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DECATUR The cafe on the outskirts seemed curiously detached from the town: well kept tile floors, a long formica counter, bright upholstered stools and fluorescent lights all contrasted markedly with the old, tired town with its faded one and two story buildings and its stock, turn-of-the-century courthouse. This was Decatur, county seat of Wise, rescued from rural decay by the discovery of oil in the 1950’s. Only the center of town and the worn, gingerbread houses just beyond rung of the past. Further out, near the modern cafe, new suburbs described an ordered existence of crisp lawns, prefabrication, and functional carports. Near the railroad, the “majors” had storage facilities, Continental, Sinclair, Gulf. On the main street were even clearer evidences of oil country: a Halliburton truck, a branch office of Baroid, the dayto-day suppliers of the oil drilling industry. A distracted young waitress said “whatllyouhave,” not looking at us. She brushed her hand across her forehead at an errant wad of hair which collapsed again over her left eye as soon as the hand passed. Three men sat down next to us. We had noticed them standing in the parking lot around a sta tion wagon with the name of an oil drilling company printed on the side. “Anything on that deep well?” one of them said. “Now, it’s tight as a drum. You can’t get any information. They’re drilling below 5,000 somewhere.” On the end the third one leaned his head over the counter and spoke in a high, whining voice. “There just ain’t any drilling around here Oscar. There’s rigs stacked everywhere. Everybody’s hurtin’.” “Well,” the first man said, “you can’t get much work with nine days production a month.” He wore a suit over a sports shirt buttoned at the collar. The other two wore khaki shirts and work pants faded almost white. “Oscar, you think there’s a chance for a job next week?” “Hard to say, maybe.” “The government’s got to do something about this foreign oil,” the high voiced one said. “It’s ruining everything.” “That’s sure right. A man can’t make a living in Texas if they keep buying all that foreign oil. I saw in the paper where there was 1,000 rigs working this time last yearonly 600 now.” “We’ll all just have to hang on,” the man in the suit said. We finished the coffee and left. LARRY GOODWYN A Chronicle Writer Sees Her Houston \(-\\ Over the Wall! A FLEA CIRCUS SAGA He then began to relate the whole miserable tale as we drove through town to get my dissolute companions a case of cold beer. He had been picked up by the Mexican police in Boys’ Town in Matamoras at four o’clock in the morning and forthwith locked in the local calaboose. He seemed to be of the opinion that they locked everybody up they found walking around Boys’ Town at four in the morning. The fact was that he had not had any money. Nick continued his bitter tirade against Mexican jurisprudence. In the calaboose he noticed a low wall that was conspicuously unguarded. He looked at the filthladen ground upon which he was supposed to sleep; he looked at his own still-clean pants. “I wasn’t going to spend a night in that jail if I didn’t have to,” he said; so he attempted to escape by climbing the wall. He had reached the top when a man with the prisoners in the yard fired at AUSTIN A professor friend of mine and I were inspecting a house for a possible future purchase when we were descended upon by a group of friends known by their acquaintances as “the ‘flea circus,” an Austin version of the residents of Tortilla Flat. One of the group was brandishing an empty Vodka bottle, so the professor and I knew the cause and the circumstances of their visit. I then noticed Nick among them. This was surprising, for he had visited me in. Kenedy on the way to Matamoras just two weeks before. \(He had had his unemployment insurance transferred from Austin to Brownsville, where he thought he I asked him about his early return, and he answered me in an embittered voice. “I spent five days in a Mexican Jail in Matamoras.” The worst part of it, he explained, was the possibility he might lose a week’s unemployment compensation because of it. He hadn’t been able to go to the office and sign up because of his incarceration. \(During our recent survey of state press political coverage we came upon a suggestive piece by Ann Holmes, fine arts editor of the Houston Chronicle, which we appreciHOUSTON What kind of a city is this? … Where is the metropolitan heart of Houston? Paris is less the seat of French government than it is the flower stalls, the little streets, the cafes, the lovers, the meander ing river, the clerics. … A photographer came to Houston the other day to snap this town, to take the proud and the lowly, the old and the new. He shook his head. “It’s all new and it’s all proud,” he said. When last heard from he was heading to Galveston to put the Victorian gewgaws and the beach strollers on film. Was he right about Houston? Is there anything to see here of the people of this metropolis? Are we too preoccupied with the shopping list, or with catching the bus, or zooming through the 5 o’clock traffic, to see our town and the people who make it a city? Did we see the lady in the large Milan hat with a fresh blouse who sits every afternoon on an apple crate on Preston, peddling the papers, her face chalked, her eyes wide with wondera perfect figure from a Giraudoux play? Did we see the workmen lounging, like Europeans, in the shadows of a skyscraper they were building, munching from lunchbags in picturesque freedom? a picture you’d have snapped in Rome for its local color. Did we notice the pigeons that line up on the arching arms of the street lamps, to confer about whatever pigeons confer about? a real picture. Did we notice the item about the woman down on Washington Ave., who left her drunken friends in a flophouse, went out for a glass of milk and was struck down by a teetotaler in a hurry and looking straight ahead? Were we too busy to acknowledge the sight of the crippled lady who makes a daily circle around a downtown block, painfully picking her way with the aid of a friend and a maid, smiling joyously and finding things for the threesome to laugh about as they go? And the jovial fellow who takes his camp chair to the downtown street corner at night to read the papers by the lights from display windows and watch the couples stroll by? The frowning, tousle-haired youth in khaki workclothes with thick glasses who perches on the doorstep of a downtown cafe struggling in the dim light to read his book about astral apparitions, after he’s through work at 10 p. m.? Or the Latin-American. couple who strolled into Sam Houston Park to take a siesta under the trees after lunch and fell asleep holding hands? Were we in such a hurry we didn’t notice the winos looking wistfully in the windows of the closed liquor store on Prairie, bare now save for the dummy gin bottles in the yellowing window display? Or the husky printers in their blackened garb entering the Splendid Cafe next door for some of those dinners going at 59 cents each? Or the elderly coupleshe redhaired, and he white-thatchedwho embrace and kiss each time they pass the Rice Hotel’s Main St. corner, perhaps remembering a first meeting there years ago? Or the harmonica player in a natty suit with his new bride in a white dress and flossy purple orchid leaving the wedding chapel, a frame building on a parking lot across from the courthouse? Or the ladies of high fashion promenading on Main St. in their empire styles and white gloves, while their counterparts a street over are hustling along in illmatched separates, brown paper bundles under their arms, drugstore flats on their feet. Or the “sentries” of lower Travis proprietors of jewelry and clothing stores standing by the sidewalks outside their stores, all him. He suddenly decided that the jail wasn’t such a bad place to spend the night after all and stuck up his hands to surrender in the accepted fashion. They then. proceeded to knock him on the ground and kick him, he said. “I think they broke a couple of my ribs. Anyway, I ain’t been to no doctor. I spent five days on the concrete. I couldn’t sleep. I was in pain.” He continued his lament. Things wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been broke. The prisoners sold marijuana for two pesos a slick, but there was no soap and no toilet paper. “All we had to eat was beans and tortillas.” He could not talk to any of the policemen; only trustees were in contact with the prisoners. He was not allowed to get in touch with anyone who could get him out or to telephone anyone at all. . About the third day a person in civilian clothes came by looking for American military personnel. “Are you in the Air Force?” he asked Nick. When Nick replied in the negative the man walked off disinterestedly while Nick yelled ineffectually for him to see somebody about getting him out of there. Nick had, by this time, struck up some congenial friendships with the inmates of his bastille. Some of the inmates told him that the last man who tried to escape got an extra seven years for it. Our hero was not happy. Fresh, Sweet Air Finally on the fifth day a bona fide policeman came in and told Nick that his fine was 200 pesos or 20 days. Nick didn’t have the 200 pesos; the policeman left indifferent. Our hero then let , it be known that he had a car outside that he would sign over as security for the fine. Another trustee who had been sent up for 25 years for murder accosted Nick and asked about the car. This trustee was well dressed and wore a Panama hat. Rumors had it that he got out every night; he was running a loan business in the jail. Nick gave him the registration can Museum of Natural History in New York who hunts rocks, bones, and petrified wood. 11 In Port Isabel, the Latin American Pre-School P-TA, a private group,’ opened its preschool English classes for fourand five-year-old children. A fee of $2 a month is collected from parents who can pay it. The Way of Life IT The Hughes Springs police chief indicted in 1957 in Cass County on a charge of murdering a Negro by beating and shooting has been indicted now by a federal grand jury on a charge of deprivation of civil rights. fn . The Journal of Southern His tory, official publication of the 2,000-member Southern Historical Assn., will be published at Rice Institute beginning next January. IT Baptist leaders have advised Corpus city fathers that unless the memorial coliseum is air conditioned, 10,000 Baptists will go elsewhere for their 1959 general convention. Two girls who have not yet attained their teens were entered into the Shrimp-O-Ree beauty contest at Aransas Pass last weekend. IT A shrimp boat broke up in the Gulf, 180 miles south of Brownsville and 50 miles offshore, and went under in nearly 6,000 feet of water. Crewmen were taken off by a trawler before she sank. IT Members of Lufkin’s Girl Scout troop 60 will start school a week late because their ship was delayed at Southampton, Englandthey were on a sightseeing tour of Europe. IT Home from the Hill by Texan William Humphrey is a Book of the Month Club alternate selection this month. IT Cops are moving in on Lake Worth and Eagle Mountain Lake after four drownings and three boating accidents at Eagle Mountain, and others at Lake Worth, since the first of the year. Tickets will be issued for speeding, not having lights and life preservers on boats, boating without a licenseand swimming outside of “designated areas.” 11 Miss Texas of 1958, Mary Nell Hendricks of Arlington, 22 years old and 36-22-36, has had to borrow from her teachers’ credit union to finance her bid for Miss America. The cost so far is about $1,000, mainly for formals and accessories for three or four changes a day for six days in Atlantic City. Page 6 September 5, 1958 Tr Robert Kleberg, King Ranch manager, brought 49,000 acres of ranch land in Argentina for raising Santa Gertrudis cattle \(the King Ranch also owns land in Brazil, Cuba, and Australia. IT A program for Texas-Mexico understanding will be established in Dallas this month. Extension courses from the University of Mexico will be arranged; Jesus Reyes Ruiz, Mexican poet, will speak Sept. 16 at the Adolphus, and a novelist and senator, Mauricio Magdalena, will speak there the next night. John. Heston and his wife have filed an account of their two week Trinity River boat trip at the offices of the Trinity Improve ment Assn. They struck up ac quaintanceships with a couple who live on the river and do a little fishing and tradiing and make spare change on alligator hides, and an employee of the Ameri day, hardly a stir of business inside? The colonies of women who rule the town at 11 o’clock every night except Sundaythe batalions of dusters and sweepers who occupy the executive suites after hours, and keep the lights of the ‘skyscrapers aglow, and who spill into the haunted streets just before midnight, their heads in bandanas? I Oil Talk in a Cafe papers and the key to the car, laughing at his cleverness at keeping the title. The trustee loaned him the money, and he was escorted to the desk where he paid his fine. Then he stepped out to breathe the fresh, sweet air of freedom. He crossed the river and went to his room, where he cleaned up and searched for hidden guests that he may have picked up in the jail. A dark thought crossed his mind. He had another set of keys; he would steal back his car and get even with the trustee for his usury. That night he went back. Sure enough, there in front of the jail was his car, but two policemen were guarding it. Throwing caution to the winds he walked up to the car and started fumbling