Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Little Nat Patton

Most if not all of my readers from Crockett knew or knew of Nat Patton.  His father, Nat Patton Senior was the U.S. Representative from 1935-1945.  After leaving congress he served as the Houston County Attorney and died in 1957.  His son was forever known as Little Nat.  He was very short in stature which added validity to the title.

My grandfather owned a small grocery store at 1116 E. Houston Avenue, and our house was next door.  Little Nat and his wife Eleanor lived less than a quarter of a mile from the store and one or both of them came in almost every day.  I can't remember when I didn't know Little Nat.  He was the Houston County Attorney the entire time I was growing up in Crockett.

You have all heard people say of someone, "He knows everybody in town."  If Nat didn't know everybody he came closer than anyone else.  He was soft spoken and friendly to all.  I never saw him come in the store that he didn't talk to each customer.  If they were a stranger to him they weren't by the time they left.  I remember walking in one day when there were eight or ten customers.  George Satterwhite was at the counter and Nat spoke to him immediately and shook his hand.  Nat then began circulating through the aisles speaking to everyone else.  George smiled and said, "Watch this!"  He walked down the aisle next to Nat and then approached him from behind.  Nat turned around, shook his hand and said, "George Satterwhite, how are you doing?  Nice to see you.  How is Ann doing?"  George spoke to him and walked back to the counter laughing.  "I could do that all day," he said.

My mother ran the grocery store until I was in junior high, or thereabouts.  Small neighborhood stores were becoming a thing of the past.  She leased it to Max Petty and took another job.  After that I wasn't in the store nearly as much as I'd been in the past, but I still ran into Little Nat on a regular basis.  He would always ask me about my family, school, and whatever else was on his mind.  After I left for college in Nacogdoches my encounters with him were rare.

Teresa and I were married in December of 1974 and moved to Wichita Falls where my mother and stepfather were then living.  We missed living in Crockett, so in November of 1975 we moved back.  I had almost completed my degree in Criminal Justice at Stephen F. Austin State University, so applied for a job at the Crockett State School.  It was a facility for juvenile delinquents and I was hired to work as a Youth Activities Supervisor.  In state speak than means watch'em and don't let anyone get away.  Most of the boys were in a camping program in the national forest, so my only contact was with the ones who got locked up on campus for some infraction.  I worked nights so the ones I did see were asleep  most of the time.  That was fine with me.

There were not Crockett natives on staff at the school, and a great many didn't live in Crockett at all.  Most were recent college graduates of area colleges and still lived in the town where they had attended school.  I was one of the very few on the Y.A.S. staff who knew most of the locals.  It was common for a student in the camping program to take off in the middle of the night, and more often than not they would find them wandering along a dirt road in the forest tired, hungry and scared.  Every now and then one would make their way to a house and steal a vehicle.  When crimes were committed it became necessary for the school officials to work with the city and county law enforcement personnel, and of course, the county attorney, Little Nat Patton.

One morning I had just finished my shift at 8am when one of the new upper level bosses pulled me aside.  He was about to go to the courthouse to ask the county attorney for some help regarding some problem.  He had never met Nat Patton, but there were rumors he was a real character and a mess to deal with.  Someone on the faculty suggested he take me with him to meet with Nat.  I told him I'd love to go.  I hadn't seem Nat in a long while and I knew it would be fun.  The plan was for me to introduce him to Nat, then sit back and keep my mouth shut while he made some kind of pitch for assistance.

He had tried without success the day before to get in touch with Nat, but a secretary had said to stop in the following morning and he could give him a few minutes.  We arrived at the courthouse about 9am and the receptionist said he could talk to us for about fifteen minutes before going to another meeting.  The receptionist knew me and we talked for a couple of minutes.  My boss was all smiles.  He was confident I could help him break the ice with Nat.

About five minutes later Little Nat came out and ushered us into the office.  He didn't know I was coming along.  His first words were, "Little Jimmy!  How are you doing?  Come in and sit down.  How is you mother?  Do they like living in Wichita Falls?  I sure miss seeing all of you at the grocery store.  I remember you running around there when you were just a baby!"

This went on and on.  I smiled and answered him when I got a chance.  My boss was looking at his watch as the allotted fifteen minutes were quickly slipping away.  Little Nat never slowed up.  A couple of times the state school official tried to diplomatically break in and state his case with Nat, but to no avail.  Finally Nat noticed the clock on the wall.  He stood up, shook my hand and said, "Jimmy, it was so nice to see you again.  Come by the office and visit anytime.  Tell the family hello.  I've got to get to a meeting."  He shook hands with my boss once again and said, "Thanks for bringing Jimmy by to see me.  Nice to meet you."  With that he walked out of his office and down the hall.

As we got back in the car my boss was shaking his head in disgust.  To lighten the mood I said, "I sure do thank you for driving me down here so could visit with Little Nat."

He glared at me and said, "I will never take you with me anywhere in this town again!"  And he never did.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Garden of the Month

As long as I can remember there has been a Garden of the Month Club in Crockett.  Unless there is a severe drought which makes water rationing necessary the lawns are lush and green.  Flowerbeds are in full bloom and sidewalks are lined with the most beautiful flowers you can imagine.  Each month in the Spring and Summer season an award is given to the proud owner of the yard judged to be the finest at the time.  An article appears in the Houston County Courier recognizing the lucky recipient along with a photo of the property.  A very nice sign is placed in the yard near the street so everyone passing by will know they are the big cheese, at least for that month.

Not far from my house lived an elderly man named Elwood Allbright.  He was a widower and in failing health.  I would see him around town in his big stationwagon, and be ready to flee if necessary.  His eyesight wasn't good and most felt it was only a matter of time he might whack someone.  He was a very nice man who talked to everyone and was somewhat of a local character.

Elwood was in no shape to take care of his yard, so he hired a local landscaping company to make some changes so he wouldn't have to worry about the upkeep.  At the time this wasn't as common as it is now.  Landscaping in Crockett back in the day was green grass and flowers and not much else.   When the job was finished it was a topic of conversation around town and lots of people drove by to check out the results.  To be fair it did what it was supposed to.  The lawn was covered with gravel instead of grass, which was the point in the first place.  There were some wagon wheels and pieces of driftwood scattered here and there as well as rocks of various sizes.  It was so different by the standards of the time it resulted in a lot of jokes and comments.

To show you what a social life I had and how much there was to do in Crockett, even when I was a freshman in high school almost everyone know who was the current winner of the Garden of the Month.  That was long before Facebook, so what else were we to do.

One evening my friend and neighbor, Steven Satterwhite and I were roaming the streets looking for something to do.  We made our way to town, circled the courthouse square and started back home.  We were walking since we were too young to drive.  As we started down Goliad Avenue we passed the First Methodist Church.  The parsonage was located next door, and there in the middle of a huge flowerbed was the Garden of the Month sign.  We were in awe.  Neither of us had ever been that close to it before.

Stephen and I both were pretty sick and twisted individually, but when we got together our demented thoughts seemed to link up.  Almost instantly we had the same idea; steal the sign and put in the yard of Elwood Allbright!  His landscaped yard was still drawing a crowd so it was up to us to give them something else to talk about.

It was dark and the yard was full of large trees so we weren't concerned about getting caught.  I stood watch while Stephen stepped carefully into the flowerbed and removed the major award.  Each of us grabbed an end and we began our journey of almost a mile to the residence we had elected to host the honor.  We knew there would be some tongues wagging come daylight the next morning.

East Goliad Avenue had a lot of streetlights back then, and it seemed to us like there was more traffic than usual.  Every few yards a car would approach from one direction or the other.  Each time we would toss the sign on the ground and slowly move along.  As soon as the car past by we would run back, retrieve the sign and continue on.  It took us a good forty-five minutes to reach our destination.

We figured we could push the sign into the soft ground and take off quickly, but we hadn't accounted for the yard being covered in rocks.  The sign didn't easily go into the soil, or go into the soil at all.  It was apparent we would break it if not careful.  In Crockett that might be a capital offense.  We finally leaned it against a dead log and piles rocks around the legs.  This was done between running and hiding in the bushes each time a car passed.  After the mission was accomplished we both went home.

I didn't tell anyone about it and neither did Stephen.  A couple of days later there was a picture in the paper of the sign in the yard of Elwood Allbright with a couple of lines about it being the work of some local pranksters.  We did tell a few friends about it, but nobody cared.  I say nobody cared, but the Garden of the Month people were probably upset.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Okay, admit it, in the back of your mind you want to believe.  Every

few years a new grainy video comes out to prove the existence of a Bigfoot once and for all.  I want to see one, along with a ghost and a UFO full of little green men.  If I could step out of my house and see a flying saucer touch down, the door open and all three of these entities invite me to sit down and have a Diet Dr Pepper and a bag of Puffy Cheetos, I’d be the happiest man on the planet.  I’d want to get a good clear shot of them with my digital camera to prove to the skeptics it really happened.

Last month a friend of mine found a link on the internet announcing the First Annual Sasquatch Conference in Cripple Creek.  I was excited!  Surely a group of people who dedicate their lives, or at least a lot of their spare time to the quest would be able to provide some compelling evidence, and hopefully have some cool tee shirts for sale as well.  With high hopes we departed for the high country to be convinced the Sasquatch is a living being and not just a vague image in the mind of someone full of beef jerky and cheap whiskey.

The conference was set to run from 10am until 2pm.  We arrived ten minutes early to find six people there.  We signed in and were invited to camp with the group overnight and look for evidence in the forest.  Since we had to work the next morning we declined.  Twenty minutes later the room was full.  It was then we realized the proper dress code for the event was camouflage outerwear with a Bigfoot tee shirt.  Many of the attendees accessorized their ensemble with knives of various sizes.  It was time for the festivities to begin. 

The first speaker gave a slide presentation along with a few short videos.  He had made several trips to a location along the Front Range where a sighting was reported a couple of years ago.  He pointed out a possible footprint in the snow.  It has never been explained to me why a huge Sasquatch can walk for miles in the snow and leave only one vague footprint.

The presentation was going along as I expected when the speaker stopped on a picture of a group of trees thirty or forty yards away.
He pointed to a shadow in a tree and said, “Here is one of the several that were stalking me.”  Before I could digest that statement he pointed to another shadow and said it was also stalking him.  Nobody in the room seemed to be the least bit surprised.

Later we found out broken trees in the forest, especially small Aspens, are a sure sign of a Sasquatch in the area.  A broken sapling snapped at a height of six to eight feet is usually a dead giveaway.
After a winter of killing other animals and living on a diet of meat, tree bark is a welcome change.  The first speaker, the one being stalked, displayed a picture of a huge tree on the ground and said it was likely done by a Sasquatch looking for rabbits living in the root system.  A Sasquatch with a bulldozer might have taken it down, but it definitely wasn’t done by hand or paws.

There was a picture of a cave in the distance with a lot of trees in front of the entrance.  He pointed out some dark shadows and proclaimed them to be a Sasquatch, or maybe one of the dog men that are seen in the vicinity when there is Sasquatch present.  They are not as tall as a Sasquatch, but hairy with a pointed nose and a tail.
They were created by tribal shaman hundreds of years ago to fight the Sasquatch, but have since joined them.  I’m not making this up.

As he was leaving the area on his final search he was overwhelmed with a feeling of fear.  He became tired and unfocused, and after returning home he sat on his porch and stared into space for long periods of time.  I later learned this is a condition that is telepathically induced by the Sasquatch onto humans.  To the true believers it is known as being sizzled.  My wife is one hundred percent human and she can give me the sizzle effect any time I make a mistake or otherwise upset her, so it isn’t uncommon among our own species.

Having being sizzled, the brave hunter made his way back to his jeep, only to find the Sasquatch had disabled it and removed the rear axle.  It is a shame there wasn’t anyone around to get a picture of that. 

A lady from the area showed us a handful of hair everyone suspected of being from a Sasquatch.  I grew up around horses, and it looked amazingly like horse hair when a tail got caught in a barbed wire fence. 

The last half of the conference was conducted by two men who have a close relationship with a Sasquatch family in a super-secret undisclosed location here in Colorado.  When they sleep in their large outfitters tent the Sasquatch will poke them through the wall during the night.  When they put food out for them in the forest, the next day it is GONE!  Who can dispute that kind of evidence?  What other creature would eat food left out in the woods overnight?

I left the conference having been highly entertained.  Usually I leave Cripple Creek broke and depressed.  I can’t wait until the Second Annual Sasquatch Conference. Hopefully next year a Sasquatch will show up to sign autographs and pose for pictures.