out of this world, to a motorcycle dealership where I got my the motorcycle serviced yesterday. Some will recall that Spanish Lookout, with its rolling pastures and all the cattle, and pretty horses and watermelon patches and corn fields and lazy river bottoms, reminds me of where I grew up in the great nation of Texas. And of course, that American expat from Missouri said it looks just like her home country back in Mizzou. I had to ask, “There’s pretty rural places outside the nation of Texas and Spanish Lookout in the nation of Belize? Show me.”


The Golden Corral in Spanish Lookout is not THAT Golden Corral--not the Hog Trough that the corporate-owned Hog Trough Corrals are in the States. But the locally owned restaurant is like a mini-Golden Corral, complete with excellent buffets of excellent Belizean foods and of course, a Golden Corral type of Hog Trough for the wonderful local ice cream and stuff like cheesecake with the cheese right out of the local cows.

The Golden Corral in Spanish Lookout is not THAT Golden Corral–not the Hog Trough that the corporate-owned Hog Trough Corrals are in the States. But the locally owned restaurant is like a mini-Golden Corral, complete with excellent buffets of excellent Belizean foods and of course, a Golden Corral type of Hog Trough for the wonderful local ice cream and stuff like cheesecake with the cheese right out of the local cows.

Until next time, from me and my best friend in the world, who's quite the radical rebel and always was, have a blessed weekend.

Until next time, from me and my best friend in the world, who’s quite the radical rebel and always was, have a blessed weekend.


On this day in 1944 (June 6), a huge number of Allied troops–160,000–landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy in France.

The invasion required 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft–numbers as astounding as the number of troops the massive operation required.

It also required an enormous amount of blood spilled–9,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded–for what turned out to be, thank God, the ultimate victory over the threat of Nazism.

Click here for more on this hugely historic day.

American soldiers and supplies arrive on the shore of the French coast of German-occupied Normandy during the Allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in World War II.   (AP Photo)

American soldiers and supplies arrive on the shore of the French coast of German-occupied Normandy during the Allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in World War II. (AP Photo)

My good friend Lourdes (Ludy) received her high school diploma Friday night. A single mother of two kids, she attended night classes, for adult students, for four years–attending classes from 5:30 to 9 p.m. every night during the school year. Like many Belizeans she had to quit school to work (and a lot of the students told me about the “bad choices” they made in their regular school years that forced dropping out). She worked as a housekeeper at resorts and private homes for years at the island town of San Pedro before moving back home to San Ignacio a couple of years ago to take care of her mother. She was doggedly determined to get her diploma. Belize has nothing like a GED and students have to go back to school full-time to get a diploma.

Ludy the grad with her beloveds Felix and Stephanie.

Ludy the grad with her beloveds Felix and Stephanie.

Ludy and her principal. "Im so proud of her!" he said. "She worked so hard!"

Ludy and her principal. “Im so proud of her!” he said. “She worked so hard!”

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Forty-eight adults who attended “adult education” night school at St. Ignatius High School graduated Friday night. These graduates showed enormous determination in going back to night school, most of them for a number of years while working and many working and raising children too. Many had to drop out when they were school age because they got into trouble of some kind or another.

Flower arrangement I bought for Ludy for her big day. Cost of flower arrangement from a florist who lives down the street from me--and had a son who graduated with Ludy Friday night--$25 U.S. I'm pretty sure Ludy is the only grad who got flowers, or must have been one of only a few. Many of her 47 classmates asked if they could pose with family members for pictures with these flowers and I took pix with their cameras of them. I was much in demand for that with people lining up behind me for pictures with Ludy's flowers--my contribution to the high school's Adult Education Class of 2013.

Flower arrangement I bought for Ludy for her big day. Cost of flower arrangement from a florist who lives down the street from me–and had a son who graduated with Ludy Friday night–$25 U.S. I’m pretty sure Ludy is the only grad who got flowers, or must have been one of only a few. Many of her 47 classmates asked if they could pose with family members for pictures with these flowers and I took pix with their cameras of them. I was much in demand for that with people lining up behind me for pictures with Ludy’s flowers–my contribution to the high school’s Adult Education Class of 2013.

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