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Merver readers ore SMART PROGRESSIVE INVOLVED INFLUENTIAL GOOD LOOKING \($t9 ore 06server advertisers r Get noticed by Texas Observer folks all over the state and nation. Let them know about your bookstore, service, restaurant, non-profit organization, event, political candidate, shoe store, coffee house, boutique, salon, yoga studio, law practice, etc. TheTexasObserver ADVERTISE IN THE OBSERVER! REASONABLE RATES GREAT EXPOSURE Call 512-477-0746 and ask for Julia Austin or e-mail [email protected] ke 3, 06sertier reoJersr Consider advertising your business or non-profit in the Observer. GOOD FOR YOU GOOD FOR THE OBSERVER impressionable. A self-taught man, he read Erasmus at 14, and his spiritual life fed on Charles Darwin. Give me reason, logic, and common sense, he always used to say. In the 1970s he bought yen and made a killing, but he’d grown up during the Great Depression in Brooklyn. To the end of his life, he kept most of his cash at hand, all in small bills, stuffed in boxes of soap and cereal. The man with cash is king, he used to tell me. The man with cash in his house becomes paranoid, I replied. He kept a .22-caliber pistol in a hollowedout Bible on his dashboard and used to get up early on Sunday mornings, drive to a railroad bridge east of town, set up a limp piece of cardboard, and shoot it full of holes in five seconds. He was practicing for a gunfight, he told me. In the corner of his one-room cottage leaned a baseball bat, a broom, and a black matte double-pump shotgun. He kept a photocopy of the state laws about use of deadly force folded in his wallet. He wasn’t bug-eyed paranoid, but stiff and unapproachable, his back leg always cocked to flee or strike when anyone approached. He may or may not have been a cop in Milwaukee. But he had sold washing machines and taught high school science. Joe had come to Texas so he could live the life of a boy again: tromp in the desert as he pleased, eat beans from a pot off the stove, read books until dusk sitting under the eaves of a cottage with his dog at his feet and the Southern Pacific rumbling into town on the tracks nearby and the swallows swooping down over the swimming pool and creasing its surface with their thirsty beaks. When I write about Joe I inevitably give more attention to the guns and the money, because I like breaking the dictum that a gun that shows up in the first chapter must be fired by the end of the story. Not so here. For me his character is plot enough. I want you to know that he was a voracious reader. Entomology. Forensic sciences. Histories of the stock market and the Federal Reserve. Bible studies, mainly books that showed how the Bible recycles Mesopotamian myth. I also want you to know about his generosity and his disdain. If you were a widow or a kid or someone genuinely deserving but were having bad times, he would drive you anywhere and even give you money. If a book was particularly good he would buy an extra copy and donate it to the library. If you were a priest or Christian believer, a stockbroker or a drug addict, he would cross the street before saying “hi.” I don’t want to entomb him in a 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 4, 2008