California Desert Tribes

Today, I left the desert, left the view of the snow-capped mountains surrounding me, and returned to Los Angeles. Next stop on my California adventure will be Catalina Island. I’m in my LA hotel now as I write this post, but my thoughts are still on the desert and some things I learned.

As a boy I read every book on the Native Americans in the Dallas library, both in the children’s and adult sections. I took it on as an ongoing project, and before I knew it, I was rereading some of them.  I believe there must be so many stories remaining to be read and written about Native Americans. My childhood interest in American Indians is still with me, and here I’ve learned about some of the Southern California desert tribes.

First, I learned about the Morongo. Their official site is here,

Second, I learned of the  Cahuilla. A branch of the tribe is the Cabazon, named after a chief who led them from the 1830s-70s. I took some interesting photos at the town of Cabazon that I’ll post tomorrow. Here is a great site about the Cahuilla:

According to this site,,
the desert Indians of the interior were “exclusively gatherers-hunters, with plant food as the mainstay of subsistence, accounting for perhaps seventy percent of the diet. More than one hundred species of roots, greens, seeds, nuts, and berries were regularly collected, with the nuts of the piñon pine the single most important food resource for hill and mountain groups, while desert groups relied heavily of the fruits of cacti and the seedpods of mesquite.

“The location of camps and the rhythm of seasonal movements was largely dictated by the distribution of edible plants rather than animals. Mobility and intensive labor were the keys to successful plant procurement in the desert interior. The equipment used to gather and prepare plant food was simple, yet highly effective and included the digging stick, woven, paddle-shaped seed beaters, collecting trays, and burden baskets.”

Another site that gives details on the desert tribes use of plants is 

Can you imagine the toughness and resourcefulness of these people? There wasn’t time, but I wanted to hike the hills and mountains, to camp and look at the desert stars all night. Another time perhaps.

Desert Easter

I have so enjoyed my very busy trip so far, talking to hundreds of people, playing my guitar for small groups or anyone who will listen. My signing at the Barnes and Noble in the mall here was a success, another sell-out. Like at my signings in the French Quarter, I met folks from across the nation.  The CRM at Barnes & Noble said that at times, 20% of the nation’s wealth is here in the Coachella Valley. My timing for the trip was good, as the “season” here is from November to the end of April. Beginning in May, temperatures reach and stay at 100 degrees or more. As I’m going to Catalina early tomorrow, I’ll be heading back to LA today so I can catch an early ferry. Here are some interesting but odd things I’ve observed on this trip:

Two Buck Chuck’s:  This is a California designation of the award winning wines of Charles Shaw, which you can buy here for two dollars a bottle.  (There’s also eggs known as “One Buck Cluck”). People here buy it by the case. You can read more of the wine here:

Sarah Marshall: Across the nation, I’ve been noticing billboards along the Interstate saying things like, “I am so over you, Sarah Marshall” and “My mother never liked you Sarah Marshall” and others. I found out that this campaign was not a personal vendetta as I first imagined, but  is tied into a blog promoting a new romantic comedy.  I think this is a brilliant idea, incorporating revenge with nationally sanctioned graffiti. You can read about the Sarah Marshall campaign and her boyfriend’s heartbreaking story here: 

Easter Song:  I remember this song, as performed by Gene Autry (read his life here It is associated with my earliest of Easter memories:

“Here Comes Peter Cottontail”

Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail,
Hippity hoppity,
Easter’s on its way

Bringin’ ev’ry girl and boy
A basketful of Easter joy
Things to make your Easter
Bright and gay

He’s got jelly beans for Tommy
Colored eggs for sister Sue
There’s an orchid for your mommy
And an Easter bonnet too. Oh!

Here’ comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity
Happy Easter Day

Look at him hop and listen to him say,
“Try to do the things you should”
Maybe if you’re extra good
He’ll roll lots of Easter eggs your way

You’ll wake up on Easter morning
And you’ll know that he was there
When you find those choc’late bunnies That he’s hiding ev’rywhere, Oh!

Here’ comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity
Happy Easter Day.

A Writer in Palm Desert

At last I’m in a real desert area.  However, the juxtaposition of the sand (reminding me of a beach town) and desert shrubbery with the beautifully landscaped and affluent homes and communities is rattling.  Many  celebrities have or have had homes here including Bill Gates, Gerald Ford, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, Oscar de la Hoya,  and many others. Palm Desert is a relatively new community, beginning as date plantations, but it’s short history is an interesting one. The area actually was once known as the Old MacDonald Ranch.  I intend to study the Native American tribes, whose presence is now felt through the Casinos. The only desert I’d seen before was that of the West Texas Badlands, where the water tasted and smelled of sour sulfur and everything either bit or stabbed you. I went to the Living Desert here and learned so much about the deserts of the world. In the words of its website, the place is part “zoo and endangered species conservation center – botanical gardens – natural history museum – wilderness park – nature preserve – [and] education center.  Go here to learn more of this place. 

Today, I’ll have my signing at the Barnes & Noble here. Already busy with much to do.  Sunday through Tuesday, I intend to spend writing. I’m sure I’ll return to my Southern home with many ideas and hopefully completed projects and new contacts.

California Adventure

Yesterday,  in my quest for contacts at libraries, stores, etc., I went to the north and east of Los Angeles. I’ve concluded the obvious: California has too many cars. However, in spite of the traffic, surprisingly, I found drivers more careful and polite than in New York. There was some smog, but when it burned off some I was quite taken by the the beauty of the mountains and the beaches (I managed to see two briefly, Santa Monica and Venice). I saw the famous HOLLYWOOD on the hills, but was not as stirred by it as I thought I would be.  I also made it to the famous Huntington Library and spent some time there. What a wonderful bookstore, beautifully landscaped grounds, and art and literature exhibitions.  It also has excellent resources for Western research. I’ll try to have another post on that place later. You can see more of the Huntington Library here:

Today, I’m off to the desert (one of my other quirky geographical interests) and hope to get some writing done. If you are interested in the desert, there are two movies that you should perhaps see: One is Slow Burn, and the other is the English Patient.

Although I am a committed Southerner, who at this point in life would live nowhere else, I think it is good for me to see California other parts of the country.  And it looks like travel is going to become a greater part of my life. I’m sure there will be many stories in my travels.

California Memories

My signing at the Hudson News Book Store in DFW Airport went well. Like the French Quarter,  the airport is a place where I meet people from all over the country.  Both books had appeal to people. Some of the kids had read Jim Limber before I finished the signing and and the parents passed by me again with compliments. After the signing I took my flight to Los Angeles Airport. As the plane approached our destination, I could see a hundred mile or so swath of lights, the shadows of mountains, and the trail of lights on I-10 and other highways. It brought back some memories. I had only been to California twice before, both times as a teenager.  Both trips were memorable, with trips to Disneyland, the beach (with those huge waves by Gulf Coast standards) live music (much of it performed by artists who are now Classic Rock stars), by stories, some inspiring and others quite sad.

I went to California both times previously with my father. He retired from American Airlines with a good pension. He worked at Love Field (still a busy place and I’m supposed to do a signing there in the future too) and then finished his20 years at DFW.  Then he moved to Kemp, Oklahoma. I realized he has now lived in his retirement home he built as long as he worked for American Airlines. Tempus fugit. I wish I could travel with him again, but now his health is too fragile.

A Good Quote on Writing: I came to California not only for the signings, but to write. Here is a great quote a friend sent me: “And a third kind of possession and madness comes from the Muses. This takes hold upon a gentle and pure soul, arouses it and inspires it to songs and other poetry, and thus by adorning countless deeds of the ancients educates later generations. But he who without the divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen.” [Plato. Phaedrus 245a]

I think I definitely have the insanity Plato speaks of. Maybe there’s hope for me after all.  I’ll try to post some photos and other remarks on my trip as often I can.

Notes on a Song

Songs of the South

The music of the War Between the States is fascinating and reveals much of the hearts of Southerners. Here are the words of a song written by Captain G.W. Alexander. This song was made popular in the play The Virginia Cavalier, an 1864 hit in the Richmond theater and sung by Miss Sallie at the Richmond New Theatre.  It was also recorded by Kathy Mattew some time ago.

Southern Soldier Boy

Bob Roebuck is my sweetheart’s name,
He’s off to the wars and gone;
He’s fighting for his Nanny dear,
His sword is buckled on,
He’s fighting for his own true love;
His foes he does defy;
He is the darling of my heart,
My Southern soldier boy.

When Bob comes home from war’s alarms,
We’ll start anew in life;
I’ll give myself right up to him,
A dutiful, loving wife.
I’ll try my best to please my dear,
For he is my only joy,
He is the darling of my heart,
My Southern soldier boy.

Oh, if in battle he were slain,
I know that I would die,
But I am sure he’ll come again
To cheer my weeping eye.
But should he fall in this our glorious cause,
He still would be my joy,
For many a sweetheart mourns the loss
Of her Southern soldier boy.

I hope for the best, and so do all
Whose hopes are in the field;
I know that we shall win the day
For Southrons never yield.
And when we think of those who are away,
We look above for joy,
And I’m mighty glad that my Bobby is
A Southern soldier boy.

Book Signing News:

Today, I leave for California. I’ll also have a signing today before I leave from 4-6 PM at Hudson News in the United Terminal.

Confederate Version of “Scots Whae Hae”: Songs of the South

I primarily do two programs in the schools I visit. One is a Civil War program and the other is a Scots-Irish program. Both are received well. In either of those shows, I sometimes perform the well-known and stirring Bobby Burns song, “Scots Whae Hae,”  which reportedly records the words of Robert the Bruce to his army before the battle of Bannockburn. A great many Southerners were Scottish (including Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee) so many in fact, that the soldiers came up with Confederate version of “Scots Whae Hae.”  Here are the lyrics, which I obtained from the 12th Louisiana String Band, some of the finest musicians the modern South has produced.

Scots Whae Hae (Confederate Version)

Rally round our country’s flag,
Rally, boys, haste, do not lag,
Come from every vale and crag,
Sons of liberty.

Northern vandals tread our soil,
Forth they come for blood and spoil,
To the homes we’ve made with toil,
Shouting slavery.

Traitorous Lincoln’s bloody band,
Now invades the freeman’s land,
Armed with sword and firebrand,
Against the brave and free.

Arm ye then for fray and fight,
March ye forth by day and night,
Stop not till the foe’s in sight,
Sons of chivalry.

In your veins the blood still flows,
Of brave men who once arose,
Burst the shackles of their foes,
Honest men and free.

Rise then in your power and might,
See the spoiler, brave the fight,
Strike for God, for truth, for right.
Strike for liberty.

*Here is the contact information on the 12th Louisiana String Band:

The 12th Louisiana String Band
Celtic Songs & Uncivil War Reenactments.
Contact: Belinda Brand
Phone: 225.761.2857

More of Dublin, Texas

I had such fun in Dublin, Texas. I thought today I’d post a couple of additional photos. The parade we marched in was on St. Patrick Street, and the town was decorated festively for the holiday. On Friday, the Dublin Intermediate School students were allowed to dress up for the holiday and many of the costumes were quite colorful. At the festival it seemed every other lady had on shirts that said “Irish Girl” or some other phrase that caught the spirit of the holiday. After my first performance, I took a short break from signing books to watch the festival’s Highland Games. (See my Oct. 7, 2007 entry) Here’s a photo of some of the VERY strong men participating. They are surrounding a beauty who was given the title of the “Irish Goddess” of the festival:


The one bank of Dublin (it’s really not a big town) supplied the festival’s Leprechaun mascot. Since Leprechauns are said to be in the know about gold, I think it was a fitting symbol for a bank. As writers are always in need of money, I thought I’d have my photo taken with the Leprechaun for luck.


If you’d like to see and read more of the Dublin festival or see more of the town, go to:

Book Signing News: Wednesday, I’ll be flying to California for a week of book signings, computer training, research, and writing. I hope to also meet with and develop some SCV contacts, schools, and libraries in that area. I’m still not sure of my final agenda, but I’ll make posts as often as I can. I haven’t been to California since I was sixteen. I hear it’s changed some. For at least two nights, I’ll be in Zane Grey’s home. As I’m working on a Western of my own, I’m sure that stay will be inspirational and informative.

Return from Dublin

It’s hard to believe I haven’t made a post since Wednesday. Yet, I know too that I have had incredibly busy days.  Also, bad news. Another death in my family, on my son-in-law’s side. So sad, so unexpected. I think I’ve had enough death and other bad things happen this past year. We are all crushed.

My programs at Ranger, Texas High School (Civil War Program) and at Dublin (Scots-Irish Program) Intermediate School were so much fun. The teachers were gracious, and the students were vibrant, funny, respectful and eager to learn. I’ll have more photos, but here is a photo of one of the teachers, Julie, and her little dog who came to class also, Presley Irish, who was also celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with us.


Friday night, I had a book signing at Hastings Bookstore in Stephenville. It was another near sell-out. As you can see below, in the town of Stephenville, I also had my photo taken under Moola the Cow. This is big dairy country. (Stephenville is the home of Jewel and Ty Murray. Remember Jewel did a song of Stephenville).


I also marched with the local SCV groups in the morning parade. I’ll post some photos of them soon. After the parade, I changed into my kilt, drove to the city park where the the festival was, and set up my table for the festival. Sales were brisk and I met so many cool people. Below are some photos: Me with the local bank’s leprechaun,  me with some of the Miss (and Little Miss) Dublin Queens. I was given their names by height. Included here (by size I think according to the list I was given) are Camry Porter, Kayla Tamez, Sydney Beck, Taylor Templeton (Miss Dublin) and Kylan Spurger.

little miss dublin

Here are the words to Jewel’s Stephenville song, which I found here:

Housewives told to recapture their youth
By wearing floral print and suede
Fixing their hairdos with PC, chemical-free hairspray
Martha Stewart taught ’em to make on TV
I was raised a farm girl
Now, I’m too far from home, all alone on the road
Trying to figure out who I am now that the stardust has turned to sand
And the sand has turned to stone – I’m the star-making machine

I’m 31 years old, that ain’t the end
But sure ain’t where I began

My daddy, he wrote songs and he broke colts
And went back to school to get a degree
Now he teaches music to kids, he taught music to me
And this Alaskan girl has been living in Stephenville, Texas that is
And yes, you guessed it; I moved there ’cause I fell in love with a man
I moved his ex-old lady’s things out of the closet
The same closet I moved my things back in
No, it did not make me feel that great, as if to demonstrate
Everything is temporary if you give it enough time

I’m 31 years old that ain’t the end
Sure ain’t where I began

But hey, I’m just a kid; I got nothing to lose
I’m a singer of songs, I’m a player for crowds
Hey Ma, look, I’m an entertainer
I’m a modern day troubadour trying to find justice with six strings
Trying to make the world make sense out of me
Trying to be loved completely, trying to love honestly
Trying to find a decent high noon cup of tea
In another hotel
I’m trying to listen to the leaves speak
Trying to steal secrets from fishes in the creek
Trying to figure out who I am
A pretty mediocre cook and even worse mathematician
Maybe a mother one day
What will it be?

I’m trying to figure out who I am
But there’s no hand to hold, no Doctor Martin Luther King
Just sycophants and mindlessness on TV
We all read magazines for the latest ways to behave
So hey, why not follow me, the blond bombshell deity?
I’ll sell you neat ideas without big words
And a little bit of cleavage to wash it all down
You know everybody thought Godard was a clown
Man, that ain’t gonna be me

I’m 31 years old, that ain’t the end
Sure ain’t where I began
Guess that just makes it Stephenville, Texas
*After this trip, I realize how much I love (and miss) West Texas. I’ll have much more to post on this trip later.

Wednesday’s Sundry Thoughts

I had a good night at the Meet Your Local Author Night at Marshall High School. (Their mascot is the Marshall Mavericks). I met some new authors, parents, and teachers, I saw some new books, and as usual, learned more than I intended. The ride was spent listening to some music but mostly to James Lee Burke’s book on CD, The Tin Roof Blowdown. I was so into the book that time flew by.  I’ll keep you posted on the rest of my busy week as I can.

On This Day in the Civil War: According to my Civl War Calendar, in 1864 the Red River Campaign began and General Ulysses S. Grant became commander of the Federal forces  (I do try to spell and pronounce Grant’s first name correctly, though sometimes I fail and it comes out  as “Useless.”)

Church History: The first saint to be canonized by a pope (John XV in A.D. 993) was Ulrich, usually portrayed holding a fish, and in legend he is connected to the former Catholic abstinence from meat on Friday. I remember lunch in my early school days and how every Friday at David G. Burnett Elementary School we would always have fish on Fridays. We all knew it was because of the Catholics, but I don’t remember it bothering us. I guess the schools were more accommodating to religious beliefs in those days. Even now I can close my eyes and see that little square of breaded fish on the plate.