Texas book review: Indianola, The Mother of Western Texas

I knew two things about Indianola. I found it on the map when I lived in Victoria and thought it sounded cool. And Charlie Robison had a song about it that I liked pretty well.

What I don’t know is how a book about Indianola popped up on my computer screen. I don’t even remember what I was searching … eBay, Amazon, Google, whatever. But when I did stumble across it, the title was all it took: “Indianola: The Mother of Western Texas.”

For $10 on eBay, it was on the way.

It is not my policy to buy mystery 1977 history texts without checking out several pages first to see if the author can actually string words together in a pleasant fashion. But I took a chance.

As it turns out, it wasn’t all that bad.

It’s astonishing to think that a German prince (Carl zu Solms-Braunfels) could pick out a spot on the Texas coast, have three boatloads of German immigrants show up in December 1844 to an empty beach and within three decades there is a thriving port to rival Galveston, known across the globe and boasting every type of business one could want.

Then in 1875 an enormous hurricane nearly obliterated it. In 1886, another came to finish the job. And Indianola was gone.

Our author, Brownson Malsch (who wrote two other books, both about Captain Manuel T. "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas of the Texas Rangers) does an excellent job at the beginning of the book, detailing the German genesis of Indianola (then Indian Point) and finishes strong with the outrageous devastation of the 1875 Hurricane.

In between it certainly drags in some points. You can tell where he found a great bit of source material and where he is piecing together a chapter with financial records. Worst is the jockeying over various railroads and would-be railroads. I just couldn’t keep track, so to speak, of the SA&MG, the GWT&P, the ISA&EP … it got tiresome after a bit.

And that title? Indianola was 'mother' of western Texas partly because she was the port through which many immigrants arrived, but mainly because the supplies that kept those settlers going — and the military personnel stationed in western Texas — came through Indianola.

In a bit of literary cruelty, Malsch saves the best descriptions of Indianola at the height of its power for the chapter immediately preceding the chapter on the 1875 hurricane. There are saloons and seamstresses and surgeons and custom tailors. A few pages later, he is telling us how these buildings were swept wholesale into the sea.

After detailing the 1875 hurricane, Malsch loses steam. The final eleven years before the next great hurricane is covered flaccidly in the final chapter, much of it dealing, again, with railroads. The postscript is a weak look at Galveston’s hubris in ignoring the lessons of Indianola. It didn’t work out well for them.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10.

Author’s language skills: 5 out of 10.

What I learned that will most likely stick with me: German immigration, coastal geography, how goddamn fast a town can rise and fall

Talking about guns — again — and American values

The Sandy Hook massacre was one of the worst things to happen in my life. What it lacks now in numbers, it makes up for in horror.

And I felt it deep in my bones when I read the comment last month (after some other mass shooting, does it matter which?) from some tragic realist: "If Newtown didn't change anything, how can we expect it to change now?"

I know that the beginnings of gun control won't prevent the next shooting. The guns are already in the hands of the next murderer. And the one after that and the dozens after that. And I know there are some on the anti-gun side who are too far to the left of reality — with the Pollyanna hope that some magic gun control bill will bring an end to this horror. And that's unfortunate.

But the pro-gun response is just plain sorry. 

First step is to call cries for gun control "politicizing" the event, even as renegades from the far right spread lies: "Sandy Hook was a hoax!" "The Sutherland Springs shooter was on the DNC payroll!"

The next step is to argue semantics and false equivalencies online — "It's not an assault rifle!" "Cars kill people, too!" — as if you didn't know exactly what the fuck we mean.

Then come the fake hysterics designed to stir the stupid: "The left wants to take away your guns!" "The media is attacking the Second Amendment!"

Then we blame mental illness. But we refuse to do anything about that. Because it's hard.

Ultimately comes the most basic response: "There's nothing we can do."

And that's the kicker. It's about the most un-American thing you can say.

You remember that Facebook post that went around early this fall? The one about the heroic working-class fellow who took his bass boat into the post-Hurricane Harvey waters and went around saving people while the liberals sat at home wringing their hands? The guy with the guns and the NRA sticker on his big truck and is supposed to be the answer to the left's preaching about decency and values?

Yeah, that guy reads about men with guns murdering his fellow Americans in cold blood and says "fuck it, there's nothing we can do."

Is that harsh? Don't like it? Then do something. If you believe in responsible gun ownership, then support legislation that will hold people accountable to your values.

Integrity, right? There's been so little of that, it's hard not to give up on that idea, too.

If Newtown didn't change anything, how can we expect it to change now?

There's something I can do.

I can hope that my friends and family aren't the next victims. 

I can write. And I can vote.

There is no light at the end of my tunnel, train or otherwise. It's hard to see now that my voice will be heard or that my vote will help.

But Americans don't quit.

2002-2017: Woodrow, who didn't like you, is in cat heaven. Maybe.

Woodrow the cat died Monday after stubbornly refusing to do so during a long illness. At the end he drank a lot and often, staggered as he prowled the garage, pissed indiscriminately and complained loudly and often about the numerous things that upset him.

“That’s the way I want to go,” said owner Dave Thomas.

Woodrow was an asshole. Most of the time. He did not care for strangers. He didn’t care much about friends. He liked to pass his time looking sullen, but every once in awhile would be social. A little. For a short time.

“If you’re feeling uncomfortable about making that ‘pets resemble their owners joke’ about my dead cat, consider it made,” said Thomas.

Woodrow was born a poor feral kitty in the spring of 2002. An American-Statesman employee found him and emailed a picture to Thomas. The picture showed a cute, bright-eyed, black-and-white kitten gazing adoringly at the camera.

“Yeah, I bet the next photo is of him biting the shit out of your hand,” Thomas replied.

The coworker sent Thomas the next photo, showing the furball wrapped around her hand with his teeth sunk deep into a finger.

“I’ll take him,” Thomas said.

Thomas was hunting for a rental house at the time and while thinking about what to name that cat, he saw a bus stop sign that mentioned Woodrow Avenue. The cat was technically named after a bus stop, but it was clearly “Lonesome Dove” that gave the name resonance with Thomas.

After staying at the apartment just long enough to bite a gazillion tiny holes in the bottom of all the vertical blinds and cost Thomas his deposit, Woodrow moved into the rental house on Brentwood (just a block down from Woodrow Ave.) with Thomas, newly-engaged Shannon Williams and her elderly dog Annie.

Being a cat and having no clue about karma, Woodrow ruthlessly terrorized toothless Annie, relying heavily on a Foreman-esque punch (technically, it WAS a bitch slap) that could … “WHAP!” … be heard across the house.

“You’ve seen those old Tom and Jerry cartoons where the cat goes down to hell?” Thomas said. “That’s where Woodrow was clearly headed. Kitty Hell. He was a total jerk.”

The old house had a window-unit air conditioner and Woodrow soon learned that it would make a particular sound before the coolant kicked on. During the summer, he’d run up to the unit after he heard that noise and stick his head up there and bogart all the cold air.

He played tough, but all it took was a junkie burglar or a hyperactive little girl to reveal him for the coward that he was. After each episode, he hid under the bed in the spare bedroom for days.

After the family moved to their own house in Far South Austin, Annie passed on and Woodrow gained a new companion when the family inherited Meow Cows — who was older and having none of Woodrow’s shit. Ever. Apparently immortal, Meow Cows had already seen it all.

Woodrow inhabited a succession of rooms, getting kicked out of each by a new child, whom he learned quickly and terribly that he was not to fuck with either.

These were dark days for Woodrow. Though strangers came less often, extended family came more often. The kids kept multiplying. That other old cat was a real bitch.

Then came the little girl. And Woodrow softened. He had learned his lesson. And so she didn’t learn the lesson of tiny sharp teeth like her brothers had.

She followed him around. She talked to him. She put hats on him. And he stoically endured it. He wouldn’t have admitted it, but he probably liked the attention. Just a little. Even if he didn’t, his look of resigned disgust was lost on the wee child.

And each time the little girl accidentally smacked him on the head in the course of pretending a plastic saucer was a fancy hat — and he patiently waited it out — a sin was absolved.

Karma came calling about a year-and-a-half ago when a new puppy named Lucy joined the family.

By this time, Woodrow was living out his last days in the garage. He had already had a mini-stroke and was weak in his hindquarters. But that didn’t stop him from coming inside every time he got the chance to drink from the toilet, which apparently had an appeal that his water bowl could not match.

Lucy was the unknowing agent of Annie. It took her little time to discover the joy of herding Woodrow around the house, the old cat too weak to jump to safety. And yet, every time Lucy stuck her cold nose where his balls would have been, Woodrow’s black soul came away a little lighter. A debt was being repaid, one awkward snuffle at a time.

When the end came, Woodrow was rail-thin and in pain. Thomas paid for his passage.

Woodrow died a little after 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 2.

He leaves behind Lucy, who might miss him, and Meow Cows, who, unmoved, has seen the last gasp of countless souls as she has journeyed through the ages.

He leaves behind a 7-year-old boy who might not notice he is gone, and Shannon, who didn’t dislike him enough to want to see him in pain.

He leaves behind a 5-year-old girl who doesn’t quite understand, and a 10-year-old boy who is taking this hard.

And he leaves behind Thomas, who held him on his lap in the old recliner one last time. Just a cup of coffee and SportsCenter short of the good old days. The man was relieved when he could tell Woodrow was no longer feeling any pain.

Thomas dug the grave. He told the kids. He went to work.

But he’ll miss that cat.

Just a little.

Heading west on U.S. 290: A private conversation

There you were on that front porch in Stonewall. One of those 22-ounce bottles of Lone Star Ice in your hand. An empty one at your feet. Lunch on the way to Luckenbach never happened and so you just drank away the afternoon on an empty stomach before heading this way while you still could.

You say that like it’s something strange. What I recall was that the mayor of Luckenbach showed up with a pizza. It was divine intervention. Jesus looks after drunks and fools.

And you were doubly protected. But Jesus had nothing to do with it. The mayor of Luckenbach lived there. And that pizza was probably for her.

And twenty-something years later, I’m still grateful. Hey, there’s that Chevron where I bought the Lone Star Ice. What’s that next to it?

“Stonewall Wine” something-or-other ...

Man, this whole place has gone to hell.

You’re the only guy I know who thinks scraping between gettin’ by and gettin’ high is a step up from a little bit of comfort and class.

Well, it was authentic.

You use that word like a velvet rope. Nobody wants in your private history club.

I ain’t talking about motels with new paint jobs and convenience stores with new names. Lookit this road: Fucking wineries and lavender fields, one after another. What the hell was wrong with peaches and beer joints?

Like you ever bought a peach.

Somebody had to keep the beer joints open. Speaking of … we’re early. Let’s turn here.

You’re not going to stop are you?

I don’t think they’ll sell me a drink at 8:45 a.m.

I don’t think you’d turn one down. All you have to do is think about poli…

Stop it. Not today.


Damn it, here we are. Here where everybody’s somebody.

And that’s why you don’t come here anymore? You used to be a little more somebody than the next feller. Now you ain’t.

Yeah, well … what the fuck is that?

Looks like a new outhouse.

Outhouse, hell, that’s a new building. I guess the old outhouse was too rustic for the lavender-and-winery crowd.

And yet, I don’t think Luckenbach is ruined.

Hell, I remember when I first saw an Internet address scrawled on the outhouse wall back in the late ‘90s. Funny how we had no idea that instant global communication and easy access to the wisdom of the ages would somehow fuck everything up.

That’s the only wise thing you’ve said today.

Screw you.

Seriously, there’s no real need for you to tilt at timepieces here. Sure, you’ve got a memory for every twist of road out here, but a little progress ain’t going to erase them.

No, that’s alcohol’s job.

So … why fight the future?

It’s instinctive. Like Peckinpah. Like Abbey.

Don’t flatter yourself. A pint-sized Peckinpah, perhaps. A Cactus Ed with all of the grizz and none of the guts. If you were as good as you thought ….

Yeah, I got it. Look who’s being mean-spirited now.

Seriously, don’t worry about the wineries. Better than refineries. At least they don’t spoil the land. And who knows, you might grow up some day …

All right, all right. I guess it’s OK. Whatever the hell keeps the bachelorette parties giggly and the land from sprouting up in condos.

There’s the spirit … hey, why are we turning here?

This is the destination. Fredericksburg Trade Days.

Sigh. After this little talk, you’re still gonna go in there looking for pieces of the past?

Got to.

I know.

The Ballad of Joseph Browning

I said I would write a song about a guy I heard about while living in San Angelo in the mid-'90s. So I did. This ain't how his story went. And his name wasn't Joseph Browning. And, hell, I guess without music it's just a poem. Still, here's one for Joesph and his short, but epic life.


Fightin’ and fucking are fine, I guess, for ordinary men

But I got my uncle’s .250 and I’m adjusting for the wind

To tell the truth I’d be with Sue if she wasn’t born again

So it’s me and you, at the zoo, we’re going hunting friend

I shot the monkey, I blew away the bear,

I even shot the zebra, man I just didn’t care

I don’t know why, guess there isn’t much to do,

I’d have shot the sheriff, if he’d a been there too,

Yeah, I shot the hell out of the Pecos Zoo

The sheriff dragged me out of bed, and look, they got you, too

I hear it didn’t take much poking around before he found a clue

We left the shells, what the hell, man that’s something I would do

.250’s a rare gun, but I got one … damn we shoulda taken the .22

I shot the monkey, I blew away the bear,

I even shot the zebra, man I just didn’t care

I don’t know why, guess there isn’t much to do,

I’d have shot the sheriff, if he’d a been there too,

Yeah, I shot the hell out of the Pecos Zoo

Hey, remember we had that wreck — we both got thrown clear?

I guess we got that lucky with the judge, it’s been a helluva year

Christ almighty son, you can’t have a gun and not a sniff of beer

But I don’t drink and you know what I think? Monkey season’s here

I shot the monkey, I blew away the bear,

I even shot the zebra, man I just didn’t care

I don’t know why, guess there isn’t much to do,

I’d have shot the sheriff, if he’d a been there too,

The Judge asked me why’d you do it son, was it trouble at home or bullies at school?

I didn’t know why, shootin’ just makes me high, and I shot the hell out of the Pecos Zoo

The letter series: No. 3 ... Jim Mattis

I wrote this earlier in the week, when Secretary Mattis wasn't quite so involved in foreign affairs. Nonetheless, it's on the way, and even if he doesn't see it, it's as much for you as it is for him.

As always, I'm urging you to get involved. 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Department of Defense

1400 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretary Mattis,

Of all President Trump’s Cabinet members (including a few whose views are antithetical to the posts they hold), you are perhaps the only one to meet President Trump’s boast of “most qualified.” Certainly, it is telling about the administration that its most rational leader is a man whose nickname is “Mad Dog.”

To have a military man whose decades of service to his country are testament to honor and integrity keep watch over our nation from such a high post — well worth the waiver that placed you there — is comforting in these times.

And yet to know that you are a well-read man with a passion for military history is equal parts comforting and confusing. I stumbled across a Facebook list of 30 books that you recommend. Among them “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and The Lies That Led to Vietnam,” “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, “The Lessons of History” and “Diplomacy” by Henry Kissinger.

And even as I am thankful that you are a student of history, I wonder why you hold your silence as President Trump’s practices — particularly his attempted suppression of the media — place us at the beginning of familiar pathways.

I’ll leave the accusations of Russian ties to sort itself out, but what about the administration’s clumsy and destructive efforts (or lack of effort) at diplomacy? Your voice and leadership are sorely needed there.

And how does such a well-read man who prizes knowledge serve such a semi-literate president? As you contemplate the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, are you not troubled that your boss is contemplating the ravings of Alex Jones?

Perhaps your patriotism runs deeper than I am giving you credit for. Perhaps you have taken this role, willingly at the expense of your reputation, so that you can keep President Trump from doing something insane at the most crucial time. A mole of sensibility on a ship of fools. If so, let’s not raise any red flags — let this letter pass without response.

Secretary Mattis, whatever your reasons, I am glad you hold your post. Please continue to provide our nation with the leadership and the educated judgment that it so sorely needs.

Most respectfully,

Dave Thomas

The letter series: No. 2 ... Ted Cruz

If you had told me a year ago, I'd be reaching out to find common ground with Ted Cruz, well, I'd have been doubtful.

But here we are. This entry in my letter series spells out why I think it's up to Republicans to step forward and rein in Donald Trump.

The letter series: One letter a week to the person of my choice. I'm including the address so you can write your own letter. And certainly you are welcome to use any or all of my letter. Copy the whole thing if you wish. Just get involved ...

The Honorable Ted Cruz

404 Russell Senate Office Building

United States Senate

Washington DC 20510

Dear Sen. Cruz,

In July, you refused to back Republican nominee Donald Trump, saying “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.” A few months earlier you called candidate Trump a “serial philanderer” and said of him “this man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies.”

You had it right. But where is your voice today? Or earlier this month when you had dinner at the White House? You have your career to consider, of course. But … family honor, Christian morals, truth, integrity. Those are some serious values to turn your back on. One hardly has to be a Christian to understand the wisdom of Matthew 16:26.

I am an independent voter on new, liberal ground after the political landscape has shifted under me hard to the right. You and I have significant disagreements on the issues. But you are my senator, and I want to believe you have a commitment to the basic values of decency and honesty.

The GOP badly needs a dynamic voice to come forward. I have tried and tried to tell my hardcore Republican friends that to demand that President Trump represent their values is not to abandon their party — it is to save it. They are well within their rights to say “I’m glad we won, I’m glad Hillary lost, but … enough is enough. We need to rein this man in.”

It is not only possible that Republicans speak out as Republicans, it is crucial. Crucial because, during the rest of Trump’s term, at least, only Republican voices will spur Republican change. I think we both understand that in today’s climate, Democratic complaints  — no matter how valid or wise — are only heard as so much noise by Trump supporters.

Sen. Cruz, in the White House we have a man who is indecent. Who is dishonest. Who seeks to operate without public oversight. A man who represents neither my values nor — I hope — yours. Can I count on you to step forward? To speak up? To be the leader you once saw yourself as?

It is never too late to do the right thing.

Most respectfully,

Dave Thomas

The Letter series: No. 1 ... Donald Trump

When I said I would stop being political on Facebook and start writing letters, I was faced right away with the realization that spending 5 minutes on a quick rant was a lot easier than sitting down to write a letter. But, months later, I got the ball rolling. I intend to continue this series for the rest of the year. One letter a week to the person of my choice. I'm including the address so you can write your own letter. And certainly you are welcome to use any or all of my letter. Copy the whole thing if you wish. Just get involved.

To President Trump, I wanted a bipartisan letter that did not attack his objectives, Republican or otherwise. I just wanted to demand honesty. The truth should be the first thing we expect from the president. We are not getting it. Here's a little professional background, in case you want a better read.

If you believe in truth, you should send your own letter demanding it. If you are a Republican, you do not have to sacrifice your identity to demand the president represent your values. In fact, it is crucial that you don't. A strong Republican backlash is what is necessary to make America honest again.

No further delay ...

President Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Your electoral victory in November was unprecedented in placing a man with neither political nor military experience at the helm of the greatest nation on Earth. That victory came with many expectations that the United States of America would soon be governed in an entirely different fashion.

It has indeed. But the most telling change to come out of Washington has not been “running the country like a business” or “draining the swamp,” but the personal behavior of the president.

Mr. President, I am among many Americans appalled by your reckless disregard for the truth. Surely, I am also upset by your attempts to place yourself and your administration beyond the oversight of the American people. And your administration’s failure to uphold even a veneer of diplomacy is among other very troubling issues.

But your failure to tell the truth is the most vicious assault on American values. It is a basic expectation that the President of the United States should be a person of honesty and integrity — and you have displayed neither. The “wiretapping” saga is the most glaring example, but there are countless others.

Mr. President, you cannot lie to the American people. We will not tolerate it.

By all measures, your victory in November allows, even compels, you to pursue Republican goals and values. It even gives you license to pursue the border wall and the immigration ban. But your victory does not hand you the keys to the kingdom. The American people are your boss, not your subjects.

Certainly, Mr. President, you recall the response to your recent address to Congress. You spoke with less bombast, more gravitas. You did not insult and pander, but rather focused on your task ahead and provided details, as well as evidence of planning and preparation. “Presidential,” the media called you. The praise was quick and came from nearly every corner.

Mr. President, the bar is set pretty low. You can still be an honored president. You can still be a great president in the eyes of your supporters. All you have to do is play by the rules and tell the truth. I do believe even you would be shocked by the change in how you are treated by the media.

Mr. President, please stop lying to us.

Most respectfully,

Dave Thomas

The 2016 election: A loser's examination of what just happened

I lost.

It ain’t a new feeling. I wake up in filthy house I can’t keep clean. Wretched carpet and stained furniture I can’t afford to fix or replace. I’ve been losing my mind over the shame that I’ve worked for nearly a quarter-century and have to live like this.

Afford? I’m selling posters on eBay to pay bills. Sometimes grocery bills. Living paycheck-to-paycheck? I lost that some time ago. Autism therapy bills are expensive. I’ve been appealing what Aetna won’t pay. I’ve been losing.

And work? I've realized that if I was as good as I thought I was, I’d have already succeeded. My victories are history, my losses right the fuck now.

But this is worse. I didn’t just lose. Hatred won. Racism won. Misogyny won. This was a victory for people who wear their religion on their sleeve but don’t hold it in their hearts. This was a victory for people who don't care about truth. This was ... it's hard to understand. Every time Donald J. Trump appeared on screen, you could judge him on what he said. On how he said it. But so many, many people decided that was what they wanted.

This was — and I’m not going to sugarcoat it — a victory for people too stupid to understand or care about the difference between real news and fake news sites and Facebook hate groups. People who scream bias while gobbling up sweet-tasting bullshit ladled out for them. I wonder how many people voted for Trump who never watched a debate, never read a story about him, never seriously considered if we should trust a man whose businesses keep failing — who won't release his taxes — to run our country.

I lost. Now I have to look at Rudolph Giuliani sneer about the Clintons’ sex lives while ignoring his own sleazy history and realize a guy like that won. I have to listen to Dan Patrick pursue his policies of misogyny and crazy and realize he won. Mike Pence? A man who has pursued a policy of dark-ages prosecution against homosexuals? He won.

The guy who trolled my Facebook account, suggesting journalists should be lynched? He won. Ted Nugent and his virulent hatred won. Mike Huckabee and his fear-mongering lies won. That redneck who makes racist jokes about Obama? He won. 

Now I have to think about Donald Trump and realize that my next president — he won — is a man who would mock my disabled son. A man who would dishonor my daughter. A man who has disrespected my veteran friends and father — even if they were blind to it.

Education lost. Science lost. Decency lost.

I’m not going to whine about rigged elections. Unlike our next president, I’ve never wavered from Democracy. I’m not going to move to Canada. I’m an American. I’m not going to flee to California. I’m a Texan.

I’m not going to say I hope he fails, God forbid. I'm not as low-class as that gasbag Rush Limbaugh. My expectations are low, my fears are high. But I hope to hell Trump does better than I expect and not as bad as I fear.

I listened to him try to be gracious on TV last night. He started by saying the right things, but he's surrounded himself with the wrong people. I fear that civility will soon be a victim of power. All of you who were so naive as to say you'd vote for someone who says bad things instead of does bad things (as if sexual assault isn't a bad enough thing) — you just wait to see what he'll do when he has what must seem to be unlimited power.

I don't get it. I'm no Democrat, by the way. I'm as independent as the day is long. It's just that the rise of the tea party has made moderate pretty damn liberal. I know there are good Republicans out there. People who believe in conservative policy rather than a hate-based social issue agenda. I hope they rise up — tomorrow isn't soon enough — and say "enough of this shit."

I don’t know if this will be just a bumpy four years or if this is a start of some horrible new era. I don't know how many hateful and uneducated people out there. A lot. Many more than I thought. But there are many, many more who will tolerate those people. Who will look away.

I can't do that. I'm going to fight. I have to.

I'm going to have to be a better man. To protect my oldest son from those who would prey on his gentle nature. To protect my youngest son from those who would throw his future away ("It's too expensive! Jesus made him that way!") To protect my daughter from those who think it's their right to use her as they see fit. 

I'm tired of losing. 

Dave shares 10 things you should know

The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was the worst thing I ever witnessed — I wasn't there, of course, but watching it unfold on 24-hour media and social media was close enough. My perspective on this was as a father, with several children who were elementary-school age, or close. I was affected in a way I could not express. I did not speak to another adult the rest of the day — fortunately my job doesn't require me to, most times.

(Two thoughts: Several years removed from this, there are people who claim that this tragedy was invented to promote gun control. Like a tiny version of Holocaust-denial. These people who promote this idea are world-class scum. And I wonder if enough has been done for the first responders to this tragedy. If they have to pay for therapy — if they even have to be bothered to fill out paperwork — we have failed them terribly.)

Now in the aftermath of another national tragedy — the worst thing ever witnessed for many — I've been silent again. Fact is, I've been mostly too disgusted to speak.

But I know you guys are missing my thoughts on this. Here are 10 things you should know.

1. In the plainest words I have: If you hide behind the shield of the Lord so you can stab with the devil's pitchfork, you are a terrible Christian. Given to strong drink and profane words, I am a terrible Christian, but then I do not post both Bible quotes and hatred on my Facebook page. If you see yourself as a better than me, maybe you should act like it.

2. In fact, if you use the Bible to justify your hatred, then you better live every page of that Bible. If you are going to use the Bible to justify hatred of homosexuals, then when one smacks you upside the head, you better turn the other cheek. If you quote the Bible, but don't go to church, don't follow the 10 Commandments, don't refrain from drunkenness and poor behavior, don't practice forgiveness and humility — then you are not a Christian, you are a hypocrite.

(On the other hand, if you are gentle and compassionate person who lives the word of God to the best of your ability, with concern for your neighbor instead of malice, then I will absolutely leave you to your business, even if I think some of your business is not good for modern society.)

3. If you share or comment positively on racist things on Facebook, then you are acting like a racist. This might not bother you, but it bothers me. Perception is reality for the perceiver.

4. Banning the sale of what common parlance refers to as assault-style weapons (don't annoy me with your spiel on classifications, I will not be distracted) absolutely will not end gun violence in America. A determined man with a dove-hunting shotgun can wreak horrific damage on a crowd of people. But banning the sale of the AR-15 is a good idea, if only to show the world that we are willing to do SOMETHING about gun violence. 

(AR-15s already out there will be available on the black market. And you cannot confiscate the guns already sold, of course. This is America. Anybody who honestly believes that Obama or a Democratic successor is actually going to TAKE your guns is stupid. And playing directly into the hands of people who are interested in playing you for a fool so they can protect their wealth.)

5. Look, I own one shotgun, two rifles and a handgun. I will have more guns, but they will all be passed down from my father. I enjoy having them and enjoy shooting them. (They are stored in a full-scale gun safe, of course.) None of them are semi-automatic, I guess save for the double-barrel shotgun, which will fire twice with two pulls of the trigger. I have fired an AR-15 and it was fun, but I have neither the land nor the money to own one. And I have no reason to own one. Should a hard-working rancher be allowed to blow off some steam or more effectively kill varmints by shooting an AR-15? Absolutely, if he already has one. Should the next home-grown terrorist be allowed to legally buy one tomorrow? No.

6. I do not discount the Call of Testosterone. I still would like to fire an M-60, the stuff of my childhood Rambo dreams. But I'm old enough now to realize that if I ever wanted to do that, I should have joined the military. To many men, having a big truck and a big gun makes them feel like a big man. We all have our delusions of grandeur — always I start these essays thinking they will have more of an impact than costing me a handful of Facebook friends. But honestly, these bros who think that owning a badass-looking gun makes them men are the people I trust the least. Personally, I believe I should have all the guns I want — which is not many. But I have serious doubts about most of you.

7. God, guns and guts DID make America great. But things change. This is no longer the agrarian, patriarchal society of our forefathers. We are a different nation. Now old men misuse God to push their godless agenda. And young bros play with guns with little understanding of their safe and discriminating use. And those with the guts to practice the independent thought that was once deemed essential to the American character are condemned by those with little such character or courage.

8. The most important thing to remember is this is not a black-and-white discussion. The answer is not zero guns or more guns. The answer is not Democrat or Republican. The answer is not Christian or Muslim. It is somewhere in between. That is the nature of America, after all. (If you say anyone different from you is wrong and should be persecuted/deported/executed, I would ask you why you hate America.) There will be no answers to any of our most pressing questions until the left and the right are willing to discuss issues rather than shout sound bites and are willing to make compromises rather than ultimatums.

(Easiest compromise of all: Sure, let the Texas GOP require IDs to vote. But let the Texas Democrats set up a program for citizens to gain easy and cheap access to IDs.)

9. Sadly, the Internet and social media are making us stupider rather than more well-informed. When news stories are only judged by clicks rather than content, then certainly the most bombastic and inane politicians are going to get the most attention. When people are easily and anonymously able to voice their most hateful opinions (comments, Twitter), they are going to do so ever more vociferously. When people are able to easily find other people who validate their own hateful and heretofore socially unacceptable beliefs (Facebook), those beliefs will be amplified. The Internet was supposed to make us smarter. Instead it's a bullhorn for idiocy (says the guy posting this essay on Facebook).

(Just because someone does not understand the mechanics and classification of a firearm does not mean that their argument lacks merit. For the same reason that someone's argument is not negated by their failure to use proper grammar and spelling or their ridiculous punctuation — although when I see someone bashing muslin's and promoting gun's ... well, it doesn't help.)

10. If I have offended you, yet you have read this far, I applaud your tolerance and willingness to examine things you do not agree with. You and I could have a reasonable discussion, I'm thinking. There will be things you are correct about — things I have not looked at in the right way. There might be things I could convince you to change your opinion on. That's the magic of reasonable discussion. However, if you gave up after looking at the picture and reading the first few words, then, yes, I was probably talking about you.