The Constable’s Corner: What Does COP Mean?

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest, Law Enforcement

     Several popular etymologies for cop exist for this word now commonly used for policeman.  One offers it up as an acronym standing for “Constable on Patrol” or “Chief of Police.”  Another states that the first police officers in London (or perhaps another city–it varies in the telling) had copper buttons on their uniforms.  Still, another source asserts copper badges, not copper buttons, gave them the name.  Some of the first New York City police officers reportedly wore badges made from copper.  The most common stories trace cop or copper to the copper buttons or copper police badges.

     The police “sense” of the terms probably originates from the Latin word capere, meaning, “to seize,” which also gave us capture.  Cop as a slang term, meaning “to catch, snatch, or grab” appeared in English in the 18th century.  Ironically, it was originally used among thieves; a copper was a street thief.  By the middle of the 19th century, criminals apprehended by the police were said to have themselves been copped, caught by the coppers or cops.  And there you have the etymology of cop.  “Case closed,” as the cops say.

     Or, is it?  Lexicographers and etymologists have long disputed the actual origin of the verb copper.  It either derives from the Dutch kapen, meaning “to take” or from the Old Frisian capia, meaning, “to buy.”  It may even derive from the French caper, meaning “to take”, which also comes from the Latin capere.

     To make matters even more complicated, the acronym COP has many meanings, most of which are unrelated to law enforcement. Following are just a few:  COP Copper; COP Chief Of Police; COP College of Pharmacy (Xavier University of Louisiana); COP Coefficient Of Performance; COP Code of Practice; COP Coil on Plug (automotive ignition); COP Court of Protection (UK); COP Cost of Production (agriculture); COP Citizens On Patrol; COP ConocoPhillips (stock symbol); COP Chief of Party (various locations); COP Canada Olympic Park; COP Congressional Oversight Panel (US Senate).

     For me, I’m somewhat partial to Constable on Patrol.  It has been said that the Constables back in jolly ol’ England went to the livery stable and checked out a horse, lantern, and night stick. In a record book, they would write “constable on patrol” and record the time they went to work. Like so many others, I was told that eventually someone got tired of writing all of this and shortened the entry to COP and then entered the time.  We may never really get to close the case on the origin of this little word.

Semper Fi,

Constable Clark, your Constable on Patrol

Learn all about your constable by going to his new web site:


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Baby Blues

Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science


     Prior to World War II if you mentioned “baby blues”, it would have been understood that you were referring to eye color. Now, a reference to “baby blues” might refer to the feelings of depression experienced by some mothers following childbirth.  This is especially true following the birth of the second set of twins or triplets.  However, I am referring to the blue eye color and the variants green and hazel.  Most babies of European decent are born with blue eyes giving rise to the expression “baby blues.”

     As it turns out, a baby’s blue eyes might change color during the first year and the eye color could change to green, hazel or even brown.  It is worth noting that no human eye has blue pigment.  The only pigment in human eyes  is brown (melanin).  Blue eye color is caused by a lesser amount of the brown pigment required to produce brown eyes.  Eye color is actually determined by the way light waves are reflected back out of the eye in much the same way as the sky is colored blue. Brown eyes result from high concentrations of brown pigment in the iris which causes light of both shorter and longer wavelengths to be absorbed.  In blue-eyed people, the shorter wavelength light is reflected back resulting in the blue color.


     Blue eyes occur in all parts of the globe, but brown eyes make up 75-90% of the world’s eye color, and it is believed that all humans had brown eyes up until ten thousand years ago.  It is also believed that blue eyes are the result of the mutation of a single individual in Europe which led to the development of blue eyes according to the theory of Hans Eiberg, associate professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.  It should be noted that  professor Eiberg’s theory fails to explain how a single individual was able to spread his eye color throughout the world population.   Blue eyes are common in northern and eastern Europe around the Baltic Sea, and DNA studies on ancient human remains confirm light eyes were present tens of thousands of years ago in Neanderthals, who lived in Eurasia for 500,000 years.  Currently the earliest blue-eyed remains of Homo Sapiens were found in Sweden and  were 7,700 years old.

     According to Brandon Gaille’s market based research, the percentage of the population with blue eyes of the United States is on the decline and now stands at 17% while worldwide blue eyes are 8% of the population.  However, in Finland and Estonia, 89% of their population has blue eyes.  In Ireland,  57% of the population has blue eyes, and 29% of the population has green eyes.  In Iceland 89% of women and 87% of men have either blue or green eye color, but  a study of Icelandic and Dutch adults found green eyes are much more prevalent among women.  Worldwide green is the rarest of eye colors and occurs in 1-2 % of the population.

     As a disclaimer, I should say that the numbers used  in eye color worldwide varies greatly depending on the source.  Apparently eye color distribution has not been well studied, but the study of eye color over all has led to some interesting findings.  Brown eye color has been associated with lower pain tolerance, increased sensitivity  to alcohol, lower sensitivity to bright light, lower night vision, and quicker reaction time.  Exploratory research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh  with 58 healthy pregnant women determined that women with blue or green eyes had a higher threshold for pain compared to their brown-eyed counterparts before and after labor.  The research team of the department of psychology at Georgia State University found that blue-eyed subjects were less sensitive to alcohol and therefore consumed significantly more alcohol  than brown-eyed subjects. They concluded that the greater sensitivity to alcohol in brown-eyed people resulted in reduced alcohol  addiction.  The study concluded that blue-eyed people are more likely to abuse alcohol than brown-eyed people.  This lends credibility to the old Western movie notion that you should not give “fire water”  to “red men.”

     Melanin is thought to protect the eye by absorbing light. Therefore brown-eyed people have more melanin and are less sensitive to bright light than blue-eyed people.  On the other hand, blue-eyed people are more sensitive to light and more prone to macular degeneration.  So, as ZZ Top would say, “Get yourself a pair of cheap sunglasses.”  People with blue eyes have a better night vision than those with dark-colored eyes.  From an evolutionary standpoint it  seems to make sense. Since  blue-eyed people evolved in the northern  part of the  world,  where there are long dark winter nights.  It is believed that blue eyes help man navigate their dark domain.  Apparently evolution did not work the same for the Inuit or Sami Laplanders herding reindeer. A study by the University of Louisville found that brown-eyed subjects had better reaction time and motor skills when performing tasks such as hitting a ball or boxing.  It should come as no surprise that the baseball legend Babe Ruth used a Louisville Slugger and was brown-eyed.  The study found blue-eyed subjects were better at tasks such as bowling and golf.  This could explain why golf was developed in Scotland.

     While the study of eye color has produced some unusual findings, it is interesting to consider that all blue-eyed people could trace their ancestry  to a single individual with a mutated gene meaning that all blue-eyed people are related.  Since this is not yet settled science it could well be that blue eyes are the result of visit by a blue-eyed extra terrestrial in our ancient past.  Either way eyes are fascinating and blue eyes, well they are captivating, but it is the vision that matters, and “Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye,” according to H. Jackson Brown. Jr.


Until next time…

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Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was (#4)

Flour Bluff, Human Interest, Local history

     Three weeks ago the Blue Angels blew into the Bluff like a band of barnstormers.  In the days prior to the big event, they roared through the skies leaving jet streams to alert all of us on the ground that they had arrived and that the air show had come to town.  Oh, how those Angels made everyone jump as they appeared out of nowhere, dropped us to our knees, and zipped across the sky in their shiny F/A 18 Hornets.  Then, the day before the event, these rock star pilots swept into Veterans Memorial High School where they wowed the crowd, signed autographs, and left the children knowing that they, too, would one day be Blue Angel pilots, at least in their dreams. But, this story is not really about the Blue Angels.  It’s about a woman named Bernie, born September 2, 1899, in Bowie, Texas, to J.M. and Minnie Lee Harlan, who roared into Flour Bluff in 1950.  To understand this woman known as Bernie Arnold to the Flour Bluff community, it is important to take a peek into her early years.

     Coming of age in the Roaring Twenties seemed to shape Bernie.  Growing up in a town with the name of an Alamo hero who helped carve out the West, Bernie started carving out a life for herself in a male-dominated world.  As a little girl, she watched as automobiles replaced horses and buggies. She saw how the airplane brought the possibility of leaving the earth.  Bernie evolved just like the world – fast and furiously.  She was a self-liberated woman who never let anything hold her down, not even gravity.

Tarrant Street, Bowie, Texas early 1900s
Bowie, Texas, early 1900s

Mason Street, Bowie, Texas 1920s
Bowie, Texas, 1920

    Bernie, like a handful of adventure seekers (mostly male) took up flying in 1927, just 24 years after the famous Kitty Hawk flight.  She married young, the first time to Sam Coffman, an aviator and inventor.  Coffman designed, built, and produced the Coffman Monoplane, a three-passenger cabin plane that sold for a few hundred dollars.  He even tested a glider in 1930, which resulted in a broken leg, a broken ankle, and two broken wrists. The Coffmans were an aviation family, teaching their two sons, Sam and Jim, to fly at very young ages while big Sam continued to make a living giving lessons, building and selling planes, and creating a very successful business.  Bernie later divorced Coffman and married Ross Arnold, her flight instructor.  He was a barnstormer who took part in cross-country flights, so Bernie naturally turned to the life of a flying circus performer, going from town to town to show off her skills in loops and dives.  This life introduced her to the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, and even Howard Hughes when her husband Ross signed on as a pilot for Hughes’s film Hell’s Angels.

     A barnstorming beauty, Bernie was the first female pilot to take off from Meacham Field in Fort Worth, Texas. She spent the succeeding years flying around the country and into the lower Yucatan jungles where she and Ross Arnold frequently flew across the Gulf of Mexico, hauling chicle’ from Yucatan to railroad terminals in Mexico.  The gum business ended after three months of operation in 1927 when the natives became unexpectedly hostile to them. The duo then took their air show to the most remote points of the United States. Recalling her barnstorming adventures, Bernie said, “First we’d fly over a small town and buzz it soundly so that all the people would be attracted.  Then with all the town’s eyes on us, we’d land in a pasture nearby for the crowd to flock around. In order to make enough money to buy gasoline, we’d take up passengers.”  Arnold lost his life in July 1929 while on an endurance flight in Des Moines, sponsored by the Des Moines Register newspaper.  Miraculously, a reporter riding with Arnold escaped serious injury. This event brought Bernie’s barnstorming days to an end.

     This grounded Bernie for a short while, but she continued to have an interest in aviation.  She became one of the few ticket agents in the country and went on to manage an air travel bureau for four pioneering airlines out of Ft. Worth, Texas, just 68 miles from her hometown of Bowie.  With the coming of WWII, Bernie took to the skies again.  Both of her sons became military pilots.  Lt. Sam Coffman was a flying instructor who died in a plane crash in Pecos, Texas, while on a training mission.  Jim Coffman served as an Air Transport Command pilot out of Palm Springs, California. Bernie, with a desire to help the war effort coupled with her love for flying, volunteered for duty with the Air Transport Command, where she served until 1945.  Bernie’s service to her country did not go unnoticed as she received an identification card on December 10, 1945, from Colonel R. J. Pugh that would grant her entry into any Air Force Station.

Left to right: Sam H. Coffman, Bernie Coffman Arnold, Jim J. Coffman

     At the end of the war, Bernie hung up her wings and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, at the invitation of her friend and fellow pilot, O. L. Holden.  She and Holden went into business together, opening a sporting goods store on Water Street in Corpus Christi.  They simply named it A & H Sporting Goods.  “We were open 24 hours a day,” said Bernie.  “We had to be.  We didn’t have a door on the place.”  Soon, she got wind of an effort to build a causeway across the Laguna Madre to Padre Island. Bernie’s spirit of adventure and keen eye for business prompted her to buy land at the corner of Laguna Shores Road and what is now South Padre Island Drive.  The new causeway opened in 1950, and her new sporting goods store sat in the perfect place.  Thousands of visitors to Padre Island stopped in at A & H Sporting Goods, owned and operated by Bernie and her son Jim Coffman.  Bernie’s arrival in Flour Bluff, Texas, would lead her to new heights in business, local politics, and community service. Bernie would become a key player in Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

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The BMX Life of James “J-­MAC” McNeill

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Human Interest, Personal History, Sports

Photo by Cyndi Asch

     James “J-­Mac” McNeill is a military veteran and an avid BMX rider. J-Mac, a 52-year-old Corpus Christi resident, races class and cruiser bikes at his local BMX track, STX BMX Raceway.  J-Mac, who joined the Coast Guard in 1988, served 23 years as a helicopter rescue hoist operator and Falcon jet drop master. He was also an aviation maintenance technician First Class. While he loved his life in the military, he continued to have a passion for riding bicycles.

     When asked about his BMX beginning, J‐Mac put it this way, “I rode BMX before racing existed.” The first race that he ever rode was in a park that had one obstacle – a mud pit! This was just the beginning of his BMX racing career. It wasn’t until the 1980s at the Orange County YMCA racetrack that he started racing real BMX.

     J­‐Mac said that he liked BMX when he first started riding because it was not a team sport. It was a sport that depended solely upon the rider. In BMX, the success of the rider depends upon how hard the individual pushes himself. In the more than 30 years of riding BMX, J­‐Mac has had many successes.  According to J-Mac, his biggest achievement thus far is reaching two goals in one season. He ended the 2016 season at number 2 in District and State on his cruiser bike. His current goal for this year is to make Expert on his 20­‐inch class bike. J­‐Mac is currently sponsored by The Valor Club, an organization dedicated to military veterans and active duty.

Photo by Cyndi Asch

     When asked what advice he would give to the younger generation racers and newcomers to the sport, J-Mac said, “Ride more.  Ride the track until you can’t ride anymore, and ride all over town when you can. If I could ride as much as I want to, I would be so much better. Ride like crazy!”

     This response clearly shows his passion for the sport. I know firsthand that this is truly how he feels because I am a rider at his local track.  J-Mac suggested one day at practice that everyone do ten laps without stopping. It was tough, but we learned that it was doable.  J-Mac is a great role model because he not only motivates other racers to set lofty goals and push harder to achieve them, he shows them how it’s done.

Photo by Cyndi Asch
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Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was

Flour Bluff, History, Human Interest, Local history, Personal History
Flour Bluff School, 1939

     In the past few weeks, I have been inundated with all kinds of stories about Flour Bluff and Flour Bluff Schools.  One of my favorites came from Don Crofton, Flour Bluff resident since 1946. His story is attached to the wooden building just to the right of the main school building in the picture above.  It was a pier-and-beam building that was used as the cafeteria.  As Don tells it, many of the children who attended the school sometimes forgot their lunches, or the family had nothing to send for them.  To fix that problem, the lady who ran the cafeteria, Mrs. Dody, always had a pot of beans ready to serve anyone who had no lunch.  This filling meal became known as “Dody’s Beans.”  She had a free lunch program going even then to take care of the children she served.

Flour Bluff School, 1948

     Crofton also told me that he remembered a “lighthouse-type” structure at the top of the high school building. He said it was lighted by the sun but did not actually send out a beam of light. This really peaked my interest, so I started asking what others recalled.

     Greg Smith, lifetime resident of Flour Bluff, local historian, and current District 4 councilman, told me that he remembers a story about the shape of the building being made to resemble a plane, which would make the “lighthouse” the “cockpit.” Though he admits the story makes good sense considering how much influence NAS Corpus Christi had in Flour Bluff in the forties, but he could not validate the story as the absolute truth.

     Mike Johnson, a member of one of the original families of Flour Bluff said, “There was a dome above the front entrance and offices. All I ever saw up there was sweaty athletic uniforms.”

     Crofton added, “Yes, there were a lot of smelly football uniforms!”

Flour Bluff Football Field, 1956


     Another story came to me from John Stanley via Facebook.  Stanley moved to Flour Bluff in 1946 and recalls playing football on the sandy, sticker-covered field near the high school that is pictured.  “I moved to Flour Bluff in 1946. There was a dome on the high school, but I never saw any outside light like a lighthouse. There was a big room up there with various old equipment. When I was in the 6th grade we were taken up there to pick a football helmet. Those helmets were not like anything I have ever seen. They probably came from Navy Surplus, having large, hinged ear flaps. We wore those for the junior high games and played on the field which was located just north of the high school. One end of the field was full of grass burs. We played bare footed, with blue jeans and the helmet…no shirts. Most competitive teams were a little better dressed. On one occasion, the other team complained that our bare bones were injuring their players. We put on tee shirts and continued the game.”

     Joyce Dilley Pfannenstein spoke well of the education she received at Flour Bluff Schools under the leadership of Superintendent E. J. Wranosky.   “I was fortunate to have attended Flour Bluff all 12 years of school. I had the experience in my career of teaching in a parochial school, and I can say that we learned more values and how to treat others as well as the academics under Mr. Wranosky’s leadership. My class’s senior trip was the first time I had ever been outside Texas. I will always appreciate the education and opportunities that school provided. That was way before air-conditioned classrooms. We thought we were fortunate to have electric fans!”

     If you have a story to tell about the history of Flour Bluff, please send it to  My goal is to gather the stories and share them so that they don’t get lost over time.  Together we should be able to piece together the history of Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

Note:  All add-ons and corrections to existing stories are welcomed and encouraged.  We want to be as accurate as possible.

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The Ultimate Pillar of Success: Be an Existential DJ

Arts, Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

       Imagine the sheer astonishment of Leonardo Da Vinci if he were suddenly alive and flying in a 747 at 35,000 feet above the ground. Can you see his mind-body – all his senses – become arrested in a state of complete Nirvana? Can you see him gasping at the recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that one of his wildest luminary visions is now a reality. The nature of humanity, however, suggests that the sublime bliss of this experience is likely to dissipate by more than half by the time he sets foot on his return flight. The emotional return on the experience will continue to diminish with each passing flight until one day he will get on the airplane, shut his window, shut his eyes, and hope for a new dream to entertain him during the hours that follow.

         What happened to his awe? What happened to the ecstasy? This diminished return on experience is known as, hedonic adaptation (def. the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative life events or changes). It so happens that being awestruck is the key to being our best selves, the key to our inspiration, and the key to liberating our inner genius. When in a state of utter surprise, we are attentive, we learn more, we think and perform better. These behaviors define what it means to be in an ecstatic state of mind (aka – a “flow state” or “the zone”). Unfortunately, the more exposed we become to the goings-on of the world around us, the less surprised or compelled we are by anything that happens, and the less affected we are by the sheer magnificence that engulfs being a living, breathing human being.

          So how do we transcend the been-theres and done-thats of our adult minds – the banality of our everyday lives? Can we reverse-engineer the experiences that allow us to use our minds in the most optimal way and tap into our highest potential? Legendary observationist, Charles Darwin, said: “Attention, if sudden and close, graduates to surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.”

Charles Darwin resting against pillar covered with vines.

           But how many of us today have the attention span of Charles Darwin? And how, in a world where the patience to pay attention to any one thing is so rapidly in decline, can we mindfully slow down and focus for long enough to become interested? Might this not explain why children seem less and less likely to sit through a full-length movie, but prefer instead to watch YouTube?


       We know that our minds and moods are dictated by neurochemistry. After years of examination, science seems to have become fairly accurate in identifying scenarios that trigger the chemicals which cause us to feel, think, and act in the various ways that we do. So, if scientists can predict which chemical will be released during a given situation, then we should be able to – using a variety of methods – author our own neurochemical Nirvana. Timothy Leery obviously believed so. And his “trippy” method, though highly controversial and ultimately unsuccessful, is still very much in use today. MDMA, for instance, is being prescribed to PTSD and OCD patients on a regular basis, and in many of these cases is being reported to have, in one afternoon, the same effect of 10 years of psychotherapy. (And yes, I did just use 3 acronyms in one sentence.) Using drugs as tools or loopholes to alter our state of consciousness in search of ecstasy is no doubt a controversial topic. But perhaps, through a delicate and mindful combination of psychology, technology, and pharmacology, the future will allow us to engineer our own paradise, offering us the proverbial “red pill”, a super-drug that has managed to dispense the bathwater and reprieve only the baby.

      Pharmaceuticals, however, are nowhere near our only hope. Neurochemicals, after all, are stimulated naturally and require no drug whatsoever if the human in question is disciplined enough to seek the proper experience and dedicate himself to the time and patience necessary to become submerged in said experience. For some, such ecstasy may be rendered through a specific artistic endeavor, or by spanning time in some natural or designed heterotopia; outer vastness reflects inner vastness, after all. Others might meet their hedonistic needs through meditation or Yoga, or maybe through an extreme sport where the risk of danger or injury is present. Personally, I haven’t found a high quite so exhilarating as that of leaping from the top of a tall cliff into a deep, glassy body of water. Though it is a very short rush, facing the fear of what I perceive in the moment (accurately or not) as falling to my death leaves me feeling completely alive.


       No matter the method, bliss and sublime well-being are consciously achievable and are not limited to fleeting moments which lie outside of our control. The final frontier has been said to be outer space, but I would contend that perhaps there is a final-final frontier, one which consists of our own inner space. You don’t need to be a “flow-junky” or a philosophical hedonist to aspire to have the key to your own happiness and your own gift of genius. As Brain Games host, Jason Silva, puts it, “Ask yourself: What makes me feel alive? What gives me the goosebumps? What makes me well up?” When you have the answer to these questions, make note of the surroundings – both those which lie without as well as those which lie within. Nail down the formula, and then, like a DJ with all the tools at your fingertips, tweak and tailor each component. Mix, match, and harmonize your own Nirvana.

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A Valentine Trilogy

Front Page, Human Interest


St. Valentine

     Valentine’s Day is well established in the mind of the western world, owing of course to the Valentine’s Day tradition. How it came about is not so clear.  One popular legend is that in the third century AD, a priest named Valentine defied the orders of Emperor Claudius and secretly married couples so that the husband would not have to go to war.  In yet another legend, Valentine refused to sacrifice to pagan gods and was imprisoned for this. While in prison, Valentine’s prayers healed the jailer’s daughter who was suffering from blindness.  On the day of his execution, he left her a note that was signed, “Your Valentine.”

     While there are many legends, it is not clear where the notion of giving Valentine’s Day cards came from. It is abundantly clear that on Valentine’s Day thoughts turn to romance and love.  What follows are some of my thoughts.

Ramblings of the Heart

Sometimes it’s music ringing in the ear

Sometimes the music turns to laughter

Sometimes it’s visions when no one is here

Sometimes the visions do not matter

I’ts like a symphony no one has heard before

It’s like a gallery without paintings

It’s like a dream leaving footprints on the floor

It’s like a heart that’s near to fainting

Sometimes it stings and makes a body numb

Sometimes the numbness is forgiving

Sometimes in silence it leaves you deaf and dumb

Sometimes it makes you glad you’re living

It’s like a circle that keeps going ‘round

It’s like a dream without an ending

It’s like it’s lost then somehow it’s found

It’s like a heart in need of mending

Sometimes it’s crazy ramblings of the heart

Sometimes it stirs the inner feelings

Sometimes it whispers, “We’ll never part”

Sometimes it’s love that leaves you reeling

Too Many Darts

When dreams fail to conjure the words

I sit in silence, but my thoughts are of you

My pen doesn’t write – my paper lays empty

I struggle with words too terse and too few

Images are formed but are lost in an instant

Scattered like dust in turbulent wind

Try as I might I cannot recapture

The moment that’s lost and won’t come again

Fragments and phrases like dirges dance

Scrawled on paper are too many starts

Conclusions are skipped like the fluttering heartbeat

Cupid I think shoots too many darts

Wrestling with words and uncertain meanings

Eventually the rhythm begins to flow

Too long it took – too near the ending

All that’s left is “I love you” you know

Related image


Words alone seem useless

Like the child that only stutters

They can’t describe the feeling

Of the heart that flits and flutters

In the presence of your favor

Or the passing of a kiss

Moments strung like pearls

Leading to a certain bliss

It’s the happy circumstance

That spreads the rainbow on the heart

In one majestic moment

Without end and without start

It’s the twinkle of a star

On the surface of the eye

Fragments forged I fancy

That binds you and I

Salvatore Postiglione, Dante e Beatrice, 1906


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“The Napoleon of the West”: A Political Cat with 9 Lives

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, Human Interest, International Issues, Local history

     Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna served 11 terms (6 official and 5 unofficial) as president of Mexico between the years of 1833-1855. For his many efforts, the cunning and self-proclaimed, “Napoleon of the West”, proved to be as charming as he was inept, cycling in and out of favor (and exile) with the Mexican people throughout his career in Mexican politics.

The War for Mexican Independence: 1821

     During the Mexican War for Independence, a young Santa Anna fought in the Spanish Royalist Army where he learned the merciless atrocities of war during battles such as that which occurred in Medina, Texas in 1813, where an estimated 1300 rebels were slaughtered and executed in what is known to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. During the final year of the Mexican Revolution (1821), Santa Anna saw the tides turning in favor of the rebels and he opted to switch sides to support an independent Mexico. Such antics, when coupled with his highly touted charming demeanor, won him influence among citizens and politicians in Mexico City. In 1833, Santa Anna was elected president of the young Mexican Republic, marking the beginning of what became a roller-coaster career characterized by intense peaks and valleys.

The Texas Revolution: 1836

     Two years into his presidency, he faced another rebellion in the Anglo colonies, one which was eventually led by Lone Star Legend, Sam Houston, and which culminated in the loss of Texas for Mexico. With intent to quell the rebellion and punish the Texian rebels, Santa Anna marched north with an army of thousands during the dead of winter in 1835, a rare season in Mexican history that saw record low temperatures and 15-16 inches of snow. His infamous victory at the Alamo might actually be viewed as a loss had the Mexican Army not killed the entirety of some 200 Texans who gave their lives holding the mission. For his efforts over the 13-day battle, Santa Anna lost 3 times the number of troops he defeated in the Alamo before splitting his army in a blundering effort to surround Sam Houston and 900 more rebels who were on the march near San Jacinto. At the most inopportune of times, the Napoleon of the West decided to take a siesta in an open field near a small lake, and opted not to post guards, a move that set the stage for his first big fall and his own Waterloo. Under surprise attack, Mexico lost the war in 18 minutes to the Texans at San Jacinto. In the heat of the strike, Santa Anna fled the scene on horseback and was found the following morning hiding in a thicket of brush. After his capture, the Mexican president attempted to conceal his identity after having swapped his general’s uniform for that of a common soldier. Once identified, he famously traded Texas to Sam Houston in exchange for his own life, triggering the first of many falls from favor within the public eye of Mexico. In proper fashion, Austin, Texas, was originally named Waterloo as a poke at Santa Anna’s self-proclaimed Napoleonic likeness.

The Pastry Wars: 1838

     In 1838, Santa Anna seized an opportunity for redemption while fending off a French invasion of Mexico. He once again led Mexican troops in what became another major Mexican military loss, but negotiations between France and the Mexican government eventually settled the dispute and brought end to the invasion. Though he had notched his belt with another difficult loss on the battlefield, Santa Anna was met with renewed support from the Mexican people for his will and ability to quickly rally troops and come to the defense of the country. For his troubles during the conflict, Santa Anna managed to lose his leg to cannon fire, an incident for which he chose to hold a formal burial with full military honors for his sacrificed limb. He famously donned a wooden prosthetic after the leg was successfully amputated.

The Mexican-American War: 1846-1848

     During the early 1840’s, Santa Anna once again lost the support of his people and had been exiled to Cuba around the same time Manifest Destiny had begun to cause friction between America and Mexico. By 1846, the U.S. declared war on Mexico after 11 American soldiers were killed by the Mexican Army along the Rio Grande. The war itself was one of high political controversy on the part of the United States, but once again, Santa Anna would get his chance to revive a career destined not to die. He booked passage on a boat from Cuba to Mexico, a voyage which was intercepted by the U.S. Military. Upon inspection, Santa Anna assured the U.S. government that he would go to Mexico and negotiate peace agreements to bring the war to end. Though his cunning nature preceded him, the Americans took the bait and Santa Anna returned to Mexico only to be given full command of 20,000 troops with the hope that he might be able to prevent the loss of the northern half of the Mexican national territory to the Americans. No such defense was in order, however. Santa Anna’s army was defeated at Cerro Gordo, a battle which ended somewhat satirically when the Mexican general’s chariot was raided by the 4th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In yet another effort to flee from capture, Santa Anna jumped on his horse and rode away. In his frantic hurry, however, he managed to leave behind his peg-leg, which was confiscated by the Americans and became a prized war trophy for the American victory. The leg, to this day, remains on display at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.

The Gadsden Purchase: 1853

     After losing the northern half of its nation, Mexico once again retracted its support for their on-again-off-again leader. He was again sent into exile – this time to Jamaica – and as had been seen before would again return and become the president of Mexico. In 1853, a resurgence of conservative efforts brought Santa Anna back into power. Upon his arrival back into office, he found that the government was in dire need of cash if it hoped to maintain a military. After much negotiation and in the interest of raising federal funds, Santa Anna accepted a $10 million dollar offer from the U.S. in exchange for a nearly 30,000 square mile tract of land which served as the final puzzle piece in completing the expansion of the American southwest.

From Staten Island to Chewing Gum: 1855

     In 1855, after falling from grace in the Mexican public for his last time, Santa Anna was exiled to Staten Island where, in a roundabout way, he became acquainted with an inventor by the name of Thomas Adams. At the time, Santa Anna had been importing a chewy, rubbery substance harvested from Mexican sapodilla trees. Adams was intrigued and hoped to use the substance in order to find a way to produce a rubber substitute. Santa Anna, still holding onto dreams of a return to power, saw an opportunity to finance his return to Mexico. The project, however, failed after a $30,000 effort. Adams did, somewhat ironically, manage to find a way to add a combination of flavor and sweeteners to the plant, which led him to produce what he referred to as, “rubber chewing gum.” Adams went on to brand a chewing gum company that would become the largest in the country, later eclipsed only by Wrigley’s and Chiclets. Santa Anna, though he would eventually return to Mexico City, never reclaimed his power in politics, and lived to be 82 years old before dying of natural causes.

        The life and career of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is nothing shy of a story worth telling, but moreover, might be better used as a didactic tale serving to warn citizens of the potential folly which can result from pouring public trust, support, and votes into leaders who simply look and speak in manners that are attractive.

Related article:  “Sand, Smugglers, and Santa Anna Helped Name Flour Bluff”

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Santa Is Not the Only One Watching

Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial


     It’s that time of year again when we resolve to make changes in our lives.  Many of us will vow to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, quit drinking, spend less and save more, eat healthier, get organized, give more, spend more time with family and friends, or do something else that will somehow make us feel better about ourselves.  According to all the research, most of our resolutions will die before the month of January runs out.  Maybe this happens because we think our failures only affect us. Maybe we need to shift the reason for change to those who love us and look to us as examples.

     Recently at a community event, I had the opportunity to read some letters to Santa before they were shipped off to the North Pole.  Most of them went something like this:

Dear Santa,

     What I want for Christmas is accessories for my doll.  And I’ve been meaning to get more books and some color pencils.  That is all I want.  I know I’ve been good, so I hope I could get the stuff on my list.  I know you are watching, and I might have been a little bad, but I hope that’s okay.  I can’t wait for you to get here.

     The one that got my attention and prompted me to write this piece is the following:

Dear Santa,

     I hope you had a great year.  I want to ask you for a few things that I would like.  It’s not for anything physical that you can touch.  I would like for everyone in my family to get along.  No more fighting or arguing.  I would like for everyone to be happy.  I know I’m asking a lot, but please try.

     Children know that Santa is watching, but do the adults in their lives understand that the children are watching?  Do they think about the seeds they are planting?  Do the parents of the author of this letter realize what their child is learning?  Remember the scene from Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story when the main character Ralphie drops the f-bomb while helping his dad change a tire?

Ralphie: Ohhhh, fuuudge!

Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Only I didn’t say “fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!

Mr. Parker: [stunned] What did you say?

Ralphie: Uh, um…

Mr. Parker: That’s… what I thought you said. Get in the car. Go on!

Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] It was all over – I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child’s play compared to what surely awaited me.

     The dad immediately reports the incident to Ralphie’s mom who is aghast at her son’s behavior.  Then, she does what every good mom does, she launches an investigation.

Mother: All right. Now, are you ready to tell me where you heard that word?

Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master. But, I chickened out and said the first name that came to mind.

Ralphie: Schwartz!

     This scene always makes me chuckle.  Listening to Schwartz’s mom scream over the phone when he is fingered as the “bad example” by Ralphie’s mom is strangely funny.  The whole thing reminds me of my little brother’s early mastery of profanity.  Some of his first words were curse words, and I can still recall my parents trying to convince other people that he was saying something else and that it just sounded like the word they thought they heard.

My brother

     My brother went on to mimic my dad in other ways.  He became a drinker, just like the old man.  At first, it was just what he did to have a little fun.  Then, it was only something he did on the weekends.  Finally, it became the reason he got up each morning.  He preferred the company of other drinkers over those who suggested he call it a night, proof that misery indeed loves company. We were shocked when we received the call about the wreck that took him from us way too soon – but we weren’t surprised.  The seed of good-time-Charlie drinking had grown into the invasive plant of alcoholism, and it choked the life right out of him. Of course, he – like Ralphie – bears the brunt of the blame. After all, he knew what drinking could do to him.  And, parents certainly can’t be held responsible for their child’s behavior forever. Excessive drinking, like so many vices, is a selfish act, one that ruins all it touches.  Sadly, the drinker rarely sees how it affects everyone else until it’s too late.

      Sometimes we simply plant the wrong seeds in very impressionable minds. Left unchecked, these seeds will grow into something we can’t stand to watch or that is extremely difficult to uproot. Instead of focusing on how our resolutions can help us,  maybe we should resolve to  do something that blesses the lives of those around us.  By choosing to get along, children will experience joy instead of heartache.  By opting to quit drinking, the fears of family and friends who truly love and care about the drinker will be assuaged.  By deciding to live healthier lives, we can live longer and be more of an asset to those who need us.   When we choose to do that which blesses another’s life, the resolution takes on a purpose that is larger than the smallness of helping ourselves.  Have a happy new year, but don’t forget who’s watching.

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Christmas in Flour Bluff

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest

     The Flour Bluff Business Association held its annual Community Christmas event at Funtrackers on December 9, 2016.  Santa and Mrs. Claus made a special appearance arriving by fire truck, courtesy of the Flour Bluff Fire Department.  Santa gave out hundreds of gifts to the little children while his elves assisted.  Local businesses, HEB, Walmart, the Fleet, and individuals gave toys or made donations for the purchase of toys. The Ethel Eyerly angels served cookies and punch.  The FBISD Intermediate choir entertained the crowd with Christmas carols, and the Eisenhauer School of Twirling sparkled like the Christmas lights as they performed their routines.  The FBHS National Honor Society provided games, arts and crafts, and opportunities to write last-minute letters to Santa.  An old-fashioned cakewalk allowed attendees of all ages to win a scrumptious cake or cupcake to take home.  There was even a sing-along where children and adults came together to sing favorite carols and usher in the Christmas season.  Not a single child left empty-handed.

     The Flour Bluff businesses were so generous that there were enough gifts for Santa to give out along the way as he traveled throughout Flour Bluff, Padre Island, and NAS on a float provided by the Flour Bluff Fire Department, a tradition since 1965.  And when the call came in that Driscoll Children’s Hospital was short of gifts, there were even enough to make up for what was needed.  Yes, the community of Flour Bluff knows how to celebrate Christmas and spread joy through giving.  As the year ends, let’s remember some of the fun through a few pictures taken along the way.



Picture by Russell Warren

It was a merry Christmas for all!  Have a happy new year!




Note:  Unless otherwise stated, all photographs for this piece are the work of Katy Beseda of Seven Twelve Photography.

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