Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

  April 5, 2004

You'll find it all in 'the valley'

Every Minnesotan knows someone who takes to "the valley" every winter, the valley being the Rio Grande River Valley, which is on the border with Mexico.

The towns in the valley: Harlingen, Brownsville, Weslaco, Mercedes, Pharr, McAllen, Mission and Donna have all grown so much that one town seems to run into another.

The traffic is so thick on Highway 83 that the 100 miles from Brownsville to McAllen makes you long for the quiet roads of Minnesota.

The reason for the population explosion down there, of course, is the climate. The weather is great in the winter, and so is the chance to pick grapefruit from the road.

Picking corn along the roadside in Minnesota is a similar treat (I never could tell the difference between sweet corn and field corn, myself), but picking the corn feels like stealing, wherein taking the grapefruit is like saving it from spoiling on the ground.

How do these refugees from the cold spend their time down there? From what I can gather, they spend their days eating, shopping, golfing, square dancing, bird watching and going across the border into Mexico to buy medication, get their teeth fixed and buy some booze.

I do believe they also spend their time pining for Minnesota. Otherwise, why would they want to catch the weather report from up there every day?

The papers in south Texas publish a "Winter Texan Calendar" every day. The calendar goes on for pages, and offers the following as just a few of the attractions:

Beginner's clogging, beginners and advanced Spanish classes, intermediate tap dance lessons, square dance lessons, computer lessons at the Bit O' Heaven RV Park, "breakfast of biscuits and gravy" at Bentsen RV Park, stroke prevention at Carefree Valley Resort, Harlingen; Mitchell County, Iowa reunion at the Golden Corral in Harlingen, and line dance classes.

There are also many free golf lessons offered. (Who would begrudge a Minnesota farmer, who has worked hard all his or her life, to take some swings like they do in the Florida country clubs?)

I missed a Waverly gathering hosted in Mission, Texas, by John ("Chuck") and Marion Gagnon in a trailer park there. Jim and Shirley Rogers, Jerry and Ann May, Mary Kay Herbst Johnson, Barb Mulcahy, and the Arndts from Brooklyn Center all partied with Chuck and Marion for a whole day together.

One can only imagine the Waverly gossip that flew back and forth. I missed a whole column for "The Waverly Star" by not being there and, yes, I was invited.

I also missed all the $1.99 pancake breakfasts offered every day in all the resorts and RV parks. You have to see it to believe it.


I got permission from a really good poet named Ruth Gillis to publish her poem "Whoa, Mule." Here it is:

Down on the farm when I was but a lad,

At a young age I had to help my dad

Plant cabbage and corn, tomatoes and such;

To be quite frank, I didn't like it much.

When I was 10, Dad bought me a new mule

So I could help him plow right after school.

My daddy said, "Son, I will show you how

To hitch up that mule to a walking plow.

"To plow is easy and you will soon know

It's just a matter of gee, haw, and whoa.

Just walk behind and hold the handles up,

Tap her flank lightly and say, 'Mule, get up.'

"Say 'Haw' to turn left, to the right say 'Gee';

It's really as simple as A, B, C.

When you have plowed to the end of the row,

Pull back on the reins and say, 'Whoa, mule, whoa.'"

I thought that job would surely be no toil,

So I hurried home from school to till the soil.

But I soon learned and haven't forgotten

There was more to it than picking cotton.

I shouted "Stop!" at the end of the row,

But that stubborn mule continued to go.

I whupped her flank and yelled, "Oh, please, mule, stop!"

But she paid me no heed and started to trot.

She plowed right through the patch of turnip greens,

Then took off like lightning through Mom's pole beans.

She kept on going 'til she reached the fence;

I said, "Stop now, mule, if you have good sense."

When my daddy saw the fix I was in,

He hollered "Whoa, mule" with his face a grin.

He said, "Now, son, remember what I say,

And you will have learned a lesson today.

"There's much can be said 'bout the stubborn mule,

And I can tell you this: she ain't no fool.

When you want to talk to her, use a mule's lingo.

If you want her to stop, you must say WHOA!"

So, "Whoa!" until next week when, hopefully, I will actually have some Waverly doings to report.

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