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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide for Reeves County Trans-Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas


Greg Harman


Wednesday, December 24, 1997


By Greg Harman

What will we look for under the tree?

Night before Christmas: the mice shut their yaps, magical tooth-rotting visions dance in the minds of children, and weight-challenged Santa comes clamoring over rooftops and down chimneys the world over.

And what's he got in that great red bag of his, so many want to know. The bulging sack with seems stretched to the limit is packed according to the demand of small children everywhere. Mail carried to the North Pole this time of year has one purpose: to make jolly old Saint Nick aware of what kids are digging this year.

But something has happened in Pecos this year. Something unforeseen and possibly tragic. Sacks and sacks of letters from good little boys and girls in the Pecos area wound up on the Enterprise's doorstep.

With just days to spare old Mac and the crew gathered together for a special conference. There was only one thing to do. We decided to print the letters in the paper and hope that perhaps Santa may stumble over the infant's pleas therein. If not, then at least all you parents out there would have a better idea about what kids are looking to find under those drooping boughs.

What is scrawled across those pages again and again are digital goodies. On the lower end of the price spectrum are the gigapets. Tiny digital "pets" that stay on key chains, with little rubber buttons provided for the needs of the electric pulse. Then the video games are all-important to kids these day and can cost a good amount of money: Nintendo 64, Playstation, etc.

But the letters that most impacted employees here at the office were those of uncommon wants. One child asked for a daddy. One or two desired the well-being of all people. Some included the wish-lists of mothers and fathers for generous Santa to consider. These requests, far too rare, moved us considerably.

The question of why children focus so single-mindedly on their material wants at Christmas-time is not a difficult one: it's what Christmas has become. It's what we expect and encourage.

A couple days ago Meet the Press showed a clip from a 1958 interview with one of this country's premier poets, Robert Frost. One panelist asked Frost what he thought the meaning of life was (after all, this is what poets are expected to wrestle with).

Five years before his death, Frost responded that Materiality was the purpose of life. Materiality, now that was a new one on me. It caught my attention.

"The material of thought, the material of spirituality," said Frost. The meaning of life, according to Frost, was the search into the substance of life - into thought, into the spiritual. Material-ism(the search for goods only), he said, was the enemy of what he called Materiality. Materialism is the "greatest danger to America today," said Frost.

It was after that shocking quote that the clip ended and another segment of the program began. There was no follow-up or discussion as to what Frost had meant, so I'll have to wing it on my own.

Materialism, as Frost was discussing it, has to do with priorities. It is (according to my dictionary) "devotion to material rather than spiritual objects." It is when material gain (for food, wealth, possessions) take first place and things like family, religion, and health come in a distant second.
Materialism doesn't always have to be bad, but in what order is it served? So many times the pursuit of "things" is justified by saying that it is for our children - but nine times out of ten what our children want is simply to spend time with us. We are their heroes. And it's hard to spend time with a child when you're working 'round the clock.

Christmas is an easy time to take cheap shots at materialism, especially when you find yourself in possession of half the town's Santa letters, but it's as good a time as any. Deep down in the core of our varied beliefs Christmas represents so much more than presents and it is my hope that each and every one of us finds that sacredness this holiday time.

But, if that's too tall an order, I hope that we can all get a little shuteye at least (since those infernal rodents have called off choir practice) and none of our roofs require much repair after the big man comes skipping down the shingles.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Greg Harman is an Enterprise writer whose column appears each Wednesday. He can be e-mailed at:

Guest Column

Spanish gets one American into trouble


For those of you who remember my previous column about the Mexican influence on Southwestern cuisine and how in turn the little donkey (burrito) of Mexico had found its way back to the streets of its own country to nourish the people there, I have another dimension for this long-eared creature.

I'm in the process of immigrating to Honduras after being checked out of American agriculture by the influx of foreign dairies and cheap competition from South of the border, and my Spanish is broadening along with other horizons.

My first trip to Honduras was not only enjoyable but educational. My Mexican Spanish certainly identified me as a foreigner and proved to be embarrassing more than once.

All my Honduran friends think it's a pity that I'm still without a spouse, so they're always bringing an eligible female acquaintance to meet the Gringo. The other evening I was visiting with a very attractive young lady when she commented to me (in catracho Spanish, of course), "white man, I like your burros." Since I've never been complimented much on anything, I smiled, gratified that something was pleasing to the young lady, all the while tumbling my mind trying to decipher what something's I had that she found appealing.

"What can it be; it can't be my eyes," I say to myself, "They're too pale . Neither can it be my ears; they're too big.
"Burros, burros, she likes my burros! Ah, heck, admit your ignorance and solve the mystery."

Okay. "I'm sorry, Miss, I don't comprehend," as I bow my head shamefully.
"Your burros," she replies, pointing at my Red Wing work boots.

I breathed a sigh of relief and genuinely thanked her for the compliment; after all, what American girl would be impressed with a $100 pair of cowhide boots?

On another occasion, I was standing in a crowd of women a the airport terminal in San Pedro Sula, chatting with them and fanning myself with my cap because of the stifling humid coastal heat, when I remarked in Mexican Spanish, "It surely is sultry today."

A hush fell over the seven or eight women as they all stared astonished at me. Two of the younger ones couldn't maintain their sterm composure, and they started giggling.

"Alright," I comment, "I'm not a native speaker of catracho (Honduran). Y'all will have to tell me what I just said."
Finally, one of the more mature ladies mustered the courage to offer this explanation.

"Well, if you were a female of your age, you might be fanning and making that comment. Since you are a male and couldn't have that problem, you simply say, "It's really hot today!"

"Thanks, Senora, I'll not make that same mistake twice." But who's going to teach me how to say sultry in Catrocho?

Lessons so learned are replaced only for humor's sake.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jerry Hulsey an Enterprise guest columnist.

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