Monthly Archives: November 2019

Issue 184 – Rocky Mt. Oysters, Vegetarians and More

Issue 184 – November 20, 2019 — An Occasional Newsletter, Edited by Stan Paregien

Hello to each of you. Thanks for stopping by the ol’ homestead for a little visit. In this issue you will find two of the very best poems of famed cowboy poet Baxter Black.

Now, without naming names, I dedicate this issue to a special couple we know up in Bass-ton. Oh, excuse me, I mean . . . Boston. And it is also dedicated to a known lover of Rocky Mountain Oysters who lives in Slidell, Louisiana. These folks know who they are, while the rest of you will not have a clue. That’s okay. Put your “laughter hat” on, sit back and enjoy the poetry.

MOTIVATION TO TAKE ACTION

I made at least three failed attempts to learn to play the guitar. My first time when I was a sophomore in Fillmore (Ventura County), Calif. I took four or five lessons from an old gentleman but it didn’t seem to stick with me. To make matters worse, my well-intentioned parents had bought me a “Stella” guitar at Sears & Roebuck for well under $50. The problem was that the strings set way high above the frets, making it difficult and even painful to form the chords.

In addition, I had another problem. I couldn’t keep the thing tuned. My teacher would tune the guitar “by ear” when I went to his house to take a lesson. But at home, all I had was a 45 rpm recording of the sound of the five strings of a guitar. Try as I might, I could not listen to the recording of the lower “E” string, for example, and then get my string to sound like that. So I was trying to practice on a guitar that sounded like a concert by comics Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel. It was only many years later that I discovered I really do have a “tin ear.”

Well, fast forward to my late 20s. I tried to learn to play the guitar on my own. I read about folks who just bought a “How to Play the Guitar” book and a few days later were playing like Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins and Les Paul all rolled together. Not me.

Then, sometime in my later 30s, I tired it, again. Same methods. Same results. You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” That, friends, is a bald-faced lie. If you’re practicing something the wrong way, it just ain’t gonna suddenly go . . . Shazam!! . . . and be perfect. A more truthful statement is, “Practice makes permanent.” Sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good.

I’ve said all of that to lead up to my next attempt to play the guitar when I was about 68 or so. And here, below, is something I read that motivated me to give it another try. Please take the take to read all of the article. And share it with anyone you know who may be struggling to play an instrument, or to learn how to do carpentry, or is having trouble with some new technology.

When I saw that photo of that armless young man playing the guitar with his feet, I said this to myself: “Self, if that guy can play the guitar with his feet, surely I can learn to play at least a few simple songs.”

It is really not a good sign when you start talking to yourself, and especially if you carry on an extended conversation with yourself. This time it was okay.

I bought a better guitar than I had ever had before. And the thing that helped me so much is when I bought one of those little gadgets called “an electronic tuner.” Wow. What a deal! No guesswork. Hook it to your guitar and it guides you effortlessly through the process of tuning your guitar accurately. It was a miracle.

Still, I wasn’t making much progress on my own. Really, I just wanted to learn how to play five or six old-time cowboy songs that I could add to the programs I did in which I recited my own cowboy poetry and stories. But I finally realized, I needed just a little more help.

So I found out about a guy up in nearby Guthrie, Oklahoma who taught both guitar and fiddle. His name was Jim Garling. He conducted his lessons at the Byron Berline Double-stop Fiddle Shop, and he had an opening. So I picked out a few songs (with chords) I wanted to learn.

The first song that I presented to him was written by one of Gene Autry’s funny sidekicks, the one and only Smiley Burnette. He could not only play half-a-dozen instruments but he had a great gift for songwriting. The one I wanted to learn was, “Riding Down the Canyon.”

Jim Garling took one look at that song and said, “I’ve never heard of that song.”

Well, I thought maybe I’d made a bad mistake. But, we got through that little hitch in my plans. We started off with some of the other songs. I was only able to take maybe six or seven lessons under Jim Garling, but I had learned a few basic chords and quite a bit more about strumming. So I was on my way.

Only later did I find out how sophisticated the music really was for the original “Riding Down the Canyon.” I had to “dumb-it-down” a couple of times, but I finally got to where I could perform it in a “fair-to-middlin'” fashion. And I moved on to collect the lyrics and chords for at least 200 other songs.

Now I confess I never had another lesson. We had a lot of jams at our house in Oklahoma. When we moved to Florida in 2013, we started having jams at our house. We had so many people we moved it to our community’s clubhouse and ran it there on a monthly basis for two years. Still, I have never moved the needle very far beyond a very basic ability in guitar playing. And now that my memory is in decline, I am leaning toward selling our instruments.

However, the point is this: I would never have made that final successful attempt to play the guitar without the motivation of an armless man playing one with his feet. So I hope this little story motivates you to buckle down and go ahead and learn some new skill.

Oh, as the late Paul Harvey often said, “And now, . . . here is the rest of the story.” About my friend Jim Garling, he got very interested in cowboy and Western music. He started playing cowboy music in restaurants and on special occasions. Today, he is the music director for a Cowboy Church up in Stillwater, Oklahoma. And here comes the final part of the story: . . . Jim has four or five CDs of cowboy music to his credit. And one of the songs he recorded was Smiley Burnette’s old song, “Riding Down the Canyon.”

Life sure ’nuff has some strange twists and turns, doesn’t it?

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Here is my latest poem, “Ode to Unrhymed Poetry and to Those Who Write Such.” Feel free to send a copy to any friend you know who writes poetry. I hope, even if they write free verse poetry, they will get a kick out of it.

Okay, my friends. That is enough foolishness for one issue. See ya next time.

End.

Issue 183 – Christmas Specials and More

Issue 183 November 6, 2019 An Occasional Newsletter Edited by Stan Paregien

Okay, you know it is that time again. Walmart, Target and even Home Depot have Christmas stuff on display and for sale. So, not to be left completely in the dust, I  offer these ideas for your kind consideration.

Big Book of Manatee County, Florida: Amazing Facts & Photos

This is my 19th book and the first in my “Big Book” series. I published it on Oct. 29, 2019 as a “Print-On-Demand” paperback. ISBN-10: 169901308X. It is printed and distributed by KDP, an arm of Amazon. The list price for this large format book (8.5 X 11”; 2.4 pounds) is $54.99. Yep, that’s an eye-popping price, but it is 389 pages long, with over 450 biographical sketches and some 430 photographs printed on premier paper.

I planned this book with these ideas in mind: (1) It should be written in a lively, easy-to-read style; (2) It should be an invaluable reference tool for full-time residents of Manatee County, Florida; (3) It should be an interesting and useful book for visitors to Manatee County; and (4) it should point out the good and the not-so-good points of living here. When it comes to an almanac-type history of Manatee County, Florida there is nothing that even comes close to this book in terms of readability, comprehensiveness or usefulness. Please visit Amazon.com to order this book.                    

The Day Jesus Died: Revised Edition. (2019)

$33.99  216 page paperback.   ISBN-13: 978-1799145066  Aug., 2019

I wrote this inspirational book in 1970. It had been out of print for 41 years before I published as an eBook in 2011. Then in 2019, I revised it as this paperback. The topics discussed in the illustrated book are just as current as today’s morning newspaper. One of the most important of the 18 chapters deals with “The Problem of Unbelief”. The author examines the meanings of “unbelief” and “faith,” and talks about ways that Christians and unbelievers can better communicate and help each other to understand their respective positions.  Also available as an eBook.

S. Omar Barker: Las Vegas, New Mexico’s Legendary Cowboy Poet (2019)  

$54.99  8 X 10”  367 page paperback     ISBN-13: 978-1078301985

This biography is the very first in-depth telling of the life of New Mexico’s celebrated cowboy poet, S. Omar Barker (1896-1985). He was greatly admired and loved. He managed to achieve that status even though he seldom left his beloved retreat in the mountains of northern NM.  His secret was that he made his living through his mailbox. Writing in virtual isolation, Omar sold his poetry, articles and novels to many different publishers. This biography contains 50 complete poems of his, but it is much more about his unusual life and the people and the culture of San Miguel County. His peers had him serve a term as president of the Western Writers of America. His is an inspiring story about a local boy who made it big without leaving home and who never lost that common touch.

Cowboy singer and poet Red Steagall (Ft. Worth, TX) wrote the Foreword, and ranch and writer Rhonda Sedgwick Stearns (Newcastle, WY) wrote the Introduction.  Also available as an eBook.

Don and Judy Betts seeing their photo on the dedication page for the first time.

Don & Judy did not know at the moment above that their bio is also in this book, along with nearly 500 others.

Here are a few other ideas for gifts, and these are eBooks:

COWBOY EARMUFFS

ISBN:  9781311267405    Published April 16, 2014. These 15 stories are just a few of those which he has written and performed, starting in 1991. This eBook contains such storytelling jewels as “The Cajun Submarine,” “My Cowdog Named ‘Sex’,” “The Grey Ghost,” “The Christmas Spirit,” “A Patoot Salute,” “A Lot of Bull,” and “Reincarnation Blues.”

A RAINY DAY READER (100 Non-Cowboy Poems)

ISBN: 9781310912474   Published: April 3, 2014.  The poems range from the serious to the hilariously funny, from those with an academic bent to those with little redeeming social value (except for a smile or two). Great for that rainy day read. Poems include “N. Scott Momaday: A Literary Legend,” “Had Any Lately?,” “My Banker Ain’t No Friend of Mine,” “Cat Heaven,” “Smart Pills,” “The Origin of NASCAR,” “Garage Sale Blues,” “That Damned St. Francis Dam” and many more.

BOGGY DEPOT SHOOTOUT

The Austin Chronicles, Book 1. ISBN: 9781310788215   Published: February 25, 2014.  This was Stan’s first volume in a projected series of Western novels. Book 2 is also available. This volume follows the Austin family and how they coped with the unique challenges of living in the West just after the end of America’s Civil War in 1865. The main character in this book is young Daniel Austin, a Confederate veteran. Their trials climax with a shootout at Boggy Depot, Indian Territory.

WOODY GUTHRIE: HIS LIFE, MUSIC & MYTH

ISBN: 9781301025206   Published: September 29, 2012. Approximately 110,670 words. Woody Guthrie was born and reared in the hardest of times. But as he became an adult, he took advantage of America’s eagerness to mythologize the working man into a grassroots hero (as in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath). He adopted the persona—the music, the speech, the look and the habits–of the poor working class he observed in his travels. He hardly ever stepped out from behind that image, though he was in fact an intellectual with a gift for writing poetry, novels, and songs that connected with the young and the old, the educated elite and the nearly illiterate.

The Okie from Okemah, Oklahoma may one day be seen as one of the most creative persons in the world. Though he died way too young, he left a treasure chest filled with his songs and poetry, his books of fiction, his cartoons and artwork, and his large number of audio recordings. Without question, he was the most prolific writer of folk songs America has ever seen. Don’t miss reading this carefully researched biography of the man who wrote “This Land Is Your Land” and some 3,000 more songs.

Okay, neighbors, you’ve stuck with me to the end of the commercial. So here’s a “no charge” bonus  and no “extra shipping and handling fees” like the TV hucksters like to add on a second order of their gizmo.

My following poem pokes fun at “free verse” or “non-rhyming” poetry. No harm intended.

By the way, I apologize in advance for the . . . c-r-a-z-y . . . format that WordPress created for me on this poem. I’m afraid they have “improved” this program to the point I can’t use it. Not the way I want to, anyhow. Grrrrrrr. — Stan

Ode to Unrhymed Poetry & Those

Who Write Such

by Stan Paregien  – Nov. 3, 2019

My first performance at a major poetry event

Was back in ’91 out in ol’ Colorado Springs.

The Great Pikes Peak Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Featured poetry, music, stories and other things.

For three days, this well-bankrolled celebration

Featured known and unknown folks like me.

Each night, though, the big guns came out — like

Riders in the Sky and ol’ Waylon Jennings you see.

Well, friends, each afternoon it featured an open mike

For any cowboy types to step up and entertain.

The first afternoon a feller in sandals read somethin’

That, to this day, I find mighty hard to explain.

He looked kinda like a college professor on hard times,

But he said he had a poem of his own creation to share.

For about 15 minutes he said somethin’ or ‘nother ‘bout

His soul, ecology, and some philosophy he did lay bare.

Now, I had been educated plum past others in my clan,

But about his message I couldn’t make heads nor tails.

I removed my Stetson and scratched my noggin twice,

And concluded the stranger had run way off the rails.

Later, a more literated cowboy poet than me explained

That gent had used a literary device called “free verse.”

The term made sense ‘cause who would pay for such?

But over the years I’ve found the situation getting worse.

Fact is, there’s a cowboy poet near San Diego town

Who writes unrhymed poet and gets a lot of press.

And another cowboy  poet whose name begins with Z,

Is in great demand so I’m jealous I have to confess.

Now, let me be clear: I’m like most folks, I’d guess.

I believe in freedom of speech and the Golden Rule.

So I cut folks a lot of slack in how they live and such,

After all, I didn’t come from the deep end of the gene pool.

I’m tellin’ you, pards, all this fuzzy stuff being written

Under the brand free verse, unrhymed poetry and more

Just leaves me with a throbbing king-sized headache and,

Maybe more than anything, it is all such a doggoned bore.

When I read poetry, I don’t want to have to use Google,

A collegiate dictionary, or Wikipedia to understand.

I like S. Omar Barker, Baxter Black, Red Steagall,

Badger Clark and others of the rhyming brand.

My wife says, “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

So I close with this stanza of words unrhymed.

I will admit free verse material

Makes me think and wonder.

“Say what?”

“Why bother?”

And, “Huh?”

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Yep, that’s our kid. We called him “Gene” (our middle name is “Eugene” — probably from my maternal grandfather’s brother, Eugene Arthur Cauthen. Heck, I didn’t make that connection until this week when I stumbled across some information on Ancestry.com. We always called him “Uncle Arthur.” ). Anyhow, in basic training for the Air Force they call you by your first name. Period. And he got to like it, so folks who know him from 1989 or so call him Stan. And for some time now around our house it has been this: Lt. Colonel Stan Paregien.

Well, folks, I guess that’s about it for this go-round. I’ve already told you more than I know. But I will add that all of what I’ve said is absolutely true or pert nearly so (as old-timers liked to say).

Adios,

Stan Paregien