Sunday, February 3, 2013

8 month weight Texas LOL

My journey began May of 2012 at a weight of 390 lbs. In a little more than 8 months, I've lost 133 lbs and I have 67 more to go. I'm 5'8'' and I have a large frame. I thought it was important to share this on my own blog. :)

SW- 390
GW- 190

Monday, December 31, 2012

One Square Mile on PBS fall-2013 (new documentary series)

Excerpt from their website and link above:

  • About One Square Mile: Texas
One Square Mile: Texas (OSMTX) is a documentary television series that portrays Texas culture from the perspective of distinct square miles across the Lone Star state.  As a whole, the series is a microcosm of Texas life and a collective portrait of the state.

The series represents the many faces and facets of Texas from the perspective of the individual while spanning the emotional, demographic and physical landscapes. This is a series about shared challenges and aspirations.  The square miles include urban, suburban and rural communities and neighborhoods from every corner of the state. 

  • Why Document Texas Culture?
Certain aspects of Texas have been well documented.  There is the textbook version of Texas and the historical version of Texas. Current pop culture provides an oversimplified, largely inaccurate and incomplete account of Texas’ past and present, that does not relate to the everyday realities of life in Texas communities. 

As important as it is to preserve the past, it’s just as imperative to document the present.  When a culture is lost, the community that arose because of it loses a sense of identity and purpose.  Texas gained almost half a million people in 2012 and that trend does not look to be ending anytime soon. OSMTX is encouraging audiences to learn about their neighbors and immediate environment while discovering more about the people and places that make up the state.  The series is not about creating a template to define, it’s about creating a template to explore.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Texas Lament"

        A decade and a half had passed since the war for the possession of Texas and its border. The Henry family had traveled the vast breadth of the state to return to Samuel’s family home in Nacogdoches County and sent the eldest son, Thomas, off to West Point to become something greater than a ranger or farmer like his father and grandfather. James, unlike his older brother, decided that staying on the farm would give him the greatest experience and opportunity to buy and sell cattle for the rest of his life. He was just old enough to begin learning how to push a plow with a horse or the trusty old gray mule but he had been helping with the harvest every year. Samuel and Nora had worked hard to restore the farm to its former glory. Some of the fencing had rotted and the wires were twisted but at least the log cabin was built to last generations. A couple of years after Samuel left home, his parents fell ill in their early-mid forties.  In most parts of the country and in Europe, the affliction was known as “white plague” but in the south, it is well known as consumption. They both died within a year and were buried beside one another under a row of tall pine trees at the edge of the farm.

        At present, Samuel Henry remains a Texas Ranger Captain and has a reputation as an unmerciful lawman as well as having a pivotal role in turning the tide against the Mexicans all those years ago. However, he is on the verge of retirement when he’s called upon once more. The year is 1862 and the country is engrossed in the beginnings of war and eleven states have already withdrawn from the United States of America and formed their own republic, the Confederate States of America.  Since the election of Abraham Lincoln two years prior, abolitionists in the North and South have come forward to advocate for slavery to be outlawed. The Rangers had received reports that an underground railroad had been constructed on the Rio Grande to move runaway slaves to Mexico and to their freedom. Samuel left East Texas within a week on a trip that would take many months by one horse alone. While visiting the trading post in Nacogdoches, Nora had heard rumors of a Union blockade to keep food and supplies out of the hands of C.S.A. soldiers. Having shown genuine curiosity and concern as her oldest son is now an officer and having fought at Fort Sumter and Bull Run, she couldn’t imagine her son being without food or medicine and asked some of the traders if they had a way to get supplies to the soldiers. There was indeed a way by blockade runners and smugglers. Nora was more than willing to do her part for the sake of her son and future of her family.

        Late that summer, Samuel arrived near the Mexican border state of Coahuila and assumed command of operations along one-hundred miles of the lower river valley. He reminisced of his days in the war. A stampede of sombrero-topped, long-mustached men riding hard for the well-fortified city of Palo Alto and firing pistols while mounted on their Andalusian stallions. Samuel and his company of rangers patrolled the valley for a few weeks with no sign of any tunnels or smuggling operations. He had received a telegraph from his wife stating that during the Battle at Antietam in Maryland, their son had been killed in action.  It wasn’t until after the war when his remains were recovered and buried on the family plot. The only way Samuel knew how to deal with the loss of his son was to dedicate all of his efforts to finding that reported underground railroad. He met with a fellow ranger to discuss expanding the search lines further south and they both agreed to organize it as soon as possible. Having grown up working his own land, Samuel never understood why slaves were needed to do the work of lazy and greedy men. He believed in the promise of freedom on which the United States was built upon and he realized that the secession and escalating war was due to the existence of the abolitionists.

        One day while tracking down a lead that a tunnel may be nearby, Samuel spotted a covered wagon traveling down a small trail flanked on either side by multitudes of cacti and mesquite shrubs. He and a fellow ranger, his senior, approached the wagon and asked the driver to stop his horses. The driver saw their badges and guns and quickly retaliated by drawing his pistol. The draw was too slow for an experienced Texas Ranger and Samuel put two bullets in his chest and gut. They dismounted their horses and walked to the back of the wagon and flipped the canvas up to take a look inside. What they saw were at least a dozen runaway slaves cramped into the wagon. Samuel saw a few children among them so he assumed at least some of them are families. He ordered them out of the wagon and form a line. The rangers working the valley carried several sets of chains and shackles just in case they found any runaways that they might return to their owners. His superior thought they’d be too much trouble because it was near dusk and they would be traveling in Mexican territory in the dark. It was much too dangerous to do even in daylight so he ordered Samuel to shoot them and simply collect the bounty on them later. Samuel never killed innocents, runaway or not, so of course he refused. He ordered him to shoot once more before drawing his own pistol and aiming for the child in the center. Samuel protested and punched the older man and knocked him to the ground. He drew his pistol and fired once, killing the man.

        Back in Nacogdoches, Nora is now alone. With the death of her son, absence of her husband and her youngest son now missing, her worries and grief dramatically age her into an old woman. Her only wish was to have her family at home through the dreaded and never ending war. She wished for the end every day but it seemed like the day would never come. After killing a man, Samuel fled back home as soon as he could to escape being hanged in Austin. He knew that someday, someone would come searching for answers and ultimately, searching for him and wherever he may be hiding. While riding into the coming winter weather, he decided that a name change would be the best option to keep his family safe. Not leaving Nacogdoches, as most would consider that the best option. He couldn’t find it in his heart to leave his great state and flee to the North. If they were ever caught, it would be likely that his family would be hanged as well. He assumed the name of a fallen comrade he befriended many years ago. Ambrose Bennett would be his name for the remainder of his life. When he learned of James’ disappearance, he was heartbroken that he could never search for his son for fear of the authorities discovering his true identity. He and his wife spent the remainder of the war fighting off illness, hunger, and rebel bandits who had gone AWOL and steal from anyone they find.

        The war ended in 1865 with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation stating that all slaves are to be made free under the protection of a Constitutional Amendment. That amendment angered many southerners to such an extent that bounty hunters and vigilantes roamed the southern states hunting down anyone who may have aided in slave smuggling. The winter of 1867 was the harshest since the beginning of the war. The snow was deep that year and the air uncharacteristically cold for the aging Samuel and Nora Henry. He never told his wife why he retired from service so suddenly and perhaps he thought he’d blame it on an injury or claim to have been ill while in the valley. Early morning Christmas Eve, a trio of men on horseback arrived at the farm and offered the typical niceties to Samuel and his wife. It looked a bit odd and out of place to him but he was always ready if anyone ever came to kill or arrest him. The men got right to the point and asked if he was truly Captain Samuel Henry and if he was in Rio Grande Valley the summer and winter of 1862. Samuel asked Nora to go back inside but by then, the men had their guns drawn and aimed. He slowly removed his gun belt and threw it to the ground and stated he was willing to go with them. The three men dismounted and approached the middle-aged and gray-bearded Samuel.

        These men didn't look like the type he had served with in the past. These were younger men who obviously weren't from Texas, chewed tobacco and acted like the crazy savages he fought when he was a young man. As soon as the loud-mouthed man approached him, Samuel snatched his gun away and fired and raising his sights and killing another about twenty feet from him. The third man put a bullet in Samuel’s leg and scrambled to disarm him. He pistol-whipped Samuel until he was unconscious, leaving Nora to quickly run inside and grab a rifle. She shot at the last man but missed. He returned fire and didn’t miss. Nora fell to her knees and quickly collapsed in a heap. Contemplating about Samuel’s fate, the last man standing left him there in the snow figuring that was enough punishment for an ex-Ranger and went on his way as if he was the one defeated and driven away by the rapid fire of the Winchester rifle Mrs. Henry was wielding. 

                           ©Ashley Yarbrough 12/2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Characters and Timelines

I'm sure my readers have discovered that each of my entries have some kind of connection. The purpose of this post is to highlight those connections. However, with each composition, the roots grow deeper to connect to alternate and non-essential characters. I feel the need to create some background for Nora so she may be the main character in a future story. I'll be updating this list as my blog progresses. Stay tuned!

1810- Samuel Henry born
1815- Nora Belle Johnson born
1835- Thomas Henry born
1840- James Henry born
1862- Thomas Henry KIA at the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg - James Henry is missing
1865- Civil War ends 
1867- Nora Belle Johnson deceased - Bounty Hunters come to Nacogdoches
1846-1847- Mexican-American War

"A Texas Conflict" - 1830-1847 (Samuel)
"A Son of Texas" - 1855, 1862 (Thomas)
"Texas Lament" - 1852, 1862, 1867
"A Texas Hunt" - 1868 (James)
"A Texas Full Moon" - 1875 (James)
"Texas Cordiality" - 1882 (Samuel and James)

"A Son of Texas"

The bells rang; it was graduation day at West Point
A young cadet stands on the steps of the Commandant’s quarters
Adjusting his sleeves and tidying his trouser legs, not wanting to disappoint
He stepped into the room and gave a nod to the porter

He snapped to attention and gave a salute
The Commandant acknowledged and spoke to the boy
“Congratulations Cadet, you've been a fine recruit.”
New gold bars presented in a box, his alone to employ

The years fast forward to a time of great division
Blue against grey; brother against brother
States secede, citizens revolt, clearly not a moment of indecision
Talk of civil war had blown through like a souther

The young soldier from Texas joins the grey coats
Thousands of ill-supplied Confederates march to battle
Diplomats bicker while young men slash at each other’s throats
Families on either side losing their chattel

Battlefields made of farms, houses and churches destroyed
Blood-stained ground greeted the soldiers at the hill
Bouncing cannonballs and musket fire he wanted to avoid
His duty to Texas and his oath to his academy he did fulfill

Here lies the body of the young soldier near the Dunker Church
His brothers-in-arms continued defending their position by the creek
It was the bloodiest day of the war, a monument now rests on a perch
Here lie thousands of soldiers in ‘Bloody Lane’, the landscape seemingly bleak

©Ashley Yarbrough 12/2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"A Texas Conflict"

             It had been only twenty-two years since the conception of the Texas Rangers by Stephen F. Austin and the organization has been at the helm of law enforcement for the Republic of Texas. After the fall of the Alamo in March of 1836, there were many young men mustered into service to prevent a Mexican retaliation upon signing of the treaty recognizing Texas’ independence. Among the early volunteers in the Rangers was a young Samuel Henry. Born in East Texas in 1810, Samuel was the youngest of six children and had grown up a poor farm boy. He had little or no education because the family required many acres of land to be tilled, planted and crops harvested year round. They also had a few dairy cows, some mules and two horses to pull the loaded-down wagons to market. In 1830, when Samuel was the tender age of twenty, he wanted desperately to leave farm life behind and experience the wilds of the western United States as recorded by the likes of Lewis and Clark and the accounts of his ancestors upon arriving to the New World.
             His trek across the southern US brought hardship and happiness. Now grown weary of the deserts, threats and close calls with savage tribes and extreme heat of the west, Samuel returned home to Texas and signed up with the Texas Rangers in early spring, 1833. He was sent on numerous missions across the great state to hunt down fugitives and protect Texan settlers from attacks by the savages. While stationed in Presidio, he befriended Nora Belle Johnson, the young daughter of a local rancher. They were married in the fall in 1834 and were with child soon after. Samuel and Nora made their home in Presidio despite the fact that Western Texas is a volatile and dangerous region. The following year, their first son was born. It was a hot summer night when Thomas Henry was brought into the world. He had the bluest of eyes, indicative of his parent’s European ancestry. 1835 was the year the Texas Rangers were formally constituted and a small group of fifty-six was sent to battle the Cherokee and Comanche tribes partly because of their support of the Mexicans in a recent rebellion. Samuel had shown great bravery and leadership in the many skirmishes with the Indians and quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant. The entire contingent of the Rangers fought the tribes until the annexation of Texas in 1846.
             The annexation was the tipping point for the Mexican government. They consider Texas their property even though the Republic had won their independence and thanks to Sam Houston and his constituents in Congress, Texas was annexed by the United States on December 29, 1845. By this time, Samuel and Nora had another child named James Henry. While his growing family remained in Presidio, Samuel was called up to join the 1st Texas Mounted Rifles under command of Colonel John C. Hays of the United States Volunteers. His division was nicknamed the “Texas Division” by the newly appointed governor, James Pinckney Henderson. Major General Zachary Taylor mustered up 3500 Americans to set up operations on the Nueces River in order to prevent and counter a Mexican invasion. They waited and anticipated an attack but it never came. In November of 1845, President Polk ordered the men to move to the Rio Grande valley and establish “Fort Texas” in defiance of Mexican claims that all land north of the Nueces is their property. Conflict began on April 26th, 1846 when a 2000 Mexican Cavalry detachment attacked a 70 man patrol, killing 16 and capturing 49. The patrol was sent to determine if the Mexicans were planning an attack on Fort Texas.
             Two and a half months later, war was officially declared on Mexico and Samuel was promoted to captain. Oftentimes, Texas Rangers were required to supply their own weapons but Samuel was given cavalryman’s saber and the brand new Colt revolver to replace the old Flintlock he bought with his meager wages. He did carry a standard issue Springfield 1822 Musket into each skirmish. His first call into battle came in September when General Taylor pushed his forces further into Mexico to the city of Monterrey. Early that morning, Samuel donned his thick leather chaps, boots, buckskin shirt, sombrero and his weaponry. He mounted his horse and the Texas Rangers launched an assault on two fortified hills in the city. It lasted three days and nights and earned the Rangers the moniker, “Los Tejanos Diablos” for their ferocity in battle. The offensives over the next year took its toll on a now thirty-seven year old Samuel. Among the many American and Mexican casualties, there were many who perished from diseases such as yellow fever, dysentery and typhoid. Samuel contracted dysentery before the war’s end in August, 1847. Luckily, he survived to return home to his family in Presidio. The war now over, Captain Samuel Henry of the Texas Rangers returns to his ‘available when needed and inactive when not needed’ life. 

©Ashley Yarbrough 12/2012

"A Texas Hunt"

As daylight fades, the hunt has begun
Swatting mosquitos as I walk through the tall weeds and grass
I have a knapsack on my back and in my hand, a gun
Not just any gun, a .44 Caliber 1866 Winchester with shiny brass

I spot my prey a few hundred yards away grazing near a creek
There’s not much light left to close the distance
I only have the time to hunt once every other week
Lightly I step towards my target, this hunt requires much persistence

Now prone on a hill, I draw a bead on my stag
I watch him take a few steps into the creek to drink
The meat would be great for jerky but the trophy is to brag
Holding my breath, I squeeze the trigger and the stag’s silhouette suddenly shrinks

©Ashley Yarbrough 12/2012