If peculiarities were plumes, San Antonio would be a rare ostrich*

*With apologies to William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) for lifting his sentence from “Retrospects and Prospects” and turning his porcupine into an ostrich to suit the Author’s own selfish purposes.

Few people pause to read acknowledgments at the end of a book, so the Author is plucking them out of An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead and plopping them right here, front and center. The Author wants you to understand her lengthy journey and who helped her along the way.

Continue reading “If peculiarities were plumes, San Antonio would be a rare ostrich*”

Centenarian Santa still shining bright

“‘Twas the night before Christmas….” Time to wake Little Santa Light up from his annual estivation/hibernation.

Covered with nicks as one would expect with his years, Santa spends 364 days carefully cradled in fluffy cotton to extend his life as long as possible. We are unsure of this Saint Nicholas’ actual age, but family lore passed down by the Mister’s grandmother, Virginia Lamar Hornor (1895-1988), traces his birth back before World War I.

With expensive early electric bulbs regarded as fragile and unreliable, Santa was treasured even at a tender young age. Grandma said the Lamar family would light him each night during the holidays, keeping Santa burning to guide her brother, Lucius Mirabeau Lamar, III (1898-1978), safely home from World War I.

Through the ensuing decades, the jolly old elf became regarded as a good luck omen – as long as he would light. And he has continued to do so.

Partially crediting Little Santa Light with his own safe return from World War II, Louis Hamilton Hornor, Jr. (1922-2005), coddled him for years. The Mister’s uncle bought Santa his own little Charlie-Brown-esque tree and found a sturdy box to serve as his bed. Uncle Louis fretted over the proper voltage for the aging family relic, so he attached a voltage attenuator to ensure no powerful electrical surge would knock the little guy out.

The annual Christmas Eve lighting is always tinged with excitement and a bit of fear. Suppose this is the year Santa refuses to rouse? What would a burned-out Santa signify?

Once again on December 24, family members took a deep breath as the Mister’s younger brother screwed Santa in tight. Sighs of relief and cries of good cheer burst forth as Saint Nick suddenly glowed.

Not wanting to exhaust the family’s oldest member for much more than a flash, he was quickly unscrewed and tucked snugly back in his bed. As we closed the lid once more on his lair, I am sure I heard him whisper as he went out of sight: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) wrote the enduring poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” in 1822.

Edward Hibberd Johnson of the Edison Lamp Company first hand-wired 80 red, while and blue light bulbs and strung them around a tree in the shop’s window in 1882, according to an article in Smithsonian Magazine.


‘So Doth a Little Polly,’ sayeth this Lamar


In June of 1920 I received the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Mathematics and Economics, a title which, coupled to the name of Lucius Mirabeau Lamar the Third, was of such resounding grandiloquence as to bring from the assembled students faculty and families (who else would be there in the boiling muggy Texas sun?) a burst of applause embracing, I knew well enough, a component of irony. It did sound good, as some of the movie false fronts look good, but there was mostly air behind it.

From Shards by Lucius M. Lamar, 1968

And this before Lucius M. Lamar, III, (1898-1978) added a law degree.

It is not surprising someone so willing to self-mock would choose a conscientiously pretentious name for the protagonist in a pride-before-the-fall, the-grass-is-always-greener, be-careful-what-you-wish-for fable, So Doth a Little Polly, woven for his five-year-old-niece and seven-year-old nephew.

Jesus Francisco de Assisi Sensontle.

This tale of a San Antonio mockingbird did not bow to monosyllabic rhyming words first-graders could read. No, it was a vocabulary-stretching story rippling with multiple layers of bicultural meaning and accompanying music ranging from “Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous” to Handel.

Sensontle, or Don Sensontle as he preferred to be called, wintered on Alamo Plaza, convinced he reigned over all other feathered creatures. He believed his singing so awe-inspiriting he was “astonished at his own virtuosity” (Notes in the margin recommend the accompaniment of a toy flute here.).

One day a sparrow, Cecil, asked if Sensontle had read the recent news from Austin in the paper:

“A gentleman never reads,” replied Sensontle with dignity, being innocent of that clerical accomplishment.

“Perhaps not,” went on Cecil, ignoring the implication….

The news Cecil the sparrow was trumpeting was that the mockingbird had been proclaimed the State Bird of Texas.

Pompous pride over this tribute soon led to a downturn in Sensontle’s popularity among the birds of the plaza (pompous chords followed by a fast march).

Frustrated, Sensontle flew to a home on Zarzamora Street to visit his caged cousin, Maria Ysabel Dolores Soledad Sensontle, “a handsome and engaging young fellow, whose somewhat effeminate name had been bestowed by his captors under a misapprehension as to his sex.”

Yearning for an easy life, Sensontle negotiated to change places with his cousin for a year.

youtube video posted by zxtkain

A year later Maria returns and perches on the branch of a fig tree near his former cage. Sensontle desperately pleads:

“Kindly release me.”

“Come,” said Maria, “your morals have improved at the expense of your manners. You should ask no labor of me until I have got my wind.”

“I ask nothing save the fulfillment of your promise, which is a sacred duty you should perform at once, tired or not. Be quick, let me out!”

“Patience, cousin, patience,” soothed Maria.

And then.

And that’s the problem.

Twelve dried, yellowed, longer-than-legal-sized typewritten pages.

The end of the story is missing, scattered somewhere amongst the shards left in the wake of closing the Mister’s parents’ household. Lost. Along with copies of other “children’s” works produced by Lucius, including “Hardboiled Harry.”

We are hoping the Mister’s great-uncle passed the stories down orally to his own children and are mailing “So Doth a Little Polly” to his daughter tomorrow.

Please. Let us know if Sensontle lived to fly freely lording over the Alamo once again….