virtualubbock - Letter and Poems from M.H. Hill

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Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music
by Christopher Oglesby
Published by the University of Texas Press:
"As a whole, the interviews create a portrait not only of Lubbock's musicians and artists, but also of the musical community that has sustained them, including venues such as the legendary Cotton Club and the original Stubb's Barbecue. This kaleidoscopic portrait of the West Texas music scene gets to the heart of what it takes to create art in an isolated, often inhospitable environment. As Oglesby says, "Necessity is the mother of creation. Lubbock needed beauty, poetry, humor, and it needed to get up and shake its communal ass a bit or go mad from loneliness and boredom; so Lubbock created the amazing likes of Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, and Joe Ely."

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"Indeed, Oglesby's introduction of more than two dozen musicians who called Lubbock home should be required reading not only for music fans, but for Lubbock residents and anyone thinking about moving here. On these pages, music becomes a part of Lubbock's living history."
- William Kerns, Lubbock Avalanche Journal

Subject: Terrific Site
Date: 4/26/2005 4:10 PM Central Daylight Time
From: mhhill
Attachment: Poetry.rtf

Just wanted to drop by and tell you how much I've enjoyed your website. I'm an expatriated West Texan presently living in Georgia, courtesy of my recently abandoned career. I was introduced to your site by my sister, who was kind enough to forward a link to your interview with Bruce Jaggers. I graduated from Abernathy High School in 1978, and Tech in 1983, and spent countless afternoons and nights at the Dawg, not to mention the numerous other watering holes in Lubbock at that time. Memories came flooding back as I read the interview, causing me to look west for a couple of days afterward, pining for all things Lubbock.

Strangely enough, I had to move clear across the country before having the opportunity to live in the same neighborhood with a fellow Tech alum. Imagine the odds. She attended Tech about the same time I did, so we naturally drift back to Lubbock whenever we get together, talking about old days and the vibrant nightlife/music scene that existed in the Hub City. Recently, over the course of several martinis, I gave her my personal assessment of some of the more popular/colorful establishments from that era and thought I would share them with you:

1. Fat Dawg's - Best place to get drunk cheaply (10 cent draws on Wednesday afternoon). Bohemian clientele and great live music Not necessarily the place to be if you were looking to get laid, but if you were into meeting some really strange, weird, and wonderful human beings, score decent drugs, and dig the music vibe.....Fat Dawg's was the only place to be. (I was actually at the Los Lobos show mentioned in the interview, amazing performance, barely able to make room for the band among all the different instruments). I always thought the graffiti in Fat Dawg's should have been salvaged or preserved in some manner. My favorite piece of work was actually the effort of two individuals. Above one of the urinals someone had scrawled....."I f*cked your Mother!" Beneath this rather inane effort, someone else cleverly responded....."Go home Dad, you're drunk." Always made me giggle when I took a whiz.

2. Coldwater - Above average chance to get laid but you would likely have to fight a shit-kicker in the process. When Joe Ely played, there was not a better place to be in the whole world....honestly. Crash & Burn, Two for Tuesdays, every night there was a drinking special. Apart from Joe Ely, the best show I ever saw there was Ray kidding. Also, I picked up three college coeds (not at the same time, mind you) who were ready and willing, but alas, were also very intoxicated and threw up in my car. This never happened to me anywhere other than Coldwater Cattle Company, must have been something in the water. Needless to say....that kind of thing will kill a mood.

3. Rox-Z - Carlo Campanelli's place. Carlo worked hard to sustain a live music scene in Lubbock and we became denizens of this venue. Our favorite band of the time was Impeccable, fronted by Donnie Allison, with Darron Welch on guitar. They played nothing but hard rock music, covers of Montrose, Moxy, Zeppelin, mixed in with their original work. These were my hair-farming days (or my Jesus period as my sister likes to say). It remains to this day, the only bar I ever smoked weed in....Carlo would come by and tell us to cool it, but I never felt he was earnest. We drank like fish and he needed the business. Imagine having 200 Wayne's and Garth's at one place. A lot of hair, hard rock, and sweat. Witnessed a great show there one night by that ol' Texas band, Point Blank, right before they fell off the face of the earth.

4. Villa Club - Without a doubt, the place to be if you were looking for love...numerous divorcees just looking for a little attention.

5. J Pat's - Cool and funky, we'd always stop in on game-day and fill up with juice as we'd typically leg it to Jones Stadium from a friend's house on 19th and X. J Pat's was the designated halfway point. You have to keep hydrated in the desert.

6. The Cow Palace - A sad, desolate place...just like all those lonely honky-tonks made famous in all those sad country songs. Could get laid, but you'd wake up not feeling very good about it.

7. Town Draw or Main Street Saloon (take your pick) - Best opportunity to get implicated in a FBI undercover investigation.

8. Saddle Bronc - Best place to get your ass kicked, bar none.

As mentioned, I've recently resigned from my job, typical mid-life crisis stuff, or perhaps mid-life clarity? In an effort to maintain my sanity, I've taken up the pen to ward off the "doubt-demons" until I figure out what I'd like to do with the rest of my life. In the pursuit of this endeavor, your website has provided much needed inspiration. I thought you should know. Keep up the good work!



P.S. I've attached a collection of my work that I'm attempting to build on...hope you enjoy.

A collection of poetry by M.H.Hill, 2005
© M.H. Hill, all rights reserved

I grew up in a small farming community in the South Plains of the Texas Panhandle. The landscape of my home is sparse, characterized by wide open spaces and miles of cultivated cotton fields that over the course of time supplanted native grasslands once home to buffalo, antelope, cattle, and not much else. The South Plains are located on an enormous mesa that encompasses over 37,000 square miles, about 250 miles north to south and 150 miles east to west. Atop this mesa, 3200 feet above sea level, the terrain is tabletop flat and treeless. The mesa is bounded to the west by the Pecos Valley of New Mexico, to the north by the Canadian river basin, and to the east by red-dirt Permian plains. Along the eastern edge, the headwaters of the Red, Brazos, and Colorado rivers, in harmony with wind and time, have carved beautiful and rugged canyons that cut into the mesa like a knife into flesh. For the locals, the intersection of plains with canyon and river break is commonly referred to as the "Caprock", a term that loosely defines the point of demarcation between the Llano Estacado and the outside world.

The Llano Estacado (usually translated as "Staked Plains", albeit incorrectly) was given its name by the Spanish explorer Francisco Coronado in 1541 as he traversed this land with his conquistadors in search of the mythical "Seven Cities of Gold". Once, the Llano Estacado was the territory of the Kiowa and Comanche who freely roamed the land hunting buffalo to sustain the lives of their people. Although evidence of human existence dates back over 10,000 years, man did not dare to live permanently atop the mesa as the region is semi-arid, with less than 18 inches of annual rainfall. Natural depressions in the plains would temporarily contain runoff water, known as "playa" lakes, but these waters were susceptible to rapid evaporation and made sustaining life a perilous endeavor. This harsh environment held Western settlement in abeyance until the 1870's when buffalo hunters began to establish camps in the area. Native peoples still roamed the land at this time and did so until the last great battle of the Red River War was fought and won by the U.S. Calvary in 1874 at what is now known as Palo Duro Canyon. The Kiowa and Comanche were then relegated to the reservations in southwestern Oklahoma thus making possible the golden age of ranching and the ensuing "Cowboy" era.

Over time, as new technology enabled the drilling of wells to tap the Ogallala Aquifer, ranching capitulated to the cultivation of row crops and to some degree, the discovery of oil and natural gas resources. With these developments came civilization. Today, the Llano is predominantly a farming region and the world's dominant cotton producing area. The influences of the Spanish, Native American, Cowboy, and Wildcatter are still evident although the area is decidedly "Western" in both look and feel. For the uninitiated, the most common thing that comes to mind when they see the Plains for the first time is how anyone in their right mind could have picked this particular spot of the world to live. Once described as a "treeless, waste of uninhabited solitude", the region remains an acquired taste. Robert Earl Keen suggests that "a wagon must of lost a wheel or they lacked ambition one" as potential reasons for anyone ending up there. Although I enjoy Keen's music, I beg to differ. I reason that people would have needed incredible ambition, not to mention faith and tenacity, to believe they could actually create sustenance from such a place.

The two constants of life on the South Plains are the wind and the sheer enormity of the sky. For me, it will always be a magical, mystical place where the vast expanse of land collides with natural forces to create a world in which it is possible to feel simultaneously large and small I've coined this phenomenon "conspicuous isolation". This landscape has left an indelible imprint on my psyche and to this day, I feel claustrophobic when surrounded by cities, mountains, trees, or anything else that hinders my view of the horizon. I greatly miss the warm days, cool desert breezes at night, awe-inspiring sunsets, and endless views that seemingly beckon to all adventurers, prophets, artists, and poets, calling them forth to plunge into the depths of their consciousness with abandon and fervor. I'm steadfast in my opinion this immense nothingness manifests itself in a supernatural way, setting free those who are blessed with willing minds and imagination to create without obstruction, just like the view in every direction.


A Slanted View

Only an optimist would
plant a tree here
waters flow deep
but well beneath the earth

wind is their deity
a constant force that
levitates the desert and
exchanges new earth for old

the grit it bears covers
the tracks of history while
altering the landscape
of our consciousness

everything submits to its will
especially the trees
as they bend in permanent homage
but rarely break

Ode to Jack

Kerouac would have loved it here
miles of open road
straight and smooth
he always knew
roads were meant to be driven


In my world
everything was straight
and endless

flat plains
horizon, then sky
rows of cotton
farm roads framed by power lines

and you could see

Looking for Horny-Toads

Did you ever wonder
what became of the part
of us that existed before our
awareness came home to roost?

Veiled by time and our willingness
to revise our view of decisions or
rationalize actions that
brought us to this point

We search for that time and place
where our minds were free
and our days were sunny and bright
while looking for horny-toads

Terra Firma

the land swallows
simultaneously large
and small we feel
alone yet conspicuous
to someone or something

the past speaks quietly
beneath our feet
wondering what we've learned
of value
in our time
other than dinosaur bones


As were we
it too was connected
to its mother at one time
nurtured by soil and water
like milk from the breast
the mere fact it existed at all
was a testimony to will
a miracle of nature
when all things necessary
convene at the same place
and time

despite all odds, it flourished
rejecting mortality and all attempts
to lessen breadth and depth
straight and tall it grew
further and further from the womb
roots weakened with
the passing of time
until one day freed
by the wind
to begin a journey
down the path unknown

Old Sol

Concealed to most
he works as an artist
stirring in the morning
to wash canyon wall
with a palette
of red, purple, and ochre
a primary color
moving across a canvass
of cobalt blue
illuminating his work
with texture and depth
carrying within
the covenant of life
as he brings us to repose
with his crowning act
a burst of color
heretofore imagined
only in the mind
of God

She Walks with Angels
-for Steph

Tresses the color of summer wheat sprinkled with sunshine
she came to me first as a vision, or perhaps a wish
azure pools led to a place where ancient souls resided
bearing wisdom of the ages and the sum of all virtue
deeper yet, a dwelling built with love and grace offered
redemption to a weary traveler burdened by sins of the past

taking respite in this place were the many she had touched
gleefully swimming in the essence of her being
drawn closer each day to the incandescence within
each hoping to possess, if only for one brief moment
the precious treasure borne in heart and freely given
by one who walks with angels

Old Farmhouse at Blackwater Draw

A reminder of the dynamic of being
though seasons passed had long washed away
the footprints of children at play
voices silenced by the methodical cadence of time
and the never ending cycle of life
a circle unbroken, yet bent along its edge

this is where they ate, slept, loved, lived
and died, until finally, all that remained
of their epoch, their place in the moment
was rotting wood and old cars, rusting
in the shade of an aged cottonwood tree
planted when faith and hope were more than words

through the front yard, unkempt and overgrown
I walked past decaying remnants of their existence
an old refrigerator, broken chair, and a sofa
stained by rain, or was it sweat and tears?
to the front porch, where old boards and broken glass
joined in a haunting symphony beneath my feet

Looking through a window, I caught a glimpse
of shadows dancing in a lifeless room once home
to beating hearts held fast by life's struggle
I felt their presence, witnessed their dreams
and in the corner of my eye, saw my reflection and
heard the distant, rhythmic ticking of a clock

Nine Minutes

Early in the morning, my ritual begins
in my tidy bed, our tidy home
masquerading as friend, with deceitful intent
the snooze button promises nine more minutes
of blissful sleep, exactingly calculated
by evil engineers with slide rules and
graphs, and white-coated psychologists, as
almost enough time to drift back, but not quite
a primal scream that rattles my brain and
rips muscle from bone, every nine minutes
chipping away at my rust-covered soul like
a pick into rock, blasting shards of faith,
hope, fear, and redemption, in every direction
as I rise and wipe the crust from my eyes
in deference to the gods of precision
every nine minutes, in my tidy town
our tidy world

Riding with Wilson

Inside my internal combustion demon, I belong
to the road, like Steinbeck and Kerouac except
my companion isn't Charlie, or Dean Moriarty
instead, I ride with Wilson, raw, rough,
sweaty, southern heat radiates from deep within
it melts the asphalt, grips my tires, and hugs
me close to the black velvet ribbon as I
press my foot deeper into the beast and revel
in the unholy growl of twelve-cylinders while
shifting thru five gears of pure Alabama soul

first gear, Memphis, In The Midnight Hour, that's
when love comes tumbling down and baby, I feel
it all as the tachometer hits the mark and signals
the exact point where rpm, torque and acceleration
mix in an orgasmic blender that slingshots me
down the freeway, I grasp the stick-shift, gently
caress it into second and notice that it fits my
hand as perfectly as the small of a woman's back
I'm a streak of black lightning, striking Muscle Shoals
circa 1966, the Land of 1000 Dances, and Mustang Sally

I find third, then fourth, the rush of speed
makes me smile, forces my back against the seat as
I light a cigarette, and find solace on the open road
just me and Wilson, grooving to horns inspired by
the angels inside Solomon Burke and perfected in
the soul of my companion, and I know they're right
Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, sugar to kiss
sweetheart to miss, and I need the highway in my
headlights, miles of lonesome concrete with nothing
but time on it's hands, and me with gas to burn

Independence Day, 1982

A soft breeze wafts through the bedroom window
making the curtains dance, gently waking me
on a sun-drenched, summer morning in July
turning toward you, I feel the warmth of your
body and drape my arm around your waist to
pull you closer as the zephyr washes the room
with honeysuckle fragrance, the sun rises
above the pear trees in our back yard,
filling our room with beams of newborn light,
chasing away the darkness and heralding
the birth of a new day, a new promise
with groggy, sleep-filled eyes, I notice the
tiny, wispy, blonde hairs on the inside of your
thigh, luminous against the golden brown backdrop
of your skin, cool and smooth to the touch, I
slowly close my eyes, drifting back to sleep,
transported by early morning imagery to a
faraway time and place, Independence Day, 1982
and a final gathering of friends

oh, we were free then, unfettered by all of
those rigid words like responsibility, duty,
and obligation, words that seemingly suffocate
idealism like a boa constrictor, tightening
its grip every time you exhale, leaving no
room for anything other than staid, practical
thoughts and well-laid plans earnestly submitted
by those with your best interests at heart, just
like the children on all those bicycles, draped
with red, white, and blue crepe paper, like
little strands of hope and expectation, layered
on by well-meaning parents, rising early in the
morning, too excited, it seems, about the prospect
of leading a small-town parade of fire trucks,
antique cars, marching bands, and simple homemade
floats laden with Boy Scouts, veterans, church
choirs, Masons, city officials, and all those
other people seemingly confident about their
place in the world, with answers to all questions

and there we were, as if we knew this was our
curtain call, our last chance to touch before
life's choices, good and bad, became a wedge,
scattering us like grains of sand in the wind,
what did we know of life, or death for that matter?
not much it seems, after all these years
but, ah, I do remember how if felt that day,
that summer, when we all returned home before
our final year of college, like salmon, drawn
by some mysterious and compelling force to our
place of origin, to confront the passing of our
youth, we easily settled into routine, tracing
the steps of our past and revisiting old haunts to
spend a few more precious moments in the shadow
of sweet memories, gifted by chance or fate,
on Independence Day, 1982, we watched the
parade, then walked the city square, visiting
with parents, teachers, businessmen, all eager
to gauge our plans, our prospects and timelines

but all we really wanted was a plate full of
barbeque, then we'd be off to the swimming pool
to lazily bask in the sun, drink beer, and
listen to music until early evening, followed
by our holy exodus to the country where we
would park our cars in a circle, drink more beer,
and partake of herbal sacrament in the company
of our muses for the day, staying for hours to
catch the sunset, always waiting for the sunset,
before heading back to the street dance and
fireworks display that signaled the end of all
worth celebrating that day, we danced and danced
as the band played lonesome, sad, honky-tonk songs
and mean, Texas roadhouse blues, moving in
counterclockwise circles as if we could rewind
the hands of time, our last fandango, a sweet,
innocent, joyful dance of youth, evidence of
God's existence in the perfection of one night
under a big Texas sky, and a million stars

After the dance, we drove into the country
again where we partied through the night,
telling stories told and heard a thousand times
before, but never tired of telling, or hearing,
we built a fire and turned on the radio, and
spent the night in each others company, one last
time, before we went our separate ways on Monday,
making the usual promises, how we'd stay in touch
no matter what, as the morning sun began to peek
over the horizon, we drank warm beer and listened
to Pink Floyd, I sat on the hood of my car, her
arms and legs wrapped around my waist, barefoot
and bronze, blond Texas baby, more friend than
lover, and I noticed those same tiny, wispy,
blond hairs on her knee, as newborn beams of
light chased the darkness, heralding the birth
of a new day, a new promise, and the flames
from our dying fire danced in a soft breeze,
on a sun-drenched summer morning in July

Lest We Forget
-in loving memory of Mark

I still see these streets
as they were, not as today
images endure with closing of eyes
gin-dust sky of battleship gray
faded memories, lost then regained
unlike old friends in that particular way

all poems on this page © M.H. Hill, all rights reserved

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