The Patsy

“Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas.” John F. Kennedy Library and Museum

John F. Kennedy
Image by Mike Foster from Pixabay

Make a right on Houston from Main. Left on Elm Street. Past that big brick building. You know the one where crowds are gathering outside—waiting anxiously for the Boy King. A charming symbol of this here America.

I stack the heavy boxes of textbooks 
moving them to the sixth-floor window
a hiding place.

The Dallas Morning News. The black border ad is like a death notice. Warning the Boy King. Don’t come. We mean it.

(Did they know something?)  
This morning the bile  
 was slowly bubbling up 
nerves pushing it down. 
Marina fussing 
about money 
and promises made.

The 6.5×52mm Carcano Model 91/38 infantry rifle. Wrapped in brown paper. On the floor.

The cheers and boos rise high from below. 
Washing over my ears. 
My face darkens 
my mind runs slowly 
fear battling courage 
searching for reasons
history over infamy.  
Zapruder Frame 313: The JFK Assassination | 100 Photos | TIME

The cavalcade of power. Drives forward through lunch hour crowds. Waves and hope. Cheers and jeers.

It will be simple 
they said 
not to worry 
they said 
over in seconds
they said.

12:30 p.m. CST

I rest the rifle 
against the window frame 
my hands shaking 
my eyes squinting
they said  
for the first pop 
they said
then shoot  
they said.

Spiraling bullets thrust forward. One. Two. Three.

JFK Assassination: Zapruder Film Enhancement & Umbrella Man Testimony (1978)
One misses. 
Two and three 
don’t miss.

Exploding blood. People running. Jackie with her cute pink hat and pink Chanel suit. Men in black jumping on black cars. Jetting into history. 

Who Was the Umbrella Man? | JFK Assassination Documentary | The New York Times
I want to run  
down. Out. But 
be calm  
they said  
act normal 
they said  
we will take care of you 
they said.  

America is changed.

I will be changed.  
John F. Kennedy
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

In the twister, that is history. We will never know the future. Or the promises made. Only infamy. 

What do I know
I’m just the patsy.


Sunset- Mansfield, Texas (Original Photo by Antonio Nelson Ruiz. Modified by Antonio Ruiz)

Hot. Temperatures over a hundred. For the entire week, I was in Texas. This is what I remember most from my recent week-long visit with my son, Antonio Nelson Ruiz, and his wife, Crystal, and their daughter, my granddaughter, Anabella, in Arlington, Texas. But while the heat was a daily reminder of where I was, there was more to my visit.

A typical day in Arlington, Texas (Photo captured by Antonio Ruiz)

This was the longest I’ve ever stayed in the Lone Star state, and I came back home with some stereotypes shattered and others strengthened. Texas is more than the image of my youth, cowboys and injuns (No disrespect meant but I can’t count the number of times I heard this word). It’s the second-largest state, 268,596 square miles. 29.1 million residents. I traveled from Dallas to Arlington, between Fort Worth and Dallas and considered a suburb of both. I visited Fort Worth, traveled two hundred miles to Austin and back, and came home from Dallas Love Field. Easily six hundred miles. This is what I saw.

Highways for miles. The 20, 30, 187, 35, 287. Open spaces that were often interrupted by towns and cities. Truck stops and visitor centers. The southern cooking of The Breakfast Brothers (I loved their Catfish and Grits). Kroger’s. Terry Black’s BBQ in Austin (I did the Dallas one a few months ago). Buc-ee’s, described as a country store and gas station (warehouse-size huge). Austin is a city where it seemed you had to be under forty to live there (It’s a college, music, and tech town). You drive past billboards full of anti-Biden rhetoric and anti-abortion messages. Traffic jams of eighteen-wheelers and cars which, when set free, drive with no care eighty, ninety miles an hour (apparently, the speed limit is a suggestion in Texas). Kolaches in West, Texas. Kolaches are described as “Gooey fruit centers. Doughy, soft rolls.” According to, the town of West is the “kolache-kingdom of Texas — and it was officially dubbed Home of the Official Kolache by the Texas Legislature.” Damn, they are good.

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But one of the most exciting discoveries was Sascee’s Southern Style Eatery in Waco, Texas. I found it by accident in a neighborhood fully primed for gentrification. Their fried chicken was the bomb. But, their days may be numbered. Go two blocks, and you see the encroachment coming. If you’re in Waco, check them out. They were folk who welcomed you into their restaurant and treated you not as a stranger but as a long-lost friend—rushing to remind you that food is more than food. It is a greeting; a hand extended in friendship—a welcome home hug.

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The whole point of my Texas travel was to spend time with my first born, Antonio, and his family, especially that granddaughter, Anabella, who has a very forceful personality for a five-year-old. They live in a middle-class neighborhood near the Arlington-Mansfield line with a wooded area and bike path two blocks away. It was a beautiful walk along the wooded trail in the morning and the evening with their two dogs. You got a sense of serenity with the only sounds that of birds and the occasional unrecognized animal sound (maybe coyotes). Yes, the traffic of the main drag, Matlock Road, was not far off, but for a moment, it reminded me of my quiet early morning walks in east Long Beach. There were the occasional co-walkers along the trail with their walking sticks and purpose. Even saw a bike rider now and then. These were folks just being, just like I saw in Dallas and Fort Worth and Waco and Austin.

The headlines coming out of Texas can sway a mind that everyone has lost their damn minds. But what I saw and heard on this trip and the one back in April were people going about their business. People who shared their hospitality like my son and his wife in Arlington and Maria and Ralph De La Cruz in Austin.

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The serenity of those open fields and the busyness of the highways and big cities showed me that Texas (at least the parts I experienced) is no different from any other state. It’s more diverse than you might think, in every sense of the word. Not everyone is a flaming redneck stereotype and MAGA cultist. People are trying to get through the day and night like everyone else. People remind you that the past is never really past, and the future is built on both the past and present. Trust me, they know the history of Texas, the bad and the good, and they are determined to build a future that recognizes that Texas belongs to more than the headlines that make them look like a bunch of secessionists. There is more good below the surface of those headlines. Despite the bravado of the slogan Don’t Mess with Texas, I met many more people who believed in Hug a Texan for a Good Time.

The way home from Dallas Love Field (Photo by Antonio Ruiz)

I’ll be back. There was so much I missed. From museums to national parks, Texas has plenty of surprises. I want some catfish and grits, fried chicken, and those Kolaches.  But, let’s try it when the temperatures are not ninety plus. Please.

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