About ‘Ordinary Texans’

I once met a woman in Big Bend National Park who told me that nothing good came as a result of people gathering together. She had a newspaper on the desk in front of her with headlines about race riots in Baltimore. After a few more minutes I found out that any kind of gathering posed a threat to this woman, be it church or grocery stores or Caribbean cruises. Before I left she told me that I could take her television set if I wanted.

Those are the kind of people I like to write about. The ones who leave us with oddities we never forget.

In my creative life, I’ve always been drawn to the unusual characteristics of average people. I have files and files of notes about little league umpires, puppeteers, semi-pro bowlers, late-night hotel managers, karate instructors, and rodeo clowns. The beautiful thing about strangers is we can never know the whole story, leaving their lives and experiences up to our imaginations. But we are given small moments of interaction that must be valued like a treasure. Safe, boring people very rarely make a home in our creative imaginations. If someone is boring, they had better be selling encyclopedia sets or raising a colony of rare ants in the spare bedroom.

Every hometown has these colorful characters, and mine is no different.

Ordinary Texans is a celebration of these characters. And I truly mean a celebration. These are the people who bring color to life and memories, and we owe them for our nostalgia. Without Uncle Dwight sitting on the front porch doing switchblade tricks for the kids, I probably wouldn’t remember that particular family reunion. But because of him, I do. Every time I go to the Riverwalk, I think about one of the tour guides slipping and falling into the river with a loud curse word. And even now, when I watch my nephew play baseball at the Family Center, I see the sign on the backstop that reads ‘Stringer Field’ and remember the full-page yearbook photo honoring the boy who was gored to death by a buffalo.

I’m describing this collection of work as ‘Half-true poems’. It’s fair and honest. Most of them come from real experiences and people who have filtered through my life and memories. Half of the stuff is half true, and the other half might as well be. None of the poems rhyme and they have no meter or structure or particular technique, but I’m calling them poems just to inflame the passions of people who call themselves poets. And let’s be honest, nobody knows anything about poetry except if they like what they’re reading or not. And I bet you’re going to like these. It’s unlikely a publisher will ever be in the market for these wayward, local tales, but who knows. Maybe one day I’ll make this into a book.

If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.


Burnet Cole

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