Hey! Mister Austin, are we there yet?

Those immortal words still ring in my ears, as spoken by Hugh Seale, a bass-baritone in the 1959 SFA A Cappella Choir as we were heading north  on our journey from Bryan to New York City. over 70 folk, including chaperons, were packed into a rather antique Trailways Bus. We were supposed to have new Silver Eagles with a restroom and observation deck, but old silversides were sent instead. The first time Hugh asked was just prior to entering Madisonville, Texas, less that an hour out of Bryan.  It became ‘habitual’ all the way. I had told the group that restroom breaks would be identified as “The LahLah”. Creatively, the whole group would sing, in harmony, “LahLahLahLahLahLeeDahDeeDah” as a signal to our bus driver to seek the nearest “LahLah”.  We were sponsored by the Rotarians of Texas and made official ‘Good Will Ambassadors’ by the Governor. We were scheduled to perform for the International Rotary Convention at various venues, including the general assembly at Madison Square Garden. That in it’s self was a rather hair-raising experience for a young choir director(to be related in another post). This particular post is dedicated to one Hugh Seale. Hugh and his wife Becky are two of my favorite members. Hugh had the group entertained the entire trip, but the one specific happening still stands out. Hugh was the center on the Bronco football team and an avid baseball participant. I had a rule that all would answer to ‘room check’ each night and as I walked up to the room where Hugh was supposed to be, when I called his name at the door, it was apparent than Louis Griffin answered for him. We were in Cincinnati and I somehow thought of the Cincinnati Redlegs as something that would attract Master Seale. Their room was next to a stairway, so I quietly waited and was not surprised when I heard someone rushing up the stairs and as he opened the door, Hugh said,”Now I know you promised to send anyone home who broke the rules and you can send me, Mister Austin, ’cause I hired a taxi to drive me around Redleg Stadium for a few times just so I could say I had been there. If you send me home, I understand, but, Mister Austin, it will be worth it.”  This was the same young man who came to my home during football season,knocking on my door. He had just missed the bus and had no way to get to the game in Austin. He said, “I was just a few seconds late and saw the bus up the street. If my Daddy finds out, he’ll want to murder me. Would you take me to Austin, Mister Austin?  I would and I did. We arrived just in time for Hugh to dress out. I never had a moments disagreement with the boys of the choir for my entire tenure. I thought it was due to my strict control of the choir. Just a few years ago, during one of my ‘Gatherings’ with former members in Bryan, Hugh burst my bubble. He announced to the entire group, “Mr. Austin, you probably think that all the choir boys were so well behaved due to your strictness, but they did as you wished because you drove me to that game in Austin. They determined that any teacher who would do something like that was worth respect.” I must admit that somewhat burst my bubble, but it was alright, donchaknow. Every one of my former students knew the time I spent with them was a “Labor of Love”.  That’s what I find in my box of chocolates. “The Lord Bless Them and Keep Them”.  AMEN

Happy Trails have been mine

Over thirty-years-ago I began a journey of love with a beautiful lady born in Monroe, Louisiana who accepted my proposal and has filled my life with sunshine. She has always been the wind beneath my wings and my soulmate. Today, allow me to wish a most special ‘Happy Birthday’ to my best friend and lover, Susan Broussard Austin whose beauty grows more wondrously every day. God Bless you, Gus!

ILY, your Jim

Lack of ‘Honor’

We are living in a time of “self”. A perfect example is the growing popularity of ‘selfies’. I have no problem with a photo including others, but to ‘publish’ one of ‘self’??, well it is rather embarrassing, donchaknow. Acknowledgment of another’s service or contribution to society and the common good, is much more important to me. I thrill to the applause of respect for members of our armed forces by people in airport terminals, but there is one moment of honor that touched my heart.  I love to watch golf tournaments. I am amazed at the obvious dedication of professional players. To practice to the point that one can determine just how and with what club, a person can strike that little white ball and place it within a few feet from hundreds of yard away, well, that is amazing. I watched the Canadian Open and was deeply impressed when Jason Day quietly walked over to the lady in uniform who was holding the ‘flag’ and doffed his cap in tribute to her service. Without fanfare, this man from Australia had just won the tournament, but was more interested in honoring another. What CLASS! Would that be the rule rather than the exception.One of GOD’s Ten Commandments was to “Honor our Father and Mother”. JESUS came to fulfill the ‘Law’ and add another commandment.  His commandment was about loving one another. To love another we must ‘honor’ another. I love the choice of the PGA to honor our service personnel as they do. I am most impressed with the quiet way a Champion did so.  Today would be a good day to honor another, without strings and without motivation to gain for oneself. Being honorable is something we can do without taking a pill. As I get older, pills are a necessity for life. I’ve quit reading the ingredients since all I hear on TV is what medications “might” do to me. The day I read that heart medication contained ‘rat poison’, that was the end of my research. Since it doesn’t require medication to live honorably nor to bestow honor on another, I think I will start a list and check off one name each time I wade in the water. I will begin with those whom I honor who have gone on before and then start listing those to whom I can express honor while they’re still around. GOD, JESUS, Sam and Mattie and Audie Murphy come first, how about you?  Think about it and then let’s compare our lists on December 31, 2015. OK?  Okay.

The Dungeon (post #151)

We began our years at Bryan Stephen F. Austin just a few days prior to the first day of school. While we were driving from East Texas, pulling a small trailer packed with our belongings, the school system was locating a rental with utilities and setting up a bank account at First National Bank. We were quite impressed, until I was shown my rehearsal room. SFA was located on Ennis street and had been built decades prior. The administration offices, band room, typing room and choir room were in the basement. The band room had a wall of windows overlooking a row of hedges. I don’t recall if the typing lab had a window, but my rehearsal room had a very low ceiling and an opening out to the hedges with a large exhaust fan that was to pull air from the hallway, however it didn’t work and had it worked it would have been too noisy. I had a small library table, an upright studio piano, 75 chairs, a music stand and a closet that was packed with old choral scores. My claustrophobia was at the red-line. My dungeon days are a blur, but I do recall being invited to use the much more comfortable band room prior to the completion of the Bryan Civic Auditorium located just behind the main building. That was a great day for the music department. My choir room was large enough with a high ceiling that allowed choir risers to be set up. I had a large office/library and ‘Airconditioning’. Our classrooms were immediately back of the stage of a 1000 seat auditorium. Those were the good days, donchaknow. Even though the technical equipment was minimal, we did have an 85-foot stage house and a Grand Piano. I will never forget the thrill of performing full musicals with an orchestra made up of a small group of members from the Houston Symphony. Our first musical was “The Sound of Music” and was performed during the first year of release of the motion picture. Our cast was taken to Houston to see the movie at the Tower Theater (the same venue that housed our production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”.)  We had done some very good performances on the old SFA stage, but the Civic afforded so much more and that group of students met the challenge. “The Sound of Music” starred Shirley Ellis and David Ling, “The King and I” featured Lynn Stegall and Robert Schiller, “Calamity Jane” starred Karen Kraft and Tommy Davis. Our last production was “My Fair Lady” with Don Anders, Debbie Thorpe, and Richard Taylor. Of the many Christmas Concerts performed on that stage, my most memorable one was “Sing We Now of Christmas” and the ‘snowfall’. At one time, there was a poster created by John Scogin that announced “The Sound of Music” as the very first performance in the Civic. I suppose the SFA building and Civic have gone through change. That may be, but the memories that sounded in those halls will remain, donchaknow.  “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”.  AMEN


There is a list of quarterbacks who have played as ‘Number 12′ and who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and skill in championship form.  NFL network aired a feature about ’12s’ and there was a ‘numerologist’ who said that ‘astrologically’, number twelve meant things were just about perfect. Just in case you can’t recall all those whose jerseys have been ‘retired’, here are the top names:

Aaron Rodgers, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly, Randall Cunningham, Joe Namath, Doug Williams, Bob Greise, Jim Brodie, Ken Stabler and Tom Brady.

Twelve of the most outstanding athletes who ever wore that number. The number 12 features prominently in the Bible. The Old Testament Book of Genesis states there were 12 sons of Jacob and those 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel. The New Testament tells us that Jesus had 12 apostles. According to the Book of Revelation, the kingdom of God has 12 gates guarded by 12 angels. The number 12 is displayed in many other contexts, such as the 12 months of the year and the 12 constellations of the zodiac. I find it interesting that GOD and JESUS thought a lot about ’12’, also. GOD chose twelve tribes within his chosen people and JESUS chose twelve men to serve as apostles when setting out on HIS ministry. There must be a reason for a “dozen” eggs to be 12. Our calendar has twelve months and our day is divided into twelve hours for each day part. Things like this fascinate me (much to the consternation of my wife).  I wonder as I wander and the internet has been a boon for my queries. I would never had the patience to research all my ‘wonderings’, otherwise. I find it interesting that in music, the number ‘9’ means a lot and just as GOD considered ‘7’ to be an important number, so does music. For example, the musical staff is comprised of five lines and four spaces (9). An inverted ‘interval’ totals ‘9’,(I will post a music lesson to explain this soon). There are only seven ‘letters’ in the musical alphabet: A B C D E F G. Since there are ‘eight’ degrees of a musical scale, the first of each is repeated as the ‘octave(8)’. All of this may just be of no importance to you, but to me delving into meanings and ‘whys’ means a great deal. I was finally asked to wait in the customer lounge when I had my car serviced. I also must wait in another room when a tech comes to service my computer. I drive some people crazy with questions. (there is a commercial that shows a dad with a child asking ‘why?’ and that reminds me of me and my own dad. I also recall his most possible answer, “Well, that’s the way it is, son”. I stopped when he began answering, “Well, that the way GOD wants it, I suspect”.  I couldn’t argue with that line of thinking, donchaknow.  You probably are asking, “Why DO you wander and wonder?” My only answer is “Well, that’s the way GOD made me, donchaknow.”  Finally, the number ’12’ is one of my favorites, also.

No Greater Calling!

There is a great old hymn that begins, “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult…”.  My life has been blessed simply because of my answer to that call.  I walked on the campus of East Texas Baptist College in Marshall in the fall of 1949, knowing what I needed to prepare for.  My public school years could have been less hectic had I not been a ‘show off’.  (I hadn’t internalized James 3, donchaknow)  I knew I had unique talents, but failed to ‘shut up’ and give GOD the credit.  Yep!  “Heaven was my Home and I was simply ‘Here’ on a visit”. My demand for attention was foolish.  Even though I toned it down, my name on the role waved a red flag. Yet, through all the self-caused difficulties with authority, deep down inside , I knew what I would and could do in life.  Even though I failed to be humble and properly respectful of what GOD had imparted, I knew that music education was to be my chosen field. I was not prepared for the philosophy of ‘sounding brass and tinkling cymbals’ that was (and is) the window dressing that is perpetrated on society in mediocrity.  I have the greatest respect for the classroom teacher who gives his/her life  struggling to nurture our children with the necessary tools that provide our youth opportunity  to be successful contributors to the common good, but it is an uphill battle to overcome the pap that is Political Correctness.  (You doubt my opinion? Then take a close look at teenage crime; morals and welfare roles).  There are many, including members of my immediate family, who have served and saved, but to be recognized by those who administer is very seldom. Parents have long expected our public schools to ‘bring up their child” and public schools have taken that as a ‘mandate’ to do it without GOD! I took teaching very seriously.  I was not the least bit interested in pleasing any administrator. I believe my former students would agree that we were all in a ‘labor of love’ that resulted in the best educational effort any man could give.  My ‘evaluations’ were a joke.  With only a few exceptions did I ever have a ‘visit’ by an administrator. My first full-time job in Vegas was teaching elementary music. My evaluation was printed out with the former teacher’s name in the blank! As I was going over the opinion and noted the ‘error’, the Principal waffled out by explaining it  a ‘typo’ by his secretary. I knew the former teacher and by telephone, we read the ‘evaluation’ word for word. Ridiculous?  You Bet!  Over my entire teaching career I had five actual visits by an administrator, and three of them were as a substitute!  I am convinced that I would have spent my entire life doing what I loved to do had there not been such ineptness and arbitrary control  on the part of administration (and my inability to ‘roll with the punches).  in a much later  visit with a former Superintendent, he said, “You were one of the best teachers I ever met, Jim. You were a challenge that I could never break.” ????? That said a great deal.  That made me feel a bit better since I was always walking away from mediocrity, feeling like a wimp who couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen. What he said was most appreciated.  After that day, I realized it wasn’t a disgrace to separate oneself from a situation, without a hope of success.  James’ Bible passage may have been about ‘preaching’, but I also take to be a warning to those who enter a classroom as a ‘teacher’ without righteous intent.  To impart one’s opinion and lead young men and women astray with abominable, GODless philosophy that lacks “Truth”  is a terrible injustice that will result in what we see in our news today.  When will we EVER LEARN?  You want to know what is wrong in the world today?  I can tell you it’s “Being In The World”!!   Amen or  Oh My!?

(Tomorrow’s Blog will publish at 3:16 pm and you can tell me why, if you wish)

Triple Tonguing Trumpeters

Aside from developing an “embouchure” (lip muscle), the toughest challenge for a trumpeter is the ‘triple tongue’. One of the ‘Big Band’ era favorites was Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights. He featured his trumpet section quite often as his “Triple Tonguing Trumpeters”.  Those guys could play those horns!  Triple tongue was taught by breathing “tukatatukata” into the mouth piece. Not easy (cup YOUR thumb and forefinger around your ‘buzzing’ lips and say “tookahtahtookahtah” three times).  It takes a lot of practice to do this well.  (A good example is the trumpet call prior to a horse race)  It’s a shame that there are so many easy abuses of our tongues.  I  have volunteered to write the daily devotions for Harvest Community Church. Our Pastor’s Bible Message is the scripture reference for each week.  We are in the book of James and his passage in James 3 cuts deeply into my heart.  (So often my ‘tongue’ has thwrted my Christian witness). Here’s what James says:

James 3New International Version (NIV)

Taming the Tongue

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 

Even when I attempt to ‘hold my tongue’, the urge is simply too great, donchaknow.   Only when I ‘release the reins’ over to the HOLY SPIRIT does that ‘peace that passeth understanding’ come.  Only then does this poor waterwalker reach the utmost moment of joy when GOD fills my soul with a ‘clean heart’.  At that supreme moment, a destructive fire is prevented. THANK YOU, GOD!    All of James 3 should be planted deeply into our very being.  It would beat “LIghting One Little Candle”.   AMEN

I’m Sorry, So Sorry!

Brenda Lee had a big hit that began with this phrase.  There are some attitudes and behavior of which I am not proud.  So, even though I will leave some out due to faulty memory, I will selfishly clear my conscience, somewhat and begin this ‘waterwade’ with this apology. To my Mother who was correct by predicting “You will regret this, someday”. To the administration and school board in Bryan(even though if had  to do it over…)-forgive me for being your most difficult thirteen-year-pain-in-the—-!  To Harry Gilliam(we meant no disrespect) for causing his blood pressure to rise, nightly at channel three’s “Movie Time”;  to Woody Cox and his crew of engineers, for playing some unsettling pranks with those paperclips bent around a pencil; to Cathy Hollis and Sissy Davis for mistakenly refusing to allow you to perform in “Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook; to all the young ladies who were hurt by my comment regarding their private voice lessons; to all the accompanists who willingly played so many times when I could have included more a cappella to give you opportuntiy to ‘sing’; to all those young people who served so ‘professionally’ backstage without proper acknowledgment; to so many young people who were not selected by audition; to my children for not being ‘there’ as often as I should; to so many more who suffered for so long, enduring my arbitrary “My Way or the Highway”; to the many talented men and women who suffered because of my failure to live up to promise; to my immediate family for the same reasons; to my LORD JESUS CHRIST for so many failures to walk in YOUR pathway and to my HOLY GOD, failure to praise YOU, each moment, for YOUR GIFT of LOVE, MERCY and GRACE.  AMEN

We Were the Broncos!

As a native Texan, I love football!  My step-grandchildren are playing soccer and I’ve sorta watched it.  Their games look like dropped BB’s, but the big folk make it fun and fast.  That’s why I love Arena Football. It’s fast and the clock doesn’t stop until the final minute of each half. I’ve not become a fan of the Houston Texans, but the old Oilers?  Oh Yeah!  It’s the Dallas Cowboys  and Texas Aggies for me, forever.  Years ago (a bunch of years ago) I couldn’t wait for Friday Night Lights on Bryan Bronco Field and the Green and White Bryan Broncos. Just like the neighboring Aggies, Bryan Broncos may have not won on the scoreboard, but “They’ve never been Beat!”  The big rivals back then, were the Temple  and Austin.  I made every game, especially those two.  It was in the early sixties when the Broncos played (I believe Austin, Stephen F. Austin) and it rained over 10-inches during that game. Rather than call it, the two Principals went into the press box and determined the yard marker. The PA announcer relayed the consensus to the officials. The stands were flowing water like a river; the field was like a large lake.  Whenever a player was tackled, they scooted along as if on water skis.  Austin outscored the Broncos, but the strangeness of the whole thing far outshone the game.  I can’t recall why, but four students rode back with me.  I had a Nash Rambler stationwagon and it proved to be totally waterproof!  The roads were flooded, half-way up the doors. The only way I could get traction was by following in the wake of our School Bus.  As long as I stayed in the draft we could move along. There were times when the flood was so heavy, even the bus was surrounded.  When that happened, I had the four students move to the back of the stationwagon and ‘bounce’.  I am not joking, but each bounce would allow my rear wheels to move us.  It was a most hairy night.  It took over 4-hours to drive just over 100 miles.  I think about that and our determination to ‘support’ our Broncos, Hail or Highwater.  It would be great if all rabid sports fans could get that excited about JESUS, donchaknow.

Back in Bryan

I began my tenure in Bryan at Stephen F. Austin High School in 1958.  I immediately made good friends with Jim Dooley, Gayle Todd,  Dick Monday, Bob Davis,  Bill Hodge, Doc Rideout and Hugh Lancaster.  Our fishing trips were hilarious and mostly full of good humored harassment. We hardly caught fish, but really didn’t care.  Too many of these good old boys are gone now, but while they were around, things were never dull.  I doubt that many of them are still around.  Most of them were associated with sports, but they still tolerated me. Todd was a hoot and Jim Dooley as always kidding around.  Monday and Davis loved to insult each other, but it was all in fun and a private game. Doc and Bill were pretty quiet. Hugh only joined us a short time before he was struck down with a brain tumor and Dooley was later confined to a wheelchair before we lost him.  Doc and Bill and I had one fishing trip that was disastrous.  It was cold and windy. Not a good day for fishing, but we were determined and so off we went.  Doc was a coffee lover and Bill and I left that detail up to him.  I knew the whole day was to be bad when, just as we were climbing into the boat, Doc dropped the large thermos of coffee.  It made a ‘crunching’ sound and sure enough, when he removed the cap, there was only coffee spiced with shattered glass.  BUMMER!  No coffee and no fish, but we still had a great time just ‘hanging out’.  Along with these times, the ones spent with Troy, Billy, Bob and all, were special and filled with good friends that will last a lifetime.  Whether it be former students, kin or friends and acquaintances, It’s good to know that when you passed their way, you left  an affection that will last an entire lifetime on earth.  My prayer is that we will all be reunited when we leave it, donchaknow.     AMEN