Every small Texas town has its ‘shame’ to bear
Small Texas towns are great. There’s almost enough of everything to go around — except money, food and morals.
One town in which I published a paper had an undertaker that also freelanced as a bootlegger. Another had a prostitute that was widely known and recognized and to my knowledge, never arrested.
The term bootlegger may need some explanation. It’s not a term as frequently heard in the Lone Star State as it once was. A bootlegger is someone who sells alcoholic beverages without any of the federal or state stamps, tax and otherwise, and/or someone who peddles the illicit booze in areas where it is forbidden by local statute.
Our liquor laws are such that the state has wet and dry areas that, if indicated on a map with a different color for each of the two designations, would provide something resembling the product of a quilting bee.
There was a major change in Texas a couple of generations ago when, in addition to bars that served beer and package stores that sold wine, whiskey and all manner of strong spirits, liquor by the drink was approved. That created a whole new set of alcohol selling establishments, mostly bars and “night clubs,” which were previously merely “private clubs” for “members only” to get around the liquor-by-the-drink barriers.
Texans tend to make fun of themselves. However, if you have an above-the-Mason-Dixon-Line accent, don’t you dare open your mouth. You will have stopped preaching and started meddling.
Back to illicit whiskey and the aforementioned bootlegging undertaker.
Years ago, in the days before liquor by the drink, undertakers-funeral homes also provided ambulance service in their town/county. That’s how the bootleg booze was brought into town, lights flashing and siren screaming. Oh, and the undertaker was a member of the clergy as well. You might say, The Right Reverend Digger Dunn.
You understand, of course, that in an “expose’” such as this no one’s real name (except mine) is used. I could prove what I’m saying but at considerable expense with no guarantee any court “winnings” would cover it. Additionally, between retirement benefits from a previous employer, Social Security, Medicare and this kolyum, we manage to eat regularly, live in a modest house and drive a paid-for, nine-year-old SUV.
Back to business. Illicit booze is only one segment of the “small town shame to bear.”
Sin and shame includes (gasp!) prostitution.
In one place where I lived, wrote and published, the local bootlegger Calvin and the reigning hooker Minnie lived together, in sin I’m sure. Seems they had a monopoly — ho, ho, ho and a bottle of rum.
One day, after football practice, a bunch of us players were hanging at the local drug store. Actually, we were propping up the concrete posts that held up the front part of the building, sipping on chocolate malts and trying to muster enough energy to walk home when who should come strutting down Main Street but Minnie. She looked like Ronald McDonald with about 18 pounds of makeup. Her considerable posterior was moving in ways most mortals have never seen.
A rather dipstick high school junior, who’d apparently had all his brains dashed out on the football practice field, yelled at Minnie as she wiggled by: “Hey, Minnie, $5.”
Minnie stopped, threw both hands straight up and shook as she yelled, “$25 little boys, $25!”
I broke the handle on the drug store door as the first one inside to the soda fountain.
And, Dipstick was left alone on the sidewalk with egg all over his very red face.
It seems shame sometimes comes with a side of humor. That’s only one of any number “laughs” prostitution produced in my hometown.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper publisher with more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.