Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

May 20, 2012








The boarding house on Wettermark street near the campus of Stephen F. Austin State College was the setting for many a juvenile prank during the fall of 1955.  I was a freshman student at the Nacogdoches college living in the large, two-story house with eight other male students at the time.  More time was invested in playing pranks on each other than in studying the expensive courses required for a degree.

Looking back on this year I am amazed that I passed any courses at all as so much time was spent playing dominoes or forty-two than anything else, except perhaps jokes and pranks on the other residents.

One of the residents was a young man from a small town near Tyler.  He was somewhat socially inept, the perfect target for innocent harassment.  One fall afternoon while *Jim was gone someone of our group devised the perfect practical joke which had Jim’s name all over it.  After explaining the details of the prank to the rest of us, we all agreed.  All the tools needed were as many alarm clocks as we could gather together, which was a total of five.

Most alarm clocks in those days were the wind-up kind not needing electricity to work.  We entered Jim’s room and began carrying out our devious plot.  We set each alarm clock to go off at thirty-minute intervals, beginning at two o’clock in the morning.  Then we hid each one in places such as desk drawers, the closet, chest of drawers, and under his bed.  Our plan completed, we all retreated to our own rooms and waited.

Jim returned home just in time for supper at the boarding house, an experience in itself.  Around midnight we all retired for the night awaiting the results of our plan.  At two o’clock I heard the muffled sound of an alarm clock in Jim’s room.  Then the sounds of someone stumbling over furniture in the dark combined with a few choice words.  Our scheme was working.

Things settled down for awhile as he evidently  located the clock and turned it off.  It would not be long before the second one would go off.

At the sound of the second alarm clock more choice words were heard as he searched out the location of this clock.  This time he yelled out,  “Who the hell is doing this to me?”  I heard several voices from other rooms: “It wasn’t me.”   “I didn’t do it.”  “What clocks?”  “Anybody hear any clocks?”

After the third clock chimed Jim finally got up and began an all-out search for the remaining clocks which he located.  Seems I recall a couple of them being hurled at the wall.  “This is not funny.  I have a test tomorrow”, he whined.  The boarding house was extremely quiet the rest of the night.

Poor Jim was a good-natured fellow and accepted our pranks as just a part of college boarding house culture.  However, I recall that the next week several of us had our beds “short-sheeted” by a person or persons unknown. Tit for tat, an eye for an eye, sowing or reaping, giving and receiving – whatever one wants to call it, it was definitely in effect here.

I have often wondered what happened to Jim.  He did not return to the boarding house the next year.  It was suggested that he probably became a clock and watch repair man, considering his background and experience.

* name changed


About the Author

Neal Murphy resides in his birthplace, San Augustine, Texas, with his wife Clara. He has two children, Kay Fatheree, a pastor’s wife now living in Abilene, Texas, and Douglas Murphy, a police officer in North Carolina, and has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Neal earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a master’s degree in insurance from the Insurance Institute of America. He also attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he studied religion courses. He is a deacon at a Baptist Church, has taught Sunday school classes, and directed church choirs for many years. He began his writing in 2005, and many of his short stories about his life growing up in a small Texas town have been published in Reminisce Magazine, Good Old Days Magazine, Looking Back Magazine, and the Town Square Magazine. He had a story included in Memories of Mother, a book published by Xulon Press. Another story was published in the book Dear Old Golden School Days published by the DRG Publishing Group. He published a book, From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xulon Press in 2006. His second book entitled Those Were the Days was published by Xlibris Inc. in 2007. In 2008 he published another book, The Psalms—From the Heart of a Country Preacher, by Xlibris Inc. He is a founding member of the Deep East Texas Literary Guild of San Augustine, Texas, founded in 2009. He has weekly stories in the San Augustine Tribune and the Toledo Chronicle, an online newspaper. He has a monthly story in the Shelby County Today online newspaper.

February 16, 2012

On The Bright Side Feb. 15, 2012 By Mary Howell

On The Bright Side

Feb. 15, 2012

By Mary Howell

Mary’s note

The following column was written by my niece, Kay Murphy Fatheree

Half a “stache” is better than none at all

By Kay Murphy Fatheree

It was inevitable, and I am not afraid to admit it. I am a cat lover. My brother, Doug is one too. We must have inherited this trait from our parents, Neal and Clara, as I think back on all the felines that have found their way into our homes and hearts over the years.

When I was about seven and little brother was four, we acquired two new pets; a pair of handsome, young brothers, who were about three months old.

None of us is able to recall who we got the cats from, possibly the friend of a friend, but we drove for what seemed like an eternity, clear across Houston to arrive at our destination.  I don’t remember the people that we got them from, but I do remember the gentle and friendly pair of beautiful black and white brothers that Doug and I chose. We cradled them in our arms like newborn babes as we entered the back seat of our Ford Fairlane. We soon began mulling over names for our new pets as we began the long trek back home to Bellaire, Texas.

When I asked Dad what breed our new cats were, Dad said they were “alley cats.“ I figured that the term referred to black and white cats as they both had black fur over about two-thirds of their bodies with white making a nice contrast. The white covered their bellies, necks and part of their faces and they both donned white “socks” of varying lengths.

The one I was holding had a solid black nose with a white line going upwards alongside his right nostril and he had a bright, white “smile,” adorable white cheeks and big, round green eyes.

Doug’s little guy was most handsome and had one very unique feature. He had a solid white nose that ended in a point perfectly symmetrical between his sparkling, yellow eyes. His chin and neck were snow-white along with his “smile” which seemed never-ending.

The markings on his face were perfectly symmetrical with the exception of one little feature: he had a perfectly formed black moustache just on the right side of his nose. We all commented on how cute his little half moustache was.

We debated on a few names, but nothing seemed to fit. Finally Mom called out from her position in the driver’s seat, “How about Mush and Puff!”

I said, “Those are perfect names, since Doug’s has half of a ‘mushstash.’”

The word “moustache” had not come up yet in my list of weekly spelling words. That word probably didn‘t come up until at least, fifth or sixth grade. I thought that the word was pronounced and spelled “mushstash,” and that Mom was suggesting the name “Mush” because he had half a “mushstash.” It was perfectly logical for my seven-year-old brain and second-grade spelling level.

“No! I said ’Muff’ and ’Puff,’” Mom exclaimed as she turned her head towards the back seat so that I could see her mouth more clearly as she over-emphasized the “F” sound in the name.

“But I like Mush and Puff,” I said. “See his half a ‘mushstash,‘” I said. Doug agreed and soon we convinced Mom to let us keep the names. After all, she was the one that had suggested them.

And so, we had the perfect names for our new additions.

Mush and Puff were some of the most gentle cats we ever had. The brothers, who grew to be fairly big boys, loved being petted and would sit in our laps for as long as we would sit still. They even slept with Doug and I.

They really loved the Christmas season. We always got a real tree and they were particularly fascinated with the shiny ornaments and silver tinsel. Mush especially loved to play with the ornaments and I remember Puff shimmering up the trunk of our tree one year.

On occasion, one of them, and we never knew which one, would  tear open some of the beautifully wrapped gifts laying underneath the tree.

Just thinking about Mush and Puff brings a smile to this cat lovers’ face as I am typing up this story for my aunt, another cat lover.

Over the years, I have ended up with cats named Punkin, Shadow, Zoe, Miss Kitty, Mama Cat and Lucky (who ended up not being so lucky) and all of them hold special places in my heart, but none of them ever had such a perfectly suited name as our Mush.

Currently, I am going through cat withdrawals because I had to leave my cats behind when my husband, Lester, and I relocated from Wyoming to Abilene a year and a half ago, (but that’s another story for another day.) As soon as circumstances allow, I know that I will have another cat, or two or three or more, some day. I have told Lester many times that, if anything ever happens to him, I will never remarry, and will probably end up as some crazy old lady who lives out in the country somewhere with about 5,000 cats running around the house, plus a few more sleeping in her bed!

For now, I rely on my cat memories like Mush’s bright half moustache to sustain me! And yes, I have since learned to pronounce and spell “moustache” correctly.

The moral of this story would be to embrace the uniqueness of all those around us, whether they are human or feline. Mush’s remarkable “stache” was a shining example of seeing things as assets that others might consider flaws.

Whether you are a cat lover, dog lover, are young, not-so-young, can grow a full beard or moustache, only have half of a moustache, or have no hair at all, try to bring out the “bright side” in others and always let others see “the bright side” in you.

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