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 Texas : Feature : Columns : "They shoe horses, don't they?"

Pixilated in Port Arthur
& Reincarnated in Luling

Alfred Stillwell and Edgar Davis

by Luke Warm
They shoe horse
I was watching an old movie in the employee’s lounge here the other day. The rest of the staff was attending the badminton finals in Smithville so I had the place to myself. I got me a saddlebag full of Oreos and a big glass of warm goat milk. I told the editor I was takin’ the rest of the day off and I didn’t care if it hare-lipped the governor. The movie got me thinkin’....


It was Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and in it Gary Cooper (Mr. Deeds) was on trial for spending his inheritance irresponsibly. As some of you might remember - that was a felony in most states during the Great Depression. Anyway, two of his aunts from back home in Mandrake Falls were testifying at his sanity hearing that Gary had always been “pixilated” - even before he had to move to NYC to claim his inheritance. The aunts later mentioned that most of Mandrake Falls citizens were pixilated, (except for them) and this tidbit helped release him. He was then allowed to give his money ($20 million) to hungry farmers and to marry the woman reporter who had been reporting on his activities. Did I mention this was a Frank Capra movie?

The irony was that the television reception was bad and the signal (broadcast from the top of the Lavaca County Courthouse) was itself pixilated (in the way they’re currently using the word). The two old women’s faces were cubed up and digitized even as they spoke the word pixilated over and over. The irony was so thick, I was wishin’ I had me one of them irony boards.

Remembering that sage advice from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, I looked “pixilated” up in my Funk and Wagnalls and found it to mean: 1. Affected by the pixies; mentally unbalanced; fey. 2. Slang Drunk [Prob.alter.of dial English (Cornish) pixy-led - bewitched.]

I was reminded of lots of old friends. Like Bruno who got stopped outside of Waxahachie for “driving while pixilated.” It also reminded me that some pretty famous people in Texas history have been pixilated and in at least two cases the pixilatees even admitted it. These two men were Edgar Davis (Benefactor of Luling, Texas) and Alfred Stillwell, founding father of Port Arthur. (I should point out they was both from up North.)
Edgar Davis
Profile of Edgar Davis

Photo Courtesy South Texas Oil Museum, Luling
Arthur Stillwell
Bust of Arthur Stillwell

Photo Courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur
Texarkana’s Ross Perot or Beaumont’s George Jones may have been pixilated at one time or another - but we all know George’s pixies were more like genies - that is, they lived in bottles.

Edgar Davis was a big Alfred Hitchcock-lookin’ fella that got information on where to drill for oil on the advice of Texas wild flowers. Back in the 20's, he’d hunker down and actually ask the Bluebonnets where to drill. He also consulted that Edgar Cayce fella and he also believed in Reincarnation. Mr. Davis did a lot of good for Luling and once threw the biggest picnic in the history of the State of Texas (see The Bathhouse that Wouldn’t Die). He also started a contest with cash prizes that encouraged people to paint bluebonnets - so his work wasn’t all good.

Stillwell wasn’t into Reincarnation. With him it was Predestination. My daddy told me that predestination was when you knew where you’d be when you went to town. You might end up at a destination - anybody could do that - but (according to papa) a predestination was a place where you planned to go - like the barbershop. Anyway with Stillwell it “was written” that he would build a railroad to the Texas coast - and indeed he did. Technically, though, it wasn’t pixies that did the writing- it was “Brownies.” That was what Stillwell called elves and such. His “brownies” had nothing to do with the Girl Scouts.

Stillwell would be at some important civic function like launching a courthouse or tying ribbons on a bridge or filling in a hole or something and everything would be sailing along real smooth. All of a sudden Alfred would let it slip that Brownies had told him to do this or “to be here” and the next thing you know everybody suddenly remembered they had left a roast in their oven. Civic functions with Alfred Stillwell in attendance ended early. Even his bust makes him look like someone who believed in brownies.
Now every Texan I know has heard voices in their heads from time to time. The first time I heard a voice in my head was in Dallas at the State Fair in 1951 - but I later learned it was what they called a “public address system.” Now there’s no doubt that fella over in Waco heard voices and that’s what led him to do all those crazy things. His movies weren’t all that funny but I loved his guest appearances on Saturday Night Live and he plays a mean banjo.

Steve Martin, I mean. Who did you think I was talkin’ about?

Kinky Friedman has admitted to hearing voices - but he’s getting smarter - which proves it might not be a bad thing. And Willie Nelson stopped listening to voices after he got that bad advice on not paying taxes. And whoever thought up that idea to make another Alamo movie - there’s another one. He was hearing voices for sure.

I kinda got away from Mr. Davis and Mr. Stillwell, so I’ll wind this up. But let me leave you with something that Lily Tomlin once asked: “Why is it when you talk to God it’s called praying, but when God talks to you it’s called schizophrenia?”

© John Troesser
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
August 6, 2004 Column
 
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