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Golden Years

Mar. 18, 1997

Telling `tales' keeps Patterson busy and happy

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By Rosie Flores
Staff Writer

He considers himself "just an ordinary writer," but his readers feel

Paul Patterson has been telling "tales" for most of the century. He was
born March 28, 1909 in the drifting sands of Gaines County, just a few
miles of the New Mexico Territory.

J.D. Patterson, Paul's father, and his family drifted down into Reagan
County, Upton County, MItchell County, Nolan County, Reeves County,
Pecos County and shortly, back to Upton County, not to mention the
20-odd moves within this area.

"These moves being at a snail's pace in a covered wagon, one would
assume that I spent half my life just riding around," said Patterson.

He earned a high school diploma, 1929, in Rankin and a B.A. degree from
Sul Ross College.

A 1935 Sul Ross graduate, Patterson did graduate work in Geneva,
and at the University of Texas, Utah State University, The National
University of Mexico, The University of Madird and The University of
Buffalo, N.Y.

He attributes his yearning for learning to a big, gray A.C. Hoover horse
who threw him into a hillside in 1931 and "knocked some sense" into him.

A teacher for over 40 years, he claims his most famous student is,
perhaps, Elmer Kelton, who has been known to say, "Paul taught me
everything I know...and everything I write has a little bit of Paul
Patterson in it."

"I don't know if I taught him all that much, but he says I did," said

As past president of the Texas Folklore Society, Patterson
encourages young people to study folklore and is known as one of the
foremost folk humorists in the U.S. today. In perhaps the highest of
accolades given to any person of Texas letters, Patterson has been
proclaimed the poet "Lariat" of Texas.

"I truly enjoy these Folklore tale telling the most," said Patterson.

Patterson states that he feels like "he's done it all." Everything from
being a cowboy, cook, house painter, small-time radio script-writer,
small-time rodeo announcer, tale teller at festivals and cowboy
symposiums and 41 months as coder-decoder of secret messages for the
12th Air Forcde (29) months in North Africa and Italy World War II.

Patterson has written 10 books, five of which publishers nationwide
continue to declare, `no account.' He has written five books of cowboy
rhymes, one book for children and numerous articles and essays for

At 85, he is a proud half-citizen of two small West Texas towns, Crane
and Pecos.

"I live half of the time in Crane and half in Pecos, where we're not
traveling around," said Patterson.

He doesn't exactly fit the description of an old-time cowboy, but he has
punched cows, herded sheep and ridden broncos with the best of them.

"I still remember those cowboy days along the Pecos River like they
happened yesterday," he said.

Patterson never gained much fame as a cowboy, but he has gained some
popularity as a writer, poet and folklorist.

His tales of the early days on horseback or around the chuck wagon, many
told in rhyme, can keep a bunch of people laughing until they cry.

"My poems can run from being `totally true to tolerably true to totally
false,'" he said.

He has four volumes of cowboy poetry, "A Pecos Rvier Pilgrim's Poems,"
on the market, and Volume IV carries a mostly true tale about a West
Texas cowboy named Gid Redding who had a special way with rattlesnakes,
taming horses, cooking grub and handling little pigs so they wouldn't

"These are the ones I enjoy telling the most, because you never know if
the tale is true or not, but it could go either way," he said laughing.

Patterson's story about Redding who died a couple of years ago, is a
great story about what makes this part of Texas so interesting.

As Patterson recalls, the newspaper story goes something like this: A
tall man with his face swathed in adhesive tape (or some such) and
riding a black horse robbed the bank of Hatch, N.M. of $5,000.

"The man turned out to be Gid Redding, the man with whom I batched on
the Hoover Horse Ranch out of Buena Vista part of the previous winter,"
said Patterson. "In any case, the following fall I drew my $22 in wages
and enrolled in Sul Ross College, whereas Gid, harboring higher
ambitions and hankering for bigger, faster money, rode in and robbed
that bank. A cowboy compadres is said to have said to him: `Gid, if I
was going to rob a bank, I'd a took it all.' But my friend, I didn't owe
but $5,000," responded Redding.

According to Patterson, Redding didn't smoke, cuss, drink and most
especially didn't chase women.

"In fact, women were the only creatures on this earth he was boogered
of. At least he never married that I know of," Patterson said. He
attended his friend's funeral at Monahans where he died at the age of 91.

While cowboying together on the Hoover place, Patterson said Redding did
the cooking while he took care of the outdoor work - feeding 22 saddle
horses and rustling (herding) other horses. "It was an ideal cowboy
spread. No cow to milk and not eggs to gather," he said.

Patterson tried to get Redding to let him write his memoirs, but the man
wouldn't allow it. Although a lot of stories abound about Redding, he
only talked about mundane things, Patterson said.

Redding is said to have taken flying lessons for which he owed money,
and flew from one side to the other during the Mexican Revolution. He
was reportedly shot down during one of the flights and it took him eight
days to walk out of Mexico. When he went back to Ozona to settle up his
debts (some say after the bank robbery), people would ask him how he was
getting along.

"Walkin' the golden streets," was his stock reply, Patterson said.

Redding was a noted bronc buster and horse trainer, and Patterson
praises his long ago line camp companion with being one of the best.

"Train up a horse in the way Gid Redding sayeth and he will not depart
from it," Patterson wrote in the preface of his latest poetry volume.

Patrick Dearen of Midland, a noted author in West Texas, has written the
foreward for Patterson, who is publishing a three-volume set of books
titled, "A Bouquet of Biscuits."

In his foreward, Dearen writes, "His stories are dust devils that carry
readers `somewhere over the Pecos' to a West Texas Oz born of folklore
and satire.

To a wide spectrum of Southwesterners, he is known simply as "Paul" or
"Mr. Pat," this beloved tale-teller who has sent a lifetime living and
exploring the humor and legends of the Pecos. Behind his byline, his
anecdotal slices of life become the offbeat and the unforgettable.

Dearan further writes, "I first met Paul Patterson in 1982 when I popped
in on him unannounced at his Crane home. He was 73, and I was 31, but I
quickly realized we were kindred spirits even across a chasm of 42
years. He ws alive with the lore and legend of the Pecos, and I was
chasing that very romance. He was a writer and a novelist, just as I was
striving to be. And he had the earthiness and sensitivity common to
those born and bred to the vast West Texas landscape, as I had been."

Never was a chance meeting more productive for me, personally and

Guided by his advice and spurred by his enthusiasm, I found myself drawn
ever-deeper into the region's folklore. Read his ballad of Horsehead
Crossing and the Pecos in these pages and you'll find the very insight
that inspired my own attempts to capture the essence of that
once-forbidding river. Ever since that first visit, the Patterson
influence - in source material and in spirit - has been an underlying
thread in my non-fiction work. And, I hasten to add, in my life as well,
for I can't think of a better role model, as a writer or person, than
this special man known affectionately to my son as "Uncle Paul."

It's a feeling shared by a host of folks across the Southwest. I.C.
"Tiny" Eart, one of Patterson's many students in a 40-year teaching
career, once told me, "Any success that I may have had down through the
years most probably can be attributed to people like Paul Patterson and
my father's and mother's teaching. I've been the luckiest guy in the
world to have had those kind of people in my life."

Part of Patterson's appeal is his humor, and in these three volumes,
readers are in for a hearty dose of the things which tickle his broad
funny bone. Based on prsonal reminisces and the uncommon tales of the
common folk, it's typical Patterson fun, told with a deft pen and
self-effacement. You'll read of his cowboying misadventures, this
cowhand of four years, seven summers and a thousand weekends who said he
learned the profession from the "ground up" - that is, sprawled at the
hooves of the latest bronc to shake him fool you. In 1989 when I
interviewed the legendary Gid Redding, his old line camp compadre whom
you will read about, I felt bold enough to inquire just what kind of
hand Patterson had been. "Ol' Paul," said the 89-year-old Redding, one
of the last of the old-time cowhands, "was a pretty good cowboy." The
term "pretty good," to cowhands, meant doggoned good.

Fortunately for generations of readers, Dearen states, Patterson didn't
make cowboying his life. But the experience did give him the insight to
write about cowhands, horses, and the Pecos country with both humor and
authenticity. In the dust of more than a half-century, I've been
trodding many of his very trails not in the saddle as he once did, but
afoot with note pad or tape recorder in hand. I've felt the tug of the
same Pecos quicksands that seized his horse near old S Crossing, and
I've sat and talked with many of the unforgettable characters of whom he
writes. Such a character was cowhand Billy Ranking, who quickly set me
straight on the importance of a horse to a cowboy. "A cowboy without a
horse," said Rankin, Patterson's boss on a Pecos country spread in the
late 1920s, "is just like a one-legged man at a butt-kicking."

Although Patterson has collected folklore from across the Southwest, he
also has done his part in these volumes to ensure that new tales
continue to spring forth, according to Dearen.

Patterson also enjoys doing book reviews, speaking to clubs and
organizations and plain "reminiscing."

"My favorite is reciting poetry and telling tales at cowboy gatherings,"
said Patterson.

"I truly enjoy folklorico, you can interpret it the way you see it and
it doesn't matter if it's a `tall tale' or the truth," he said.

Rancher enjoys horseback riding,

playing dominoes at the center

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One local farmer/rancher hasn't hung up his spurs yet, and probably
never will.

Norman Eisenwine, who comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers,
states that he still enjoys horseback riding and ranching.

"My family owned a ranch about 15 miles outside of Pecos and now I own a
little ranch that I enjoy going to on weekends and holidays," said

Eisenwine is also a familiar face at the Pecos Senior Center.

"I enjoy coming down here and playing dominoes and visiting with
everybody," said Eisenwine.

Eisenwine also stated that he would like to see more individuals come
and enjoy what the center has to offer.

"We could sure use more dominoe players," he said laughing.

"I'm 87 years old and still enjoy horseback riding, something we do on
weekends at our little cattle ranch," he said.

Eisenwine spends most of his time with his wife, Ann Evelyn, since his
children are all grown and live elsewhere.

"They come out and visit, but they all live near Dallas," said Eisenwine.

The couple has five children, the oldest of who is retired from the FBI.

Eisenwine is very popular at the Senior Center, where he helps by
throwing out the trash and doing odd jobs, when he is not busy mingling
and playing dominoes.

"I love coming down here, my only complaint is that we need more domino
players to start coming by," he said.

Vantage Point

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Calendar-wise, spring is due to arrive this week but that does not
necessarily mean that winter is over. Thinking of this reminds me that
it was decided sometime or other that the year would be divided, climate
deciding, into four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. This leads
to the question: how did they determine this?

Spring is that period between the vernal equinox (this year, March 20)
and June 21, the summer solstice. Then there is the autumnal equinox on
Sept. 21. The two equinoxes are determined by the suns crossing the
celestial equator, from south to north in the spring and the reverse in
the fall.

One these two dates the days and nights are equal in length. The dates
of June 21 and Dec. 21 are called summer and winter solstice because
they are the points on the ecliptic when the sun is the farthest from
the equator.

The word solstice is from the Latin and means "the sun stands" and is
used because when the sun is at either of these points it literally
stands still for a time in its northward and southward motions in the
sky. So we in the northern hemisphere have our longest day in June and
the shortest day in December. This is all the astronomy lesson for now.
But is this not a wonderful world we have, the globe we all Earth
revolving on its axis, the sun circling through space to mark our days
and nights? For more wonder, there is the moon which chases the sun
while stars of every magnitude have their place and glitter in the dark
of the skies.

In thinking of the seasons, it seems as if there used to be more of a
definite division of weather patterns. There used to be a saying in West
Texas that if one "did not like the weather just wait a little while and
it will change." That seems to be the norm everywhere now; rain and cold
then the clouds part and the sun shines for a lovely warm day.

But, surprise by night time there is a north wind which brings an all
night long light rain. Looking at the big picture there are not
"regulated seasons" anymore any kind of weather can happen any time of

There have not been real flooding rains here but some of the people who
live in Lake Brownwood area have had some concern of water encroaching
toward boat docks and landing areas. The stock farmers of course are
very pleased. There are wild flowers beginning to bloom there are two
really pretty meadows over by the Early City Park.

I did not stop to examine them but it looked sort of like a soft purple
carpet. There have been a few jonquils around town but most folks must
have been like us here, let the fall go by without planting a bulb. Some
fruit trees are blooming, as they may be there.

Some of your remember Jack and Mary Alice Ferguson who lived in Pecos
and now are neighbors about two blocks away here. Jack and I were
recalling old sayings, one of which was "If it thunders in February, it
will freeze (?) in April." I had always heard "snow" and he said "frost"
and one the same week days as the thunder. We will wait and see on that.
Just hope the fruit and pecans do not get frozen. There are many
cultivated pecan groves in Brown County and also there are certain areas
of native pecan trees.

Previously I have commented on how strangely the Brownwood - Early town
sites are platted you cannot get there from here without going around.
Recently another version was told to me to me about why the streets are
so crooked. When this area was being settled there was a water well at
the sport where highways converge, sort of at the northwest corner of
what is now downtown Brownwood.

As the early settlers were getting established they made their roads the
shortest distances from point to point, evidently paying little
attention to directions, compass-wise.

Family property lines were not straight so roads were not straight
either. Everyone just went the quickest way to get drinking water.

Having lived in towns I knew streets and not roads. My first notice of
farm land was after going to West Texas. When range land was converted
to farm land it was laid out by sections, which are parcels one square
mile in area, and then divided by roads. When farmers went to town they
went in straight lines making square turns. This was in Garza County
until the road descended the Caprock going into the town of Post.

The eastern half of this county is mostly ranch land so the roads are
crooked but the town is platted square with the world. C.W. Post had his
surveyors see to that!

It is interesting to see how towns are patterned - there are others such
as Brownwood and Early but most are laid out geometrically with regard
to north and south, east and west. Some through such as Pecos list
off-line a little with streets running parallel with the railroad
tracks. As the town grew then came sub-divisions with angled streets. I
guess San Antonio is the largest town that I drove in where it was
difficult to get from one place to another.

I hope every one enjoyed reading the Feb. 27 issue of the Pecos
Enterprise as I did. It was interesting to get an update on
people, organizations and business. The paper staff is certainly to be
commended for their efforts. I can appreciate the time and effort it
took to make that edition possible. Thanks to all of you.

Something else of interest to read was an article published not too long
ago in the Dallas Morning News. Maybe some of you read it
also. It concerned work being done by scientists researching a possible
link between insulin and Alzheimer's disease. The regulation of the
hormone insulin for treatments of diabetes is well know though I am sure
most of us do not understand it.

Researchers are not sure how insulin might affect the brain. However in
a study that followed people from the earliest stages of Alzheimer's
disease found that the illness progressed faster in patients whose
insulin resistance (Type II) worsened.

While glucose itself has been thought to be a memory booster, a recent
study suggested that insulin itself can improve memory in people with
Alzheimer's. This could indicate that insulin is not functioning
properly in these patients. Doctors in several locations in the United
States and Canada are working in various study areas. They urge caution,
saying that much more needs to be learned of the disease causes, whether
it is physical health conditions, genetics or whatever. But the
information in this printed article certainly brings a bit of hope
regarding this ailment.

As this is being written the National Collegiate Basketball Play-off
games are being televised. Many eyes are glued to these games of what
someone has termed March Madness. But there are some persons displaying
a bit of madness because their regularly viewed "special" programs have
been pre-empted. You can't please everybody.

The first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) post season
tournament was played in 1939. Earlier games in New York's Madison
Square Garden proved that the sport would draw crowds. Now basketball
brings some colleges huge TV revenues. The very first public game of
basketball was on March 11, 1892. Can you believe?

Week before last my son and his two sons went to Austin for the three
days of the Texas UIL basketball tournament. This was a fun time for
about the past ten years. He said it took a little rest and relaxation
time for a day or so afterward.

Plans are in the making to attend the TFWC Heart of Texas District
Convention in Sterling City this next Friday night and Saturday. Will
travel with the past district president, Elsie Barnes, of De Leon. Have
hopes of seeing a friend of years ago, Cecile McDonald, who was one of
my faithful club members when I was a district officer. Surely hate to
miss the TFWC Western District members when they meet that same time in
Big Spring.

The Texas Federation of Women's Club will celebrate one hundred years at
the Convention on April 30-May 2 in Waco. The TFWC Clubwoman magazine
has just arrived and the program sounds exciting. Modern Study and Merry
Wives Clubs are members of the state organization. Merry Wives Club is
the oldest federated club in Western District and has an impressive
history of accomplishments, club and community service both.

Club note Sorosis, the first club for professional women, was organized
March 21, 1868. From this group came the founders of what became the
General Federation of Women's Clubs.

Subject change Do you know what annual event occurs this month? National
Soap Box Derby; Return of the Swallows San Juan Capistrano; Aurora
Borealis and Utah Frog Festival.

In 1954 RCA manufactured the first color television set. I guess someone
has been adjusting it ever since. It has gotten much better over the
years. I know.

Thinking backwards as I have been doing lately, trying to record my
past, I have recalled, discovered been amazed by happenings. The first
transcontinental airplane flight, from New York to Pasadena, California,
was made in 1911, the year I was born. I can remember the commotion in
Weatherford, when those bi-planes, so small, would fly in and land on
the outside of the town in an open field.

People would stand in the yards and streets, calling to one another.
Now, we hear the sounds of monstrous sky craft we cannot see should we
even stop to look.

In September of 1901 when Teddy Roosevelt became president after
President McKinley had been shot and died eight days later some words of
his were quoted "The century upon which we have just entered must
inevitably be one of tremendous triumph or tremendous failure for the
whole human race." My, what triumph!

This century which is swiftly winding down has been the most momentous
time of any like period in history. Am I ever lucky to have been a
witness to such progress. The first twenty years of this century saw the
advent of many electrical appliances and "things," the first hearing
aid, first neon signs, clothes washer and vacuum cleaner, rotary egg
beater, electric frying pan, on and on. So many of us just accept
everyday living without wondering how and what made our lives as they
were. Anyway, I hope to keep remembering and learning. But enough to
this rambling.

If you are still with me Easter will soon be here with its time for good
thoughts and renewal of spirit and nature itself. Then Daylight Saving
Time will confuse me again. Bringing some of us down with a sobering
thought will be the Income Tax Deadline. We hope to provide another
column that day to cheer you.

Until then remember Love One Another!
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