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16 June 2010 @ 10:16 am

Have you ever thought about all the things that had to happen in order for each of us to be born a human on this earth? How did it come about that your parents would meet and to eventually do those things to conceive you? And then, the same question applies to each of their parents and so on back through your family’s history. To get to be born a human on this earth is not only a physical miracle, it is also a miracle of chance, the odds of which are probably greater than winning the lotto.

When I was doing this painting of some caladiums, I was thinking about how each leaf is similar, but different. All the leaves share a common thread of DNA, yet each has a little different shape and color. It kind of reminded me of a human family tree with each leaf being somebody in the family and connected by stems. I thought of the flowers in the painting as being major events that had happened. In between some of the leaves, there are some dark holes that I thought of as family secrets.

This story is about a family secret in my family that played a big part in me “winning the lotto of life” and getting to be born on November 20, 1934. I know only bits and parts of the secret. I will share with you some of those bits and parts. Some of the bits and parts affect other families, whose descendants may still be living that probably do not know what I know. I see no benefit in disturbing their lives, so it is probably best that those things go with me when I have spent my share of my lotto winnings.

Last fall, in early October, I had a booth in an art festival in my hometown of Uvalde, Texas. During the weekend, a local rancher visited my booth and invited me to come back to Uvalde and he would show me his herd of longhorn cattle on his ranch south of town. So in a few weeks I returned to Uvalde to visit his ranch.

On the morning of the visit, as I was going down the highway a few miles south of town and I was looking across some fields at the little hill named Mount Inge, I noticed the row of big pecan trees that had to be along the banks of the Leona River at the foot of this little hill. According to what my mother told me when I was growing up in Uvalde, my dad’s older brother, Clinton was accidently shot over there on Easter Sunday a few years before she and my dad were married. My mother said that some boys were squirrel hunting under those pecan trees near the Leona River. She said one of their bullets ricocheted and hit Clinton in the temple as he stood in their yard in front of their farm house after a Sunday dinner. I think now this was just a cover story.

After Clinton was killed, his wife Ruby and their four children were in desperate straits. So my dad, a twenty-one-year-old cowboy living down in the Valley came to Uvalde to help Ruby take care of her family. He soon met my mother and they were married in 1928 and started working on winning the lotto for my brother, sister and me.

Nobody in my family or Clinton’s family ever discussed the death of Clinton, except for what my mother had told me. One day when I was a teenager, a friend and I were eating a chicken fried steak at the counter in the Casey Jones Café in North Uvalde. Sitting a few stools down at the counter was a man that had a local furniture repair shop. He was somewhat of a weird character and had a wild look in his eyes. When I glanced over at him, he said “you are one of the Carlisle boys, aren’t you?” I nodded and he then said “there is a whole lot more to the murder of your uncle, Clinton Carlisle, than most folks around here know”. Stunned, I didn’t know what to say and he said no more.

That’s the way things stood for the next fifty years or so. In 1999, long after my parents were dead, Clinton’s grandson, Herman Clinton Carlisle, (now deceased) called me one day. He said he wanted to tell me what he knew about his grandfather’s death. He said that on Clinton’s birthday, after dinner (the noon meal in those days) Clinton took their milk cow out to be staked near the Leona River for the afternoon. He never came back. He was later found shot in the head. Two teenage boys had “borrowed” a .38 caliber pistol from another teenager and were down on the Leona River shooting the pistol. For some unknown reason, they shot Clinton. Herman’s grandmother Ruby, also told him the names of the boys. When he told me their names, I was stunned. He also told me who owned the pistol and again I was stunned. I knew these boys after they were grown and had become some of the leading business and civic leaders in Uvalde. I have decided there is no benefit now to stating their names in this story.

Then he told me some other even more shocking news. At Clinton’s funeral, at the grave side ceremony, a large group of The Ku Kux Klan marched up in their white robes and white pointed hats and mask and took over the burial ceremony of Clinton. I couldn’t believe this and he said he would send me the picture of it and the newspaper article.

As I write this story, I am looking at that picture. About a dozen white robed pointed hat men are lowering a casket into the grave as the citizens of Uvalde stand in the background watching. The newspaper article says that Elmer Pucinni conducted the burial services for the Ku Kux Klan.

That brought back memories from my very early childhood, when I remembered Mr. Pucinni’s big tin barn with a cross on the roof. My mother used to whisper that the Ku Kux Klan would have secret meetings in that barn. The Uvalde Memorial Hospital is now located where that barn used to be. Just west of the hospital is a country lane. I drove down that lane last October and there are a number of large fine homes now along that road, however the old Pucinni farm house is also still there.

The newspaper article says that Clinton was killed on April 4, 1926, his 32nd birthday. I am so sorry for his early death, however it caused my father to move to Uvalde and find my mother which gave me a life on this earth.