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Beulah, Gertrude, And The One And Only Chester’s

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV – Staff Writer

This last month was strange and bizarre in many ways and it is a little painful to relive…but in some weird way I needed to tell the story.  And, if you are reading this you are one of the ones that get to hear the whole story.  I sent John and a few of those closest to him a slightly different version ….because ….well…you will understand after you get done reading it.  As most of you know, Davy Crockett Lodge conferred our 8th annual “Widows’ Degree” last month and it was a great success as were the previous 7.  For those of you who are new to this article, this is a program which was created to honor all wives and ladies of Masons and letting everyone laugh at us Masons by presenting a ceremony in which we initiate the ladies of Masons into a “secret”…wink, wink…. sorority of Masonic Widows.  Not Widows in the traditional sense, but widows as in hunting widows or football widows or golf widows.  To keep it fresh every year, we tweak it slightly and add or subtract a small part, always keeping the main body of the program intact.  It is always a super funny program and everyone has a load of fun.  This year the Brothers talked me into dressing as an older woman and portraying a member of the Grand Council of the Organization to confer the degree.  At first I wanted nothing to do with that idea but I was reminded that our Brother Brad had dressed “in drag” the year before and everyone loved it.  Soooo, reluctantly, I agreed to become Ms. Beulah Mae Beanblossom with the stipulation that we would keep it secret from everyone until I was introduced in the degree.  Little did I know that Brad was going to surprise everyone and become Gertrude Shufflebottom once again.  We sent out all the advertisements for the degree and started getting RSVP’s back.  Now, that is all the background I am going to give before I tell the story.

It was a couple of days before the night of the Widows’ Degree when John called and said he had a big sales meeting in Houston and would be spending the night in San Antonio on Tuesday before continuing on to Houston the next morning.  He wanted to meet for dinner and talk about the article for September.  I told him that I couldn’t because of the Widows’ program that night….but I talked him into coming to Lodge and watching the program and told him we would try to meet before for a few minutes.  I greeted him when he came in and we talked for a short time but couldn’t spend much time with him because not being used to dressing like a woman and knowing it was going to take a while, I had to disappear early to get it done.  I told him I would meet him for lunch the next day and we could talk about the article.  He knew a lot of the Brothers at our Lodge and he knew Pam so I wasn’t worried about leaving him alone.  I also warned him about his behavior since I was going to have my Daughter Brenda with me at lunch, who was visiting from Oregon.  As it turned out, the degree went fine and everyone had a great time.  We initiated twenty-one new Masonic Widows with the usual ceremonies.  I looked for John afterwards but couldn’t find him.  Pam told me that he had told her he was tired and was going to the hotel to sleep. 

The next morning I called him and set up lunch at a place called Chester’s Hamburgers.  I thought that we may have eaten there before, but I had a taste for a green chili cheeseburger and Chester’s has the best.  As usual, he arrived before Brenda and I did, and boy was he in a great mood.  That sent up a red flag in my mind and I hoped he wasn’t going to get us banned from this place.  Brenda and I found him in a back booth behind a large menu and we sat there listening to him talking to himself for a couple of minutes before he realized we were there.  I introduced him to Brenda and gave him a warning glare, which he totally ignored while good naturedly bashing me for her benefit.  Ordering food at Chester’s requires you to go to the counter and make your order and pay.  Of course John, realizing this, had found a place to sit and he waited till I got there before ordering.  I told him and Brenda that we might as well go and order, and I had to jump back to keep from getting trampled by John who made sure he was first in line.  Brenda ordered some kind of salad something and John gave her a weird look asking her why she was having rabbit food for lunch.  He then proceeded to order what seemed like one of everything on the menu.  He ordered two of my favorite green chili cheeseburgers and a regular chili con carne burger and enough fries and onion rings to feed a normal person for a week.  I thought I heard him tell the cashier that his Brother was paying as he stepped down the counter to pick up his drink…wow what a surprise.  I ordered my own green chili cheeseburger and my own fries, because heaven forbid he would offer any of his to either of us.  When I finally got to the table he was conversing with Brenda and waiting for my name to be called.  I was pretty sure when that happened I wouldn’t be the one rushing up to the counter to get our food.  I just hoped he didn’t eat much walking back to the table.  True to form when they called out Chris on the speaker he was there in a flash to pick up our tray.  I watched close as he walked back to the table and made sure that the fries he stole on the walk were the ones he took off the tray for himself.  I learned something that day.  John usually never talks when he eats….or so I thought.  He and my Daughter carried on a running conversation the whole time they ate, as if she was talking to “Uncle John” or something.  He just dug in like he hadn’t eaten in a week…….and he kept talking the whole time.  He talked to Brenda, and to me, and sometimes to no one in particular.  Then something really weird happened.  As he talked he began to talk about the Widows’ Degree the night before.  Brenda was one of the only ones who knew that I was dressing up as Beulah Mae.  John talked about how much he liked the program and said that he couldn’t find me after the program to say good bye.  And then, as he was babbling along about the Widows’ Program, right in the middle of a bite of my hamburger, he said plain as day, “Now don’t you ever tell Mrs. Deacon I said this but, Boy, that Beulah Mae sure is a looker, yup yup, and Gertrude wasn’t bad either.”  I thought, Oh my God as an electric shock went up my spine!!  I choked and jerked my head up and at the same time a little chunk of French fry shot out of my mouth right past a still babbling John.  Thank goodness he never saw it.  I heard Brenda choke and cough next to me and our eyes met in horror, both of us struggling not to laugh out loud.  He not only didn’t see the missile I launched at him, but lucky for us, he never caught on to mine and Brenda’s emotional and physical distress.  Brenda couldn’t stand it and ran for the Ladies room and I was still choking and coughing.  John looked up asked if I was all right.  And I have to admit that this is one of those times that you just have to lie to a Brother…..and I told him I was fine……when I wasn’t.  I told him if he ever mentioned that about another woman again….especially those two, that I WOULD tell Mrs. Deacon.  He shook his head and went back to eating and then….  I laughed and I laughed and laughed.  I couldn’t stop and John just shook his head sadly like I was having some kind of attack or something and ate in silence.  Brenda came back to the table with a strained look on her face and announced that she had to go and gave John and I a hug and out the door she went.  I saw that John was just finishing up and asked if he had anything for the newsletter.  He took a long swallow from his iced tea, leaned back and said” Yes I have something for you.  I have been concerned about something for a long time Brother Chris.  It’s about guys complaining that their wives don’t like Masonry or that they have a bad opinion about the Fraternity or that they just don’t have any interest in being a part of it or assisting their husbands in it.  And, this topic is a very sticky subject so I am going to have to be real diplomatic here, because I don’t want to upset anyone.  “Yup,” I said with a laugh.  “Diplomacy has never been your strong suit.”  “That’s not a very nice thing to say,” he growled…but went on anyway.  “Like I was saying, this is not the easiest of topics but I think it’s something that needs to be addressed for both the Masons as well as the ladies…. and you have to realize and pass on to your readers that this is just one old cow-poke’s opinion.  And you know what they say about opinions… …that they are like a…….”  “Hey, now,” I said holding up my hand for him to stop.  “I can’t print that and you know it.”  “Ok..  OK..  sorry,” he said apologetically as I shook my head at him.  “I just get to talking and stuff just comes out.”  “I will make sure everyone knows it’s your opinion,” I promised.  “But let’s get after it cause I don’t have all day.”  That got me a John Deacon glare, but he finally began talking again, “In my opinion, if a woman is just not interested in assisting her husband or being a part of his Masonic journey, then he shouldn’t worry about it, nor should he try to force her to.  If she is comfortable with his membership as a Mason and allows his level of participation then she should be allowed her space.  It is however, those ladies of ours who have a dislike for our Fraternity possibly due to a lack of understanding of Masonry or because they resent the time that our Masonic duties take away from them and the family that I am going to try to offer some light and understanding.  And, before you state the obvious and remind me that there are hardly any women who read your newsletter, what I am going to say is the same whether it is being read by a lady or a Brother.  Hopefully, there are Brothers who will read this and either get a Masonic lady to read it or at the very least, maybe gain some understanding himself that will help him with a lady who has misgivings or even outright hostility towards the Craft.  First, let’s define what Masonic involvement is for a wife or lady of a Mason.  There IS NO involvement in a real sense.  Women cannot be Masons in our Grand jurisdiction and they cannot sit in Lodge meetings nor can they participate in any business related to the Lodge.  The extent of their involvement is that of attending open meetings and family programs.  Knowing this, it is my belief that what we desire from our ladies is not so much involvement but rather acceptance and encouragement from them.  Let’s look at the situation logically… tell her that you are joining a Lodge and that it is for men only, and that its purpose is to make good men better men, and it is a system of moral development.  Then you tell her that you are going to be initiated into three degrees and that you don’t know anything about the degrees….and after your first initiation when you know what is in the degree….you inform her you can’t tell her anything about it because…..IT’S A SECRET.  Then you tell her that you are going to have to study with an instructor a couple of times a week and also go to a couple of Lodge meetings a month.  But you can’t tell her what you are studying except it’s no big deal….cause it’s a SECRET.  And, do you know what she hears?  She only hears “I am going to join a Lodge, and I am going to spend a lot of time doing stuff without you that I can’t tell you anything about.”  When you look at it like that, I think it is easy to understand why a wife might have a few concerns.”  “  Oh wow John,” I blurted out without thinking.  “Until you said all of that, I never realized how bad we screw this up with our wives.”  “Yes we do,” he agreed.  “But it’s not all our fault.  What Masonry is and what it means is hard enough for a veteran Brother to explain, much less for a brand new Brother.  Brother Masons sometime….more than I care to think about…..never learn enough about the Craft to be able to explain it adequately to anyone…..and certainly their wife.  It’s the word “secret” that causes the problems.  I shudder to think how many of our Ladies have lived with their Husband/Mason for years, without a proper understanding of the Lodge and what Masons do in there, unhappy and barely tolerating something that has violated the promise we all make to our wives….that there will be no secrets.  And surely there is a point in which that promise, that perceived breach of trust, causes irreparable damage to a relationship that should have been made stronger and happier because of the beautiful lessons and principles of the Masonic Fraternity.  I am not saying that Masonic membership causes divorce, but I suspect and I believe that many Brothers have dropped out either partially or entirely due to their wives not being able to understand, or not wanting to wait for understanding of what Masonry is and its true purpose.  And, how many of our loving wives have we imposed years of feelings of uncertainty and uneasiness and maybe a little jealousy as we have happily traveled our Masonic journey totally oblivious of the scars we may have created due to the difference between perception and truth.  Masonry takes hold of our hearts and our minds and opens doors and casts aside veils within each of us.  It causes us to sometimes, for the first time in our lives, to feel feelings that before were suppressed and to stir awakenings and discoveries in our character and to show us things about ourselves that we never knew before.  To learn the work and the lessons of the three degrees brings a major sense of accomplishment.  Those newly found feelings and sublime truths first discovered, lead to a greater confidence and sense of wellbeing which should naturally translate into a better man and a happier man.  But many times the opposite happens.  The hurt created by the perception that the man is embarking alone on a secret and separate life and his obvious love and attachment to this life could make a wife withdraw and create a divide between them.  Sometimes this is obvious and sometimes not…..but it is always there….”  John paused to take a drink from his glass and my mind began to wander.  As I pondered, I began to wonder how much hurt I had caused… blind I could have been to the obvious.  Listening to John was a revelation for sure.  “Oh my God John, I whispered. “  We have really screwed this up big time.”  “  Yes,” he replied.  “We surely have……and it may be big time like you said and for some maybe not as bad as we think, but whatever the level, it’s not good.  But how do we fix it, Brother Chris?  How can we possibly  make them understand that this love for Freemasonry is not a substitute for the love of a wife and family…that it can never be a replacement for the lifelong companionship of a wife….that Freemasonry’s purpose is to enhance his relationships and ultimately lead to a happier man who makes those around him happier.  How can we comfort them with the fact that the perceived secrets are just that…..perceived, that they are necessary to the search, and that the real Masonic secrets relate to something much deeper and something much more important that is found within each of us.  Can we ever succeed in showing them that Masonry is the vehicle that unlocks those deeper characteristics of a man’s inner self and allows the real him to step into the light of moral and spiritual truth.  Moreover, how will they ever believe that this journey could never be complete or even be possible without the love of that special woman….a wife….a friend ….and companion?  We have much work to do, my Brother.  Spread the word…..we have much work to do.         

Waterloo Ice House and Let the Lodge Die Rather Than Change

Waterloo Ice House and Let the Lodge Die Rather Than Change

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

I almost didn’t get to talk to him this month.  He called and said that he was not going to be coming through San Antonio this month and of course I panicked and asked, “Well, how close are you going to come?”  “I will be staying in Austin tonight,” he said, “And then heading towards Dallas tomorrow.”  “Heck,” I answered, “That is just an hour away from me.  Why don’t I drive up there and meet you for breakfast.”  “  Ok, as long as it’s early cause I need to get on the road as quick as I can,” he said.  “And since I am going out of my way for you, then you have to buy breakfast.”  I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t say what immediately came to mind, and instead asked him if he had anything on his mind to put in the newsletter this month.  “What kind of question is that,” he growled.  “I always have something on my mind.”  “I just meant…..“  “I know what you meant and to tell you the truth, I am a little aggravated this month and you are the perfect person to vent my frustrations at.”  I think he meant “to” instead of “at”……at least I hoped so, but I said, “Ok, John, There is a place in Austin where I had one of the best breakfasts I have ever had.  It’s called the Waterloo Ice House.  Meet me there.”  “  Brother Chris, I know this is Texas and I know what an Ice House is but I never had no breakfast in one….except if it was what they used to call a little “hair of the dog.”  “Brother John,” I shot back.  “There ain’t no hair and there ain’t no dog just a real good breakfast.”  “You know I am driving don’t you?  I can’t be drinki…..….”  “Cut it out John and just meet me there.”  “OK, OK, you don’t have to get testy.”  Now for all of you out there who do not have the honor and privilege of being Texan and living in this great State, I need to explain that traditionally in Texas, Convenience stores and small beer bars were, and some still are, called ice houses.  This one was once an ice house but had been converted into a restaurant but still had the look and feel of a genuine Texas “ice house.”  I got there before him and found a table situated strategically as far back in the corner and as far away from everyone else as possible…. because, well, you know how he is sometimes.  By the time he strolled through the front door I had a couple of iced teas sitting on the table for us because neither of us are coffee people.  He didn’t even look around to see if I was there and sat down as far away from me as a person could.  I had to go up and get him.  “Sorry Brother Chris,” he said as he made it back to the table.  “I didn’t see you back there.”  I ignored him and handed him the menu which I knew he was going to like.  It was all just basic home cooking, eggs, potatoes, bacon, ham, and sausage made in every way known to man, and plenty of it which is why I picked this place.  He nodded his approval and looked around for someone to take our order.  Our server was Sandy, a nice, bubbly, and energetic young lady who asked John if he knew what he wanted.  “Yup,” he said, “I am gonna start off with that Hill Country Breakfast with bacon and don’t forget the gravy with my biscuits.”  She nodded and looked over at me and he cleared his throat semi-loudly and said, “Darlin, I’m not done yet.”  She raised her eyebrows in surprise and waited for him to continue.  “I will also have one of those All Star Breakfast’s, and a Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs breakfast.  And make all them eggs over medium and don’t scrimp on the gravy.”  “Sandy smiled and made the mistake of asking, “And what will the others be eating?”  He looked at her without any understanding in his expression and she just waited.  And then he got it, and blurted out, “Nooooo darling, that’s just for me.”  It was her turn to be confused as she stood there in shock.  I had been calculating all the eggs, bacon, and biscuits, he had ordered and the tally stood at 8 eggs, 6 slices of bacon, and 6 biscuits, and that didn’t even count the hash browns.  Slowly she turned to look at me and I quickly ordered the regular breakfast.  It took her a few seconds to get it written down, and then off she went to the kitchen.  I had picked a table for four because I knew there was going to be a lot of plates.  We didn’t have to wait long, as it seemed like only a few minutes had gone by when the kitchen door burst open and three servers headed to our table.  Sandy put my plate down in front of me first and then proceeded to lay out a pattern of china in front of John that covered most of the rest of the table.  As he dug right in to a big Chicken Fried Steak, I noticed two old timers sitting at the next table eyeballing John and his maxi-breakfast.  They glanced over at me and shook their head as I spread my hands and shrugged.  They went back to their coffee with smiles on their faces as I began to eat.  I was dying to know what had John all riled up because when he is riled up about something it can be a good talk.  It was futile trying to talk to him while he was eating so I just enjoyed my eggs and bacon, and boy those hash browns were great.  I was halfway done when he looked up and waved at Sandy and ordered four more eggs and another plate of biscuits and gravy which caused the two old timers to raise their eyebrows.  I said to one of them, “He knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  Both of them grinned and shook their heads again and went back to their coffee cups.  John just rolled his eyes and continued to eat.  The only sound that came from him was the occasional grunt or groan as all that food searched for a place to go.  It made me remember that my Grandmother used to say I had a hollow leg because I ate so much when I was a kid.  Man, John must have a lot of hollow places…most I am sure I would rather not know about.  Finally, when all the plates had been cleaned and nothing was left that constituted nourishment of any kind, he looked up and said, “Boy am I upset.”  “What is it John,” I asked?  “Did something happen at your Lodge?”  “Brother Chris, It seems like things get a little crazy every year around Lodge elections time.  You know that we aren’t allowed by Masonic Law to campaign or influence in any way the vote of a Brother for any office.  And of course we can’t talk about how we are going to vote or even how we did vote because the integrity of any secret vote is sacrosanct in Masonry.”  “I know, John,” I said a little confused.  “Every Mason knows that….or should, why the refresher?”  He gave me an irritated look and said, “I know that you know that, and elections is not what I want to talk about, but something happened during our elections the other night that I think happens in a lot of Lodges.”  I could see he was getting agitated and I made the mistake of telling him to relax and tell me about it.  Well, dear reader, you probably remember how crazy he acts when I interrupt him when he gets going on something.  This time was no different.  He just stared at me for several seconds, and in that silence, with him glaring at me, the thought that he had totally forgot what he was going to say crossed my mind.  Suddenly he was back…..”  You have to stop cutting in on me,” he growled. . .  “I am trying to tell you what happened.  As usual our incoming Worshipful Master had talked to the current officers and confirmed that they would serve in a higher position if elected.  When it came time for the nominations another Brother who had recently started coming back to Lodge was nominated for a position, which was unexpected but perfectly normal, and as far as I was concerned, a welcome bit of news that this Brother was interested in serving his Lodge as an officer.  The vote was taken and the returning Brother lost.  He was then nominated for the next position and the next and was not elected to either.  Well during the balloting on the third nomination, the Brother who nominated him was heard to mumble something which was heard by several other Brothers and that is what I want to talk about today.”  

He stopped and I waited….and I waited…..and finally I couldn’t hold it any longer, “What did the Brother say, John?”  “I thought you would never ask,” he grinned further delaying the answer.  “What he said was,” “You can’t beat the clique.”  “And when I heard that it really hit me hard….in several different ways.  At first I was a little angry, and then after spending some time thinking about it, I began to see that there are several angles to that comment.  Do you know what a clique is, Brother Chris?”  Hmmm,” I said “I think it is a group within a group that is at odds with the group or tries to control the group.”  John got a bewildered look on his face and said, “I don’t know if I understand all of what you just said…..heck I am not sure you know what you just said but what you just described is exactly what this Brother was talking about.”  He was inferring that there was a group in the Lodge that controlled everything in the Lodge and, according to him, the elections of the officers.  This Brother was, by his mumbled words, saying that the election was rigged in some way.”  I couldn’t hold my words in any longer and I blurted out, “That’s ridiculous.”  “Ahhhh, of course you are right, Brother Chris”, he said.  “But I got to wondering if there were other Brethren who might be having the same ideas as this Brother.  So I decided that I needed to maybe explain to some of the “less informed Brethren” what the Brother who made the comment should already know.”  I grabbed my voice recorder and clicked it on and motioned for him to continue and after a sideways look at me he said, “Brother Chris, there really are cliques in many of our Lodges.  These cliques are usually made up of Brethren who band together in small groups to mostly oppose the ideas and or views of another group.  I will tell you that most always it is a group of Past Masters who would rather see their Lodge die than allow it to put into practice any policy or program that constitutes a deviation from the status quo.  The prevailing attitude is “If it was good enough for us when I was the Master then it is good enough for us now” or the ever popular “Well that’s the way we always did it.”  When I see this destructive choosing of sides in a Lodge I shake my head in sadness.  I already know what the problem is and I used to try to tell the Brothers what it was but my words always fell on deaf ears.  Boy, Masons are some of the most pigheaded men in existence.  The problem is always education and communication…  ….and not necessarily in that order either.  In Lodges where there is education and communication there are usually no cliques…because the Brethren can and do talk to each other.  In Lodges with destructive cliques, no one talks unless it is behind the others back.  And all of this is really bad since a clique by definition is a violation of a Brothers obligation.  And I continue to be saddened by the lack of Masonic Education of our members both in the area of Masonic Philosophy as well as Masonic history.  To the Brothers who fight change of any kind or the slightest attempt at doing something which might appeal to someone born to a younger generation, a rather small amount of research would inform them that Masonry in all ages and time periods has been the leader in change.  Masons and this fraternity have led the world into every period of progress for the last 500 years and more.  The age of enlightenment was ushered in by Masons who led the world in the study of science and scientific discovery.  It was our Brethren who led the fight for freedom in all its forms throughout history.  It was our Masonic Grandfathers and Great grandfathers, in huge numbers who created this country and this government which is unequaled by any in the history of the world….and who were responsible for the greatest leap in knowledge in the world in the shortest amount of time ever.  These were our Masonic Brothers who were always at the forefront of free thinking and forward thinking, constantly leading the change of the world, bringing mankind along paths they had not before known and making things light before them.  My God, Brother Chris.  We are the innovators and always have been.  We have changed this world and at least until lately it seems have embraced new ideas and ways.  And we have done all of this and still preserved our Ancient traditions and work.  Bottom line Brother Chris….it’s what we do…or at least what we have always done.  So sad that so many won’t try to understand that it is, and has always been, our free thinking and our changing that has helped make the world what it is.  Change is our destiny and by not changing we are in essence telling those young, healthy, free thinking minds that we don’t want you.  And then he went quiet…and I couldn’t tell if he was done or just ran out of gas.  He just sat there staring straight ahead with a confused look on his face.  I was still taking in what he had just said, knowing that he was right.  I said, “John, are you ok?”  A voice to my left said, “Yeah, are you OK?”  I glanced over and saw that the old guys at the next table had been listening to us.  John shook his head and said, “Yeah, I’m ok.  The one nearest John said, “Boy, what you said was great.  Just who are you guys anyway and how do you know you did all that stuff?”  John and I just looked at each other wondering how we were going to explain this.  They did seem genuinely interested and I was wondering what they were going to say when we told them.  John finally looked over at them and said directly, “We are Freemasons and what I said was true….all of it.”  “I told you it was them Masons” the one said to the other.  “My Daddy was a Mason and I used to hear him talk like that sometimes.  Those Masons are good men and my Daddy was a good man.”  “  Well then why the Sam Hill ain’t you a Mason,” the other old timer countered?  “I just don’t really know,” was the answer.  “It’s never too late,” I offered and they both nodded.  Then one of them said to John, “I really liked what you said and how you said it.  But that don’t just happen in your organization.  It happens pretty much everywhere.”  The two old timers then apologized for butting into our conversation and turned back to their coffee cups.  John turned back to me and took a deep breath and said, “I just got a little off track about talking about the cliques but you can’t talk about the bad stuff without understanding the ins and outs of why they are bad.  Now you know why I was upset, because our Lodge doesn’t have cliques like that.  We communicate and we educate.  Course it helps to go to Lodge to get educated…and also to read as much as possible.  What many Brethren think are cliques, are just a few of the same guys doing all the work.  I have seen it many times that guys who don’t or won’t get involved in the Lodge, who won’t take on a challenge of working on a committee, who won’t come and practice or even to regular meetings very often will decide that the Lodge is being run by a clique.  Well I’ve got news for those guys….the Lodge is being run by those who are interested enough in its future to get involved and be a part of its future.  All any Brother has to do to get involved is to show up.  There is so much that needs to be done that no one would ever be turned down for wanting to help.  I have heard the clique comment from time to time for years and I doubt I will ever be able to hear it without getting angry.  I have heard it from Brothers who’s Lodge has a serious problem and are angry and frustrated and have every right to be.  Sometimes Brothers have a valid point when the group running the Lodge is not attentive to the membership.”  “  You are so right Brother John,” I said.  “But what can a Brother do when his Lodge is being stymied or hurt by one of these groups?”  He thought about it for a few seconds and said, “As I see it, they have a couple of choices.  They can quit complaining and just get involved in their Lodge and gain consensus over time with other Brothers who have the Lodges best interests in mind instead of their own.  Then good things are surely to happen.  Or, if all avenues to correct a sinking Lodge have been exhausted, then it may be time to find a Lodge that is receptive to the Brethren.  To stop coming to Lodge is not the answer.  The Lodge is the center of Masonry and sharing that fraternal love and friendship with like-minded Brethren is the essence of Masonry….it is where our strength is.  I hope you pass this along Brother Chris.”  “I surely will John.  It looks like this trip was well worth it.”  I paid the bill and we said our goodbyes to the old timers.  He told me he would see me for sure next month, and as I watched him roar off in that big diesel pickup it occurred to me just how closely intertwined our lives become as Masons and how close to each other we become.  Wow….I sure hope I never have to live without that.  Have a great month y’all.    

Vitek’s, The Serpent, And A Lesson In Masonic Secrecy

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

Those of you who have been regular readers of this column know that I do not believe in luck or coincidence.  I now know that things happen ….because they are supposed to happen.  And, that knowledge has been such a great awakening because of all I have realized and experienced.  What I don’t understand is how my Big Brother John Deacon seems to know where I am every month.  It’s almost as if he has some kind of a tracking device on my truck or something…… hummmmm.  I might ought to check that out……well anyway here’s what happened recently.  I was in Waco getting ready to have lunch with two of my closest Masonic Brothers when my phone rings.  I saw it was John and figured that he knowing it was about time for my newsletter, was going to tell me when he was coming through San Antonio so we could meet.  I answered and he told me that he was on his way to town and wanted to know if I could meet him the next day for lunch.  I told him that I was not going to be back for three days and told him where I was and what I was doing.  His answer was, “Hey that’s great.  I am just passing through Waco now….I will be right there.”  I just stood there with the phone to my ear with, no one on the other end because he had already hung up, a dumb look on my face, and Brad and Larry looking at me wondering what the heck was going on.  I told them that there was going to be one more joining us for lunch.  They were a lot happier about it than I was…..heck they weren’t going to have to pay for him.  We were at Vitek’s BBQ just getting ready to get in line to order.  I explained to the order taker that we had one more coming and that he was a really big guy and he eats like three men.  I just wanted to warn him, but right in the middle of my explanation John walked up and danged if every employee in the place didn’t walk up and say hi to him…..  by name.  Apparently, he has been there before….many times before.  He said hi to all three of us and said, “I’ll get us a table.”  And he walked off.  I called out to him that he had to order at the counter first and he just laughed and kept on walking.  The guy taking the orders laughed and said, “Don’t worry, we have his order already.”  We were all confused, but we went ahead and ordered and picked up our food at the end of the counter and went to look for John.  We found him sitting at a big booth in the back.  As surprised as we were that he did not have to order his lunch…….he didn’t even have to pick it up either…..they brought it to him.  I asked him what he ordered as he tried to look over the top of the mountain of food in front of him.  He said he got his usual which was four “full” Gut Paks.  A Gut Pak is a big cardboard bowl with a layer of Fritos on the bottom and piled on top was chopped beef, beans, sausage, cheese, onions, bread, pickles, jalapeno peppers, and BBQ sauce.  Just one was a huge amount of food….and he had four of them.  Larry, Brad, and I just had BBQ plates and were finished long before he was.  We made small talk amongst ourselves because John always eats in total silence.  Just when we thought he was done, one of the staff came over to shovel ….  er…pick up all the trash he left behind and left him a big bowl of banana pudding, the whole top covered in vanilla wafers just the way I like it.  We all looked at that and immediately asked the guy to bring three more…..and boy, was it good!!!  Finally all the food on the table was gone and I asked John if he had anything worth putting in the newsletter to share with us.  He contemplated for a moment trying to build suspense until I got up and said, “OK, we’re outta here…let’s go.”  “OK, OK,” he said motioning us to sit back down.  “I do have a great story for you.”  We’ll be the judge of that,” I said smiling at Larry and Brad who agreed with me.  He blinked a couple of times like he was confused but continued, “We talk about Masonic secrecy and for most non-Masons the “secrecy” is Masonry.  They don’t seem to care about anything else.  It’s all about the secrecy.  Well last week I experienced Masonic secrecy in its purest and most perfect form.  I had been invited to install my Brother Nephew as Worshipful Master of Chambers Creek Lodge, one of our many historic moonlight Lodges.  Coincidentally, as it turned out, I was going to mention Masonic secrecy in my remarks to the non-Masons in attendance.  But little did I know that I was going to see Masonic secrecy in action.”  He had our full and undivided attention now and we were all leaning a little forward in our seats.  John talks a little loud at times and I was sure that the guys at the table next to us must have heard him because they were leaning a little towards us and not talking to each other at all.  I gave John the “lower your voice” signal which he totally ignored so I kept myself ready to jump on him if he said anything he wasn’t supposed to.  “Now I am going to tell the story as close to how Brother Joe told it,” he said seriously.  “This is a very old Lodge building, over 100 years old, but still standing strong.  Originally, it was a school on the ground floor and the Lodge room on the top floor….and as you can imagine, pest and varmint control is always a challenge.  Brother Joe, the incoming Junior Warden, got to the Lodge before the rest of us and opened up the fellowship hall which is on the ground floor.  He then was going to climb the stairs to the Lodge room and get the lights on.  To get to the stairs you have to exit the lower level and enter a hallway on the side of the building.  As he got to the top of the stairs he saw something move and when he saw what it was, he froze.”  At this point, dear reader, I have to tell you that when John paused to take a swallow of his tea, with me, Larry, and Brad hanging on that last word, he came really close to being roughed up by all three of us…..and I think we could have taken him.  He saw the aggravation on our faces and chuckled and finally continued, “There, against the wall and wrapped around the top of the staircase banister was a snake.  They just stared at each other for a few seconds waiting for the other to make a move.  Brother Joe looked him over and saw that he was a rat snake about four foot long and although he knew he wasn’t poisonous, that didn’t mean he liked him any better.  Then symbolically pro teming as Tiler, Brother Joe grabbed the implement of that office and used the business end to coax that slithering intruder down the stairs.  I can almost see him in my mind thrusting and parrying, keeping that sucker moving downstairs towards the door.  Every few feet that old snake would raise his head and swivel it around to look at Joe as if to say “give me a break….I’m going already.”  And when that snake got to the door instead of just going out, he went in behind the door.  So Joe, really careful like, used the tip of his sword to gently swing the door away from the wall, keeping a watch out for him to try and double back.  Instead of the door just swinging away from the wall, it shut completely, and there Joe was….him and that Rat Snake together……alone… total darkness.  Now I don’t know about you boys, but I would have been up on my tippy toes doing a little tap dance worrying about keeping my bodily functions in check in that situation.  But Brother Joe is a braver man than I and he reached across and opened that door and looked down just in time to see the last 12 inches of serpent disappear through a sizable crack between the door frame and the floor.  And then, knowing there were visitors….and more than likely ladies coming, he found a piece of wood and covered the escape hatch to prevent any sort of re-entry…….at least from that spot.”  John stopped to take a breath and I could hear the guys at the next table giggling.  Brad’s mouth was open in shock and Larry was shaking his head in disbelief.  I just sat there in silence staring at him.  I still wasn’t sure that he was not making the whole thing up.  “So where does the Masonic secrecy come into play,” I asked?  “Well, if you would hold your horses and let me finish,” he shot back sarcastically.  “When the rest of us got to the Lodge, Brother Joe was just sitting at one of the tables, still a little winded, holding that Tiler’s sword in his hand.  After he told us the story, we all went to searching the various apartments of the building, upstairs and down for that unwanted visitor.  We then held a quick clandestine meeting to swear everyone to secrecy as to not have the visitors and ladies refuse to come into the building and having to cancel the Installation.  It was decided that all hands were to keep an eye out to guard against the approach of any kind of cowan or eavesdropper.”  “  Why was the meeting clandestine,” Brad wanted to know.  “Because we didn’t have enough to open a Lodge,” he snarled like we already knew that.  “And we didn’t want anyone to get wind of what happened…….and nothing did.  That snake never made an appearance and all went well.”  “  So what about your comments before the installation,” Larry asked.  “You said you were going to say something about secrecy.  How did that go?”  “  Well let me tell you fellers what I told them,” he said.  I told them that there are a lot of people out there who think our Fraternity is a secret society and that everything we do is secret, and that it is true that secrecy is at the heart of our lessons and obligations, and that our rituals contain “supposed” Masonic secrets…….but as most Brother Masons know, our secret ritual can differ quite a bit from one Lodge to another and sometimes from one night to another in the same Lodge.  Also the ritual from one Grand Jurisdiction to another is either slightly or in most cases very different from each other.  I told them that the true secrets of the Freemasons are just this: shared experiences, private thoughts, and deeper understandings between men…. who have formed a bond through a fraternity that supports and strengthens them through its teachings.  Men from all walks of life and from all backgrounds come together in Masonry and call each other Brother.  And, many of us truly become like brothers.  We form trusting and resilient friendships.  We share life’s trials and tribulations.  We accept and are accepted.”  Wow, John.  That’s really good,” I said.  “How did they like it?”  “Well if you would quit interrupting like you always do and let me finish, I will tell you,” he growled.  “I told them that there are those who believe that Masons are a group of elitists, who parade around in their Aprons, and think they are better than everyone else…..but the truth is that Masons are just regular men, good men, who are each on his own personal journey of self-discovery and self-improvement.  Masons are men who believe in God…. who are looking for, and in most cases finding truths about not only themselves, but life in general.  And, I told them that we use what we call working tools which relate symbolically to the tools of the ancient builders.  These tools are used symbolically in our rituals to convey moral and spiritual lessons by using allegory or simply a play in which the initiate represents the principal character.  I finished by telling them that Masonry speaks to every man differently.  It speaks to him in a way he can understand.  It is said about Masonry that, from the outside looking in, it is impossible to understand… ….and from the inside looking out, it is impossible to explain.  In many ways it cannot be explained.  It must be experienced….it must be felt.  It is about doing things right……and it is about good.  If you are a family member of a Mason, it is important for you to understand that Masonry is not to be made more important than your God, your family, or your vocation.  Masons are not perfect men…….but we are working on it.  The stated purpose of Masonry is to make good men, better men…… better husbands…..better Fathers….and better citizens and to be a positive example and influence to others.”  And he stopped …….and no one said anything.  Partly because he chewed my rear last time anyone said anything and partly because no words were necessary.  There was no doubt it was good….maybe real good.  The guys at the next table who were eavesdropping got up and came over and shook John’s hand and said, “Thank you sir.  That was very interesting.  I learned more about you Masons in that last thirty minutes than I have ever known.  We are glad we were here to snoop and hear them.  I have family members who are Masons but I never asked to join because everyone who tried to explain it to me had a different story….and I took that to be suspicious.  I am starting to see why it is so confusing to those of us who aren’t Masons.  I can see that it is different for each man and that makes sense to me.”  With that he and his friend said goodbye and walked out the door.  “That was a pretty good story John,” Larry said.  “And I am not sure that it lives up to the definition of pure and true Masonic secrecy, but it sure puts into perspective our obsession with the word “secrecy.”  Did you ever stop to think about how long that snake has been hanging around the Lodge?  He might already be in possession of all the secrets of a Master Mason.”  If that is true my Brother,” Brad interjected.  “Maybe y’all ran him off and he was just looking to get a petition.  That’s a hell of a way to treat a prospective candidate.”  We all…….except John got a good laugh out of that.  He had a frown on his face and seemed offended.  “You know it’s not that funny,” he said seriously.  “Brother Joe was in a scary situation.”  Well we stopped laughing immediately.  Heck we didn’t realize it was such a big deal to him.  And as we sat there feeling sorry for making a joke, John suddenly let a whoop and began laughing uncontrollably.  The joke was on us.  “Brother John,” I said after the laughter died down.  “This was fun.  The story was good, the fellowship was good, and the food was real good.  Unfortunately, we have to get going so instead of sneaking out and sticking me with the lunch bill or telling me you forgot your wallet, just give me your ticket and I will pay.  I have to say it was worth it this time.”  “  Well, that’s awful Brotherly of you my Brother,” he said as he waived one of the employees over.  “Could you bring my lunch bill to my Brother Chris?  He has graciously offered to pay for my lunch.”  The employee smiled and said, “Mr. Deacon, every time you drive through Waco you stop and eat here and because of all the money you have spent here over the years, the manager told me to tell you that your meal today is on the house.”  It was my turn to let out a whoop, and when I did, I looked over at John and the look on his face as he realized that technically I was getting the free lunch by not having to pay for his …..  was priceless.  His mouth was moving but there were no words coming out and that is how we left him.  Yessir….it was a great day.

Our Obligation to Masonic Funerals
Truck Stop Enchiladas

“Brother Chris, I am so hungry I could eat the South end out of a North bound mule,” he said. I responded with a sick look on my face, “John I am going to act like you never said that to me.” My day had been going pretty good until I looked up and saw a giant coming in the door. It was John all right and of course he was hungry… when is he not? I told him that I didn’t know he was coming and I had to run an errand downtown. Predictably, he wanted to go with me and have lunch somewhere on the way. I told him he could come along and began trying to figure out where to eat. If it was just me I would drive through somewhere and eat on the run but not John. Oh no …………. His is a more refined palate and demands a higher quality junk food. It’s enough to make you lose your appetite. I finally decided to try something a little different and asked John if he had ever eaten at Casbeers. “I am sorry Brother Chris,” he said “but I don’t really drink beer.” “I don’t mean drink beer John,” I said looking sideways at him. “I mean have you eaten at a place called Casbeers?” “No,” he replied “I’m OK going just about anywhere; I just won’t have the beer.” I gave up and just drove in silence. It was better for my sanity that way. After a while he just began talking. He said, “Brother Chris, one of our Lodge members, Jerry Lee, was moaning the other day that one of our long time members and a Past Master had gone to that Celestial Lodge above and there were only five Masons at his funeral. He said that it was embarrassing because the Brother had been a member of our Lodge for almost 50 years and only five Brothers made it to his funeral and he could tell that the family was disappointed. I listened to him going on about it for a few minutes and decided I had heard enough. This had been boiling in my belly for some time and it was ready to come out. I said “Brother Jerry, what year was this Brother the Master of our Lodge?” “Well John,” he replied back to me, “You know when he was Master. It was the year before you. I guess it’s been 25 years or so.” I said, “So when was the last time the Brother was in Lodge?” “I think it was, as well as I can remember, about 20 years or so since I last saw him,” Jerry answered but quickly continued, “But he was kind of active in the Scottish Rite and the Shrine. You know that we have an obligation to him as our Brother to attend his burial.” “ So, other than you and I, who else who is active in the Lodge right now knows him,” I asked. He figured out where I was going with this and got defensive on me, “That shouldn’t matter John. We all take an obligation to take care of each other and we didn’t do our job last week.” I could tell he was sure he was right on this and he was going to fight me tooth and nail to the finish so I said to him, “Brother Jerry, you are absolutely right ……” He got a real confused look on his face as he was not expecting that response. So while I had him wondering what the heck was going on I finished my sentence ……..“ in a perfect world. But this, Jerry, is not a perfect world. This is the real world. In a perfect world our Brothers would attend the Blue Lodge at least some of the time. In a perfect world they would realize that their boring Lodge that they stopped attending because they didn’t like someone in the leadership or something that was going on, has a change every year in not only leadership but also in dynamics as new Brothers step in with new and different ideas and programs. In a perfect world they would get involved in making their Lodge better instead of running off to the Scottish Rite, or York Rite or Shrine and putting their talents to work there, never to return to their Lodge. In a perfect world, Brother Jerry, they would realize that those other organizations wouldn’t even exist without the Blue Lodges.”

Well, I could see that he was panicking because I was cutting down the appendant organizations so I said, “Now don’t go getting weird on me Brother Jerry. You know that I am a Scottish Rite Mason, and a York and a Shriner just like you. My point is that even though I attend functions of all of them when I can, I always manage to attend my Lodge. I am not able to go all the time but everyone knows me and I know all the active Brothers. Are you starting to get my point?” Jerry lowered his head and said, “I see what you are saying Brother John but it’s just not fair.” “You are right,” I said. “But the truth of the matter is that the world we live in right now pulls each and every one of us in so many different directions that time is the one thing no one has enough of. So in the real world, Brother Jerry, if the Brothers know you, they will make the time to show up to your funeral and if they don’t, they might not. I am not saying it is right and I know it’s not fair but …………. It Is What It Is. I do wish though, my Brother that I could somehow make all my Brothers understand how important their Lodge is.” “ Durn it Brother John,” Jerry whined, “I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel like we are beating our heads on the outside of the door and the door never opens.” I stood there with a surprised look on my face and I told him, “Jerry, what you just said is dripping with symbolism and deeper meanings. It is a quote that demands deeper study and reflection for sure.” Jerry got a worried look on his face and started looking around for an escape. As he eased away from me he said over his shoulder, “Sometimes you scare the heck out of me John.” Durned if he didn’t avoid me the rest of the night.

So there’s my story Brother Chris. You can agree or not but it’s the way it is. I said, “John, I can’t argue with any of what you said but I admit that the whole thing makes me sad. I wish that I had the answer. A Brother that works is always less likely to be able to go to funerals during the week. I do have to agree with what you said about knowing a Brother. If I know him, I will make whatever arrangements necessary to be there. If I don’t know him I will try to make it but I admit that it’s not as much of a priority as if I know the Brother. I am sorry to admit that. My priorities need to change.”

We had arrived at the restaurant and I got to the door and looked around for John and he was still sitting in the truck. I waived and said, “John this is the place.” He stuck his head out the window and emphatically said, “There is no way I’m going in there to eat.” I had been there plenty of times and I had forgotten what the front of the place looked like. Actually because I knew what was behind the front door I had stopped noticing the outside a long time ago. I guess it actually is a little intimidating to someone who has never eaten there. The restaurant is sandwiched between a pizza place and a bar next to a tattoo parlor in a small strip center with almost no room to park in the front. It is painted in a variety of colors with the predominate color being yellow. The neighborhood is an older one with both newly remodeled houses as well as many in various stages of disrepair. The front door to the restaurant is a combination screen and wood door and has seen better days. I guess the most intimidating feature is the original spray can artwork that adorns the front of the building in several places. I chuckled as I thought that John is probably not the only one who didn’t want to go in after seeing the outside. But I knew what was behind that door. “Hey John”, I teased. ” “I thought they called you BIG John. Quit being a sissy and get your rear out of the truck before the place gets busy.” “ You’ve got to be kidding,” he laughed. There’s no one here but us and I’d be surprised if it ever gets busy.” “ Boy are you in for a big surprise,” I said as he tentatively approached the door. I swung it open and he followed me in. Once inside I looked back at John, whose mouth was open in surprise. His first reaction was to ask, “Where the heck did all these people come from?” There must have been 25 or 30 people there eating. We found a booth in the back that was empty and settled in. While John perused the menu the menu I enjoyed the atmosphere. It is a real neat place to go. The room is in an “L” shape and its main feature is the long wooden bar that runs from the front door about half way across the dining room. Old style wood booths line the walls with about ten tables scattered across the room. There is a band stand in one corner and they have live music several nights a week. The locals make up the most of their clientele and most all the time you will find a table or two occupied with retired guys having a beer or just shootin’ the breeze. The walls are covered with pictures, most of them autographed, of all the musicians that have performed there. It just so happened that on the wall in our booth looking down on us with a big grin and a cigar in his mouth was a picture of Kinky Friedman. To top it all off was a twelve foot TV screen on one wall with a World Cup Soccer match on. I noticed John was looking around the room too and I asked him what he thought. He got a little smile on his face and said, “Brother Chris this is the kind of place that my Daddy would say has “a lot of character.” I love this place. I sure hope the food is good too.” I said, “John, you are in for a reeeeeeeeeeeal treat. Their specialty is enchiladas. These are not your regular enchiladas though. They are bigger than your normal enchilada with cheddar cheese inside. They have cheddar cheese all over the top and are smothered, and I do mean smothered with the best chili you ever tasted. …………. John, are you drooling?” I continued as he wiped his mouth. “You order them in quantities of two or three and yes, you can order as many as you want. They come with bread or crackers. I call them truck stop enchiladas and I love them.” Heck he was waving for the waitress before I finished talking!! She wandered over to our table obviously not real impressed by John’s stature nor his exuberance. Her name was Mary. John was so giddy with excitement at the opportunity of ordering multiple amounts of just enchiladas that he was almost bouncing in his seat. Mary looked at him and then at me and asked without any emotion in her voice, “What’s up with Paul Bunyan here?” I grinned and started to speak but before I could answer John said. “Are you the enchilada lady? I need some enchiladas.” Still looking at me she asked, “How many enchiladas does Paul want?” Again before I could answer he said, Young lady it’s John, not Paul and he wants twelve enchiladas, a big glass of tea, and just bring a loaf of bread.” Still looking at me (and keeping in mind that I haven’t said a word yet) with a look of total disbelief on her face she said, “Does Paul…uhhhhh … John know that no one has ever eaten twelve enchiladas here at one time before?” I honestly did try to say something but again he butted in, “Not to worry darlin’ and keep that dessert menu handy. Oh, and my friend here will have four enchiladas …. Is that OK Brother Chris…? (I just nodded… what else could I do) and a big tea for him too and he’ll share my bread.” She then arched her eyebrows still looking at me and asked, “Will that be all?” Heck I didn’t even try to answer but this time John didn’t either so I just nodded. As she walked away she winked at me and said, “Nice talking to you.” John leaned towards me, lowered his voice, and said, “Brother Chris is it just me or was she a little strange?” “John, she is probably saying the same thing in the kitchen right now about you.” (I don’t know how it is, but when I am with John it feels like I am in the middle of an old Twilight Zone episode.) I said. “I don’t think she likes being waived at the way you did.” When she brought our plates he tried to tell her that he was not a crazy man but I think he made it worse and he finally started in on his enchiladas. A couple of the patrons close by raised their eyebrows as they saw how many enchiladas that John had ordered. We ate in silence as usual and when he did talk it was more of a grunt. It was obvious that he liked them. As he was finishing Mary came by to fill our tea glasses and asked me if it all tasted good. I told her all was well and John said “you may think I am crazy but darlin I don’t think you know just how much I love enchiladas and these are some of the best I have ever had. I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror tomorrow if I didn’t have at least four more. She turned and just stood there staring at John as if she was in a trance. Then she slowly turned around and announced to the room that he wanted four more. I hadn’t realized it but everyone in the place had been watching as John ate his meal. As soon as Mary made her announcement they all let out a big cheer. Heck they were still whooping and hollering when Mary delivered the four enchiladas to John. This was apparently a major thing for all of them. (It was obvious that they don’t get out very much) As John ate they stared at him and let out another cheer every time he finished an enchilada. Of course he was loving every bit of it. He had that big goofy grin on his face and was soaking up the attention. I just shook my head. Having a nice quiet lunch with John Deacon is a virtual impossibility. By the time he finished all four there was a crowd of people around us about two feet from our table. I don’t know about you but I have a hard time eating when I’m being stared at. I don’t usually get claustrophobic but this was a little uncomfortable. I noticed that the place had pretty much filled up with people. I guess the word was out that history was being made at Casbeers. I could see that John was caught up in the moment. He had just finished the last four he ordered and to the wild cheers of the throng he ordered four more. I had stopped eating a long time ago and just for the record, no one noticed. I was watching John closely for signs of enchilada overload…………… you know what I am talking about, but he seemed to be doing ok. I heard someone yell from the back asking how he was doing. He said something like “that’s why they call me Big John.” Mary had not spoken a word to him since we got there. I am pretty sure that she thought he was nuts. Heck I could have told her that. Off towards the kitchen I saw that the cook had written the number 12 with a plus sign and a four and another plus and another four. Lord this was taking on a life of its own. As usual everyone was having fun but me. I just knew this was going to end badly. I turned back to see him down number twenty to the delight of his adoring fans. Sure they were happy; they didn’t have him riding in their truck. The crowd had moved right up to the edge of our booth and we were trapped in. Those crazy people were actually chanting his name Big John ….. Big John…. Big John and imploring him to order more. He was looking at me and I thought he was getting a little “green around the gills” and I also thought about maybe getting out of the line of fire (if you know what I mean). Just them he let out the biggest, baddest burrrrrrrrrp I think I have ever heard, took a deep breath, and promptly ordered three more enchiladas. The crowd went wild and the cook added a three to the blackboard. I had to yell over the noise to be heard, “John,” I yelled. “Are you crazy?” “Yup,” he yelled back. “I’m going for the record Brother Chris.” I yelled that he had broken the record a long time ago but he didn’t hear me. Mary had to literally climb over people to get to us. The first sign of trouble came right after he had finished the second enchilada. I was the first to see it. The goofy grin went away all of a sudden and he glanced at me. I noticed the beads of sweat that had appeared on his forehead. Then he stopped chewing completely. Immediately the place went quiet. John was still looking at me and I will be honest, I was slowly easing out of the booth just in case. There was no sound in the place. These people weren’t born yesterday. They knew what was coming. They were easing back too. I whispered, “John, are you OK? You want me to help you to the bathroom?” John nodded very slightly and whispered back, “Just point me in the right direction and give me a push. As we eased out of the booth together the crowd, sensing what was going on quickly made a lane for us to get across the room. I could see his legs trembling a little and I thought I might have to help him but he got all the way to the door of the men’s room by himself and disappeared inside. I turned around and said, “He will be OK. Y’all can all go back to what you were doing.” No one moved. “Seriously now, it’s OK.” But still…No one moved. So we waited. After it had been about five minutes I started to think that I should go in and check on him and by the looks on some of the onlooker’s faces they thought so too. I shrugged and turned to the door and as I reached for the handle it swung open and John walked out. The first thing he saw was about seventy five people staring at him as he came out of the door and it startled him for a second and he stopped still in the doorway. There we were. Everyone staring at John ……. and John staring back. Then he did something only John would do. He got the goofy grin on his face and threw his hands in the air. Holy crap, the place went crazy. Their hero was back. Some of these people needed to get a life for sure. John went straight back to the booth and took and drink of tea and announced that he was done. I looked around for Mary to pay the check while trying to calculate how much 23 enchiladas plus my four was going to be. She waded through the crowd to hand me the bill which only had my meal on it. Seeing my quizzical look she explained that John’s was on the house. Apparently he had brought in a whole days worth of business during the last hour and everyone was hungry now. Great I thought, at least something good came out of this. I turned for the door in time to see the cook taking a picture of John next to a big plate of enchiladas. Everyone was shaking his hand and clapping him on the back. I grabbed his arm and headed for the door and managed to get him out without too much trouble. People were still waving as we got into my truck and headed out. We rode along in total silence for a while until I couldn’t stand it anymore and I asked, “Hey John, did you lose all those enchiladas while you were in the restroom?” He gave me a sideways glance and said a little sheepishly, “Heck no Brother Chris. I just needed to … ahhhhh ……. relieve some air pressure … if you know what I mean. I was just trying to be polite.” “ Well that got me to smiling and the smile turned to a grin and the grin to a chuckle and by the time I was laughing out loud so was John. I told him between gasps for breath, “I have to tell you John that I love you and you are my Brother but if you attempt to ahhhhhhhhh ….. relieve some air pressure or anything else in my truck I WILL leave your hugeness on the side of the road.” “ Point received and taken my Brother,” he said curtly. “And I would extend the same courtesy to you in similar circumstances.” “I am sure you would John,” I said as I pulled up next to his truck to let him out. I had been thinking about what he had said earlier about his argument with his Brother Jerry from his Lodge.

“You know John,” I said. “ Just to be clear regarding funerals for our departed Brethren. It is pretty sad that we can get 20 Brothers to come to a Masters Degree for a Brother but we can’t get five Brothers to bid him farewell when he passes. I agree with your Brother Jerry that it isn’t fair. Heck, you and I are real active in the Lodge, but what if sickness or even age makes it so we cannot go to Lodge anymore and when we die no one shows up. I think you will agree that it is not fair at all. The answer is for we who still are active to make sure our Brethren know and understand how important it is to honor our departed Brethren. We need to understand that we are, or should be, Masons from the beginning to the end and if he is a Brother Mason then he deserves a proper ceremony with his Brothers present.”

“I agree with you, Brother Chris,” he said. “I think that Jerry and I just need to make sure the awareness is there and maybe the attendance at funerals will be better.” He slid out and closed the door and did a little jig across the parking lot.

“I have to tell you John, that life is never dull when you are around and I haven’t figured out if that’s good or bad.” He climbed in his truck and rolled down the window and looked at me with a real serious look on his face and said, “Let me know when you figure it out and just remember that I am a legend in my own mind.” I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly but before I could say anything he threw his head back and started cackling like an old lady and drove off down the road. He apparently thought it was funnier than I did. Guess I did hear him correctly after all.


The Grand Lodge Library and Museum Board is honored to announce that Billy Hamilton has joined our organization in the position of on-site General Manager for the Masonic Grand Lodge Library and Museum of Texas, effective today. Brother Hamilton brings over 20 years of management experience leading teams at major corporations such as Verizon and AT&T, as well as a distinguished history of volunteer service to the Masonic fraternity. Billy also brings unique skills in technology and innovation that enhance the purpose and vision of the Library and Museum.

As the General Manager, he will be responsible for all decisions including, but not limited to, the use of the Grand Lodge building, maintenance and upkeep, employee relations, human resources matters, and any business in reference with the Grand Lodge building, the Library and Museum, and the Masonic Oak Park. Brother Hamilton now serves as the single point of contact for all questions related to the Grand Lodge building facilities, including rental, hours of operation, and policies. He will report directly to the Grand Lodge Library and Museum Board of Directors and will serve as their voice in all matters of day-to-day operations.

Brother Hamilton will be available in the office Monday through Friday during regular business hours. For any questions, please feel free to contact him at

Please join the Board in welcoming Billy to our team and supporting the great mission of preserving and perpetuating all things venerated by the Library and Museum.


Masonry At Its Source

Historic Evidence Found in Ancient Egypt and Throughout 

The Old World 

Texas Freemason – September 1920 

Editor’s Note: There are many practical-minded brethren in the modem Craft who, though good and active Masons, are little interested in questions of antiquity relating to the order. However, the antiquity of Masonry is one of the supports that has given it appeal to the greatest minds and the finest types of men of past generations as well as the present. It is proof of the great truth embodied in Masonry that endures like the truth of nature itself. Some of the so-called evidence produced by Masonic scholars is rather vague and not established perhaps to the satisfaction of a jury of twelve sitting in judgment; but such facts as Bro. Higgins, quoted in the following article, has discovered are at least as authentic and credible as much of the evidence upon which many of the accepted facts of profane history are founded. This treatise is reproduced for the benefit of Masons who find pleasure in the study of these questions. It has had extensive publication in the profane press. 

With the recent explorations in the Soudan region of Africa of the ruins of Napata, the ancient capital of Ethiopia (the Kush of the Old Testament), bringing to light an ancient temple of Amon containing a huge Masonic altar, and with archaeologists getting ready to renew their explorations in Palestine and the Euphrates valley, antiquarians are expecting further additions to the vast mass of evidence of the worldwide spread of Primitive Freemasonry, which conceals in its rites, symbols and ceremonies the teaching and belief m the “Grand Architect” and “Great Geometrician of the Universe,” a one and supreme God. 

The most noted Masonic antiquarian in the United States, Frank G. Higgins, thirty-second degree, who has passed twenty-five years and travelled the globe in his search for Masonic relics, expects the explorations to bring to light much new material that will link the mound builders of the Mississippi Valley, the Mayas of Yucatan, the ancient Egyptians and the Chaldees into one primitive brotherhood. 

“It is true that Freemasonry is the parent of all religion, the original world-wide cosmic gnosis, diffused in ancient times to the uttermost ends of the earth,” said Mr. Higgins when seen in his Brooklyn home surrounded by hundreds of books and case after case of Masonic relics. “Freemasonry is the Pompeii of prehistoric science. All the Masonic ritual, its Egyptian signs, its Chaldean grips, its Sanskrit passwords, its ancient Hebrew symbols, its cabalistic allusions and its historical record are supremely scientific and a survival through long ages, by various underground channels, of the knowledge of the universe which was gained by Sabean astronomers from the temple tops of Chaldea, India and China and recorded by the equally learned geometers and mathematicians of the ancient Orient. 

Origin Of Great Dials 

“It was the knowledge, concealed within the brotherhood, that enabled them to build the gigantic sun dials, such as that at Stonehenge, in England. The two pillars of Masonry today are the same as those which stood before the Temple of Solomon, erected by the same building fraternity, under the supervision of the priest-architect who builds the Sun Temple at Tyre, before which similar pillars stood. They are the same pillars as those that stood before the ancient temples in America when Cortez gazed in wonder on the civilization of the Aztecs. They are the same pillars that fixed the solstitial points in the first crude circles of stone, with a central stone representing the sun, and the same pillars which became the Temple of Janus among the Romans, the totem poles of modern savages, and the Jakin and Boaz of European cathedrals. 

“The key to the entire secret system is to be found in the ancient system, preserved from ages long anterior to their reputed time by the Israelites, of using identical characters for letters and numbers, a system called gematria, and upon which a simple mathematical formula, 10-5-6-5, is shown to be the basic source of all manifested existence-that formula when presented in the Hebrew letters corresponding to the numbers bring ‘Jod-Ha-Vv-Ha,’ or in English ‘J-H-V-H,’ or Jehovah. 

“If this remarkable fact had been confined to the sacred writings of the Hebrews it might be accepted as a peculiar outcropping of national genius, but this is not the case. My researches reveal the presence of an ‘esoteric,’ or ‘mystery’ Jehovah worship throughout the entire ancient world as the basis of all the outwardly pantheistic cults; the real knowledge being concealed from the mass by the priesthood and rulers, because it was too high for them to grasp. The worship of the Great First Principle, defined and also hidden by the mathematical Jehovah glyph, was at one time spread over the whole expanse of anciently civilized America, whether represented by the vanished race of mound builders of our own United States ·or the perished races of Mexico, Central and South America. This later wonderful fact may as readily be verified by the visitor to such a purely American collection as that in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, or the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, as by the digger in Euphrates mud or Egyptian sands. 

Shown In Modem Lines 

“The crowning secret of the ancients, as well as of our own time, is that the study of the structural proportions of our universe as evinced in lines of force and direction, cyclic time periods, celestial areas and visible parts, reveals the fact that it is of definite form, perfectly balanced proportion and just such a synthesis of the principles of pure geometry as to .show that the features exhibited are from the same causative source as that which geometrizes the snowflake, the crystal, and the blossom. Hence the expression used in Masonry of the Grand Architect and the Great Geometrician of the Universe. 

“The ancient Egyptians adopted as the key to this great cosmic philosophy the famous Pythagorean triangle of 3x4x5 proportions, which is the basis of the celebrated forty-seventh proposition of Euclid. They called the three sides Osiris Isis and Horus, considering the first two as spirit and matter and the latter as nature, evolving from the wedding of the other two. This triangle represented as the ‘Eye of Horus’ and typifying the sun, became the ‘All Seeing Eye’ of Freemasonry. 

“The value of the Hebrew letters in the famous triangle is 543, which is half of an oblong of 3×4 the other half of which is 345. The sum of both equals 888 and is the value of the letters in the Greek New Testament name, Jesus. An oblong of 3×4 contains three of 4×9, and vice versa. The oblong of 4×9 was represented symbolically as the Atef crown on the head of the Egyptian Sun-god Ra, whose name really means ‘light.’ 

“From this simple proportion alone, according to the methods of the ancient Egyptians, can be at once correctly delineated all the main physical features of our universe in absolutely correct astronomical proportions, and in so doing is evolved the most sacred of ancient symbols, the trapezoid of 10-5-65 proportions, which became known as J-H-V-H among the Jews, I-H-0-H in Phoenicia I-H-U-H in Chaldea, H-U-H-I in Egypt, OI-HA-HU in India, HO-HI and FO-HI in China and I-0-W-A in ancient America. We find the Jehovah symbol as the shoulders and arm of Osiris, as he judges the souls in Amenti, in the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead,’ and as the apron worn by the mysterious stone Colossi of Quiriguá, Guatemala, copies of which are in our own American Museum of Natural History. 

The Great Pyramid 

“We find the Masonic keystone to be not merely an architectural requisite but the angle of 23 ½ degrees, or the correct inclination of the axis of the earth to the pole of the ecliptic, and to embody the vertical section of the great Pyramid of Gizeh four times repeated. We find the little clay idols of the parted aboriginal races of Colombia, South America, decorated with the geometrical glyphs of this secret order, the ornaments of the robes of Ute ancient Inca priests in Peru, but exemplifications of the same sacred figures, and the amulets of the Mayas and Toltecs, in Mexico, also engraved with them. 

“That there must have been some world-wide organization to distribute these symbols in ancient and prehistoric times is evinced by the fact that by common consent the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Mexicans constructed pyramids, which is shown by the great Pyramid of Gizeh, in Egypt, and the Teocalli of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, as leading examples, were component parts of a single geometrical problem, the key to which is the simple Masonic apron as worn today and the graphic symbol of which covenant is still preserved as a cosmic figure among the Hopi Indians of Arizona.” 

In discussing the Masonic keystone Mr. Higgins displayed examples picked up in his travels from China, India, ancient Tyre, Egypt and Palestine that all were cut on the angle of 23 ½ degrees, but perhaps his most precious specimens were several black serpentine amulets from Yucatan and Central America more than three thousand years old that displayed the keystone and also the inverted Tau cross, so familiar. to Masonic brethren in their lodge work. In pointing out the triangle of “equal areas” on the forehead of the amulet and the keystone nose Mr. Higgins drew attention to the fact that the Jewish worshipper today describes with his fingers this triangle in the same place when making his invocation on the Day of Atonement. 

Another exceedingly rare specimen was an early Akkadian or Hittite seal expressing a triangle with three Masonic dots and the sacred proportions of 3×4 and 4×5, a total of sixteen, meaning “J-A-H,” the universe. 

“While these keystones are very valuable in proving my contention that Freemasonry was Widespread even in prehistoric times, I consider the Masonic apron preeminent as the symbol of hidden mysteries of Masonry’ said Mr. Higgins. “It, too, is based on the Pythagorean triangle which, as I said, was used to conceal the mysteries of the Egyptian religion. The priests knew that the letter I, 0, H, or J, V, H, which were publicly applied to the sides of the triangle and called Isis, Osiris and Horus, were the secret mathematical formulae which they considered the key to the universe. 

Hope of Humanity 

‘If you will read in a good book on mythology the story of the death of Osiris, slain by his brother Typhon, and the long search for his mutated body by the disconsolate widow, Isis, you Understand, especially if you are a Mason, how the hope of humanity was fixed on the ‘widow’s son,’ the youthful Spring Sun God, H-U-R-A-M, as 

his name was abbreviated, whose birth also constituted the resurrection of his father, Osiris, with whom he was identified. 

“The development of the famous Pythagorean triangle also forms the triangle that is the base of the Masonic Tau cross. The multiplication of the Pythagorean triangle by four gives the base for the Magian’s philosophy and develops the form of the Masonic apron just as worn today in the lodge room, it is the sixty-four square that I refer to and this square (our familiar checker board) also has hidden within it the exact geometrical proportions of the Gizeh Pyramid. 

“Perhaps the most interesting Egyptian cut I have is that showing Pharaoh invested with the triangular Masonic apron, holding in his right hand the grand emblem and the last grade attained-the Ankh cross-in Masonic Communication with one of that order, whose head is covered with a mask, representing the head of the god Thoth. Examination of the old Egyptian monuments, or pictures of such, reveal the fact that the apron is the badge of all the gods, kings, hierophants, and priests engaged in the rites of public worship. The apron of the ordinary celebrant seems to be a triangle of white cloth suspended from the waist in front and pinned at the comers to the tunic at each side. In the case of the Grand Master the apron is very elaborate in design. The figures represent the rising and setting sun in the lower comer, and the sun at meridian. The rays of the sun are so directed as to describe a regular procession of geometrical angles, such as seen on a Gnomon. Over this sun apron is worn the serpent apron, a modern Masonic apron as worn in lodge and chapter has descended intact in every particular from these ancient brethren of the square and compass.” 

Mr. Higgins explained that the secret of the apron resides entirely in its proportions and showed by a diagram that they were based on a triangle having an apex of fifty-four degrees and two bottom angles of sixty-three degrees each. He said that these two numbers were both eminently sacred Masonic numerals, belonging to the “Nine” or “Three times Three” series. He demonstrated that the proportions of the Egyptian Pyramids were all concealed in the same geometrical figure upon which the Masonic apron was constructed and from his cases of relics brought several amulet aprons that were true in angle or indicated by dots or indentations the true proportions. He displayed a copy from a Peruvian vase which showed a priest of the Incas carrying a staff with a six-pointed star in one hand and a Masonic apron in the other. This figure, which may be seen in the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is displayed throughout the Andean ruins or modifications of the apron are run into borders around the Incan pottery. Perhaps the best example of the apron in America, according to Mr. Higgins, is that found on the statues and little clay images of the ancient Mayas which litter the jungle forests of Yucatan on the sites of the ruined cities. These images as he showed by specimens, are all clothed Master Masons in the same apron as the Egyptian kings and priests and point irrefutably to a universal knowledge of the secrets behind the square and the compasses. 

Figure 1: Illustration from page 19 of Ancient Freemasonry by Frank C. Higgins. 

“We see thus indicated throughout the world,” said Mr. Higgins, “the Masonic brotherhood, erected thousands of years prior to any civilization of which we may have any present record, to the same ever living God whom we worship as the ‘Great Architect of the Universe.’ ” 

Hogs, Goats, And Rodeo Food

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV 

I have to tell you that he has a knack of interrupting me at the most inopportune times. “What the heck are you talking about,” you say? I am talking about Brother John Deacon, that’s what. Pam had gone out shopping with her friend and since I was alone with about four hours to kill I thought I would sneak a little nap. Just as my head hit the pillow …. the phone rang. I thought about not even looking at the caller ID and then when I did, I really thought about not answering it, but I didn’t want to regret it later…. like I wouldn’t anyway. So, I answered and immediately regretted it. At first I was a little confused because I heard grunting noises in the background and without telling you what I thought was going on I will tell you that I almost hung up right then. “Brother Chris” he finally shouted huffing and puffing into the phone. Hold on a second.” “John, what are you doing,” I yelled back. As I listened it sounded like he was in some kind of a scuffle or something. Just as I was about to hang up again he came back on and abruptly asked, “What are you doing right now?” “Well, I was going to take a nap,” I answered. But after what I heard the last thirty seconds I don’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.” “Oh cut it out,” he growled. “Why don’t you come down here and help me.” “Are you kidding,” I said? “I am not driving five hours to see you on a Saturday afternoon.” “I’m not asking you to,” he growled. “I am down here at the Stock Show and Rodeo and I need your help.” I was instantly confused….which is nothing new. I knew our Rodeo was going on but John lived a long way from here so I asked, “You mean our Rodeo?” That got him to sputtering and spitting like he swallowed something the wrong way, “Gol durnitt Brother Chris, you are wasting my time here. I am hanging on to a huge ol hog that’s dang near as big as I am and I need your help.” I have to tell you that many pictures ran through my mind on my way down to the Rodeo Grounds and none were pleasant. When I got there it took me a while to locate John. He was in the swine barn and to my surprise he was actually in the middle of the show ring judging hogs. He never ceases to amaze me and once again I was. When he saw me he waved me down to the gate where I met him. He told me that he was glad I was there and he needed help with a problem child, “Follow me,” he said. He proceeded to tell me that he was a swine judge at stock shows and had been doing that for many years and also showed some of his hogs. I followed him to another barn way back in a far corner where he stopped in front of a trailer that had been backed into the door. Inside was the biggest hog I think I have ever seen. He looked up at me and gave a little grunt and just stared at John. “I don’t think he likes you much, John,” I said. “No kidding,” John replied sarcastically. “I have been trying to get this here “pain in the rear” hog out of this trailer into a pen for the last two hours. I have used up all the boys here and now they won’t help me. This hog is just mean. I know you spent time around livestock on the ranch and you were my last hope.” “John,” I said. “I am confused. This is a show barn. This is where 

they show livestock. This hog don’t look like he wants to be showed.” “Oh he’s ok Brother Chris. He just gets an attitude every once in a while. Once I get him out of this trailer and into a pen he’ll be alright.” “Yeah, right,” I said skeptically. “He looks like he has more than an attitude.” I had never done much with hogs …. mostly just horses and cattle but no hogs. I really wasn’t looking forward to this but I helped John fix up a makeshift chute that would head him into that pen once we or rather “if” we got him out of the trailer. Before we entered the trailer I suggested to John that we just use a come–a- long and pull him out. That got me a nasty look so I called Pam and told her I loved her and followed John into the trailer. I knew that one of the ways you “guide” a hog was to grab his tail and kind of steer him the way you want him to go so I decided I was going to handle that end of him. John eased up to the big guy who started to grunt faster the closer John got. John approached him like a Sumo Wrestler ready to clinch. What happened next, no one could have predicted. I want you to know, dear reader that a six hundred and fifty pound hog can move pretty quick when he wants to. Well just as John was reaching down to try to get him to stand up he shot to his feet and headed for the trailer gate at a high rate of speed grunting and squealing as he went. John dove and grabbed him around the neck like a bull dogger and I dang near missed grabbing his tail on the way by. That crazy hog shot out the back of that trailer at a full run squealing louder than ever with John hanging on for dear life and me ………well, let’s just say it was hard to steer him while I was bouncing off the sides of the fencing on either side of the chute and it was all I could do just to hang on. Everything was a blur and I could hear yelling and yes even some cheering as we were dragged …… yes dragged across that barn by that devils spawn excuse for a hog. Yup I was mad as he_ _ and when we got stopped, if we ever did, I was going to make ham and eggs out of him and then I was going to deal with my Brother John for bringing me down here in the first place. Well it seemed like twenty minutes had passed but it couldn’t have been more than forty-five seconds at the most, as fast as he was running, and then I bounced off a fence post as he passed through the gate into his pen. Then, as quick as it started…… it ended. I just laid there for a few seconds catching my breath and when I looked up I saw that unholy monster laying down as calm and as peaceful as anything. To my left was John who had released his death grip from that hogs neck and rolled over on his back breathing hard. I pushed myself up to my knees and realized that both my arms were scratched and rubbed raw from that seventy-five yard dragging across the swine barn – and the front of my pants was filled up with a mixture of dirt, hay, and pig manure. All the buttons on the front of my shirt had been rubbed off, and if that wasn’t enough I had lost one shoe and my hat somewhere along the way. As I finally got to my feet I became aware of the noise around us, and when I looked I saw a bunch of people gathered around the pen. Some were clapping and some were hootin and hollerin, but most were just downright laughing at us. I shook my head and cleared some of the cobwebs out just as John stood up. He looked around with a sheepish grin on his face and turned to me. He started to say something just as my anger surfaced again and I charged that mean mound of 

pork with the full intent on doing major damage. I really don’t know what I thought I was going to do to that huge blob of blubber, but I was so mad I was going to do something. I launched myself at him as John tried to catch me. I landed hard on top of him and started punching and kicking as hard as I could. After a few seconds I looked up to see him just calmly looking at me. I was totally out of breath and I just laid there on top of him sucking in big gulps of air. Finally John came over and picked me up and carried me out of the pen and closed the gate. People were still talking about our warp speed trip from trailer to pen, and one old timer stopped laughing long enough to ask us if we could get his hogs out of his trailer. He stepped back quickly when he saw the look in my eyes and John reached out and grabbed me. “Come on Brother Chris,” John said quickly. “Let’s go clean up a bit.” I was completely unprepared for the person that was looking back at me from the mirror. There was no doubt I was going to be plenty sore tomorrow. We washed up as much as we could and John offered to buy me some good old Rodeo food. Right outside the swine barn was a Texas BBQ stand where he bought four BBQ beef sandwiches and a half a rack of pork ribs. I thought we were going to sit and eat, but I was wrong. He grabbed the food and walked (with everyone we passed staring at us) over to a little stand that was selling roasted corn on the cob where he bought three ears which he added to the BBQ, and continued on a ways further where he bought two roasted turkey legs. After handing them to me, he crossed to the other side of the pathway to a funnel cake stand for three cakes with cinnamon, and then next door to a drink stand where he talked them into selling him a gallon of tea. There was almost too much stuff to carry as we started to hunt for a place to sit and eat. Finally, we found an empty picnic table, sat and dug in. It was all I could do to eat one of the BBQ sandwiches and an ear of corn. I don’t know what it is about Rodeo food but it just tastes sooooooooo good. I sat there patiently while John ate everything else. Apparently, Rodeo food was to his liking as well. As I sat there I could feel all the bumps and bruises starting to hurt and all of a sudden I felt like violating a couple of obligations with respect to the big guy sitting across from me. Heck I was going to take a nap and now I was beat up severely and it was all his fault. All because of a stupid hog!! I said, “John, before I get so sore that I can’t walk, is there anything you want to talk about to put in the newsletter this month?” “Yup,” he replied. “I sure do. There is something I have been running around in my head for a while that I need to talk about. I want to talk to you about a goat. “A goat? What do you mean a goat? I just got through with you and a hog. I don’t want to have anything to do with a goat. I am sick of animals right now, just stop it,” I said. He just shook his head sympathetically, gave me a sad look, and continued on. “You know Brother Chris, I travel around the State a bit and I sometimes get to see degrees being done by other Lodges and heck sometimes I get to work in some of those degrees. When all the Brothers are out in the fellowship hall eating and socializing before the degree there is always one or more of the Brothers warning the new Candidate to “watch out for the goat.” When I hear that I just shake my head in sadness. Can you picture this? Here is a man who doesn’t know what is going to 

happen to him who is most assuredly a little nervous who has been made to listen to a mandatory reading from the monitor which among other things asks him to open his heart and mind and receive the “light” that is going to be offered to him in his initiation. He is also told that there is no horseplay and that the degree is very solemn and serious. Heck everyone worries when they have to go through an “initiation” that they will be made to do something demeaning or be made fun of and to hear that everything is serious and without any games is a comfort to that candidate. And, then someone walks up to him and asks him if he brought food for the goat and his stress level goes up. And, when he is going through his degree and we want and need him to listen and absorb the words and lessons presented, he instead is thinking about a dang goat.” “I know what you are talking about Brother John. I have seen it myself. I don’t think the Brothers that do it mean it to be mean but it has the same effect.” “You’re durn right it’s mean.” You know we don’t ride goats or have anything to do with goats in any of the degrees. Do you know that the goat or “riding the goat” was started by anti-Masons to ridicule the Craft?” I must have had a surprised look on my face because he said, “It’s true.” “I read that there were men in England who had been rejected for membership in the Fraternity that made up stories about Freemasons “raising the devil and riding on his goat.” Even though it was completely false it was told over and over by anti-Masons and it really hurt our Fraternity. I also read that early Masons referred to the supreme being as the “God of all Things” Once again those enemies of Masonry used the first letters of those words to spell GOAT and claimed it was proof positive of their claims And then we have Brothers who are ignorant of the real meaning of the “Masonic Goat” who think it’s funny to have a little fun with the candidate by making him think there really is a goat. I think if these Brothers knew what they were doing to Masonry by continuing this they might think about not doing it at all.” Then he pulled a folded note out of his pocket and slid it across the table to me saying, “Look at what I found in a book that is an anti- Masonic book.” I unfolded it and there was a picture of a goat on its hind legs with a sinister look on his face and a poem called “When father rode the goat.” I decided to print it: 

When Father Rode The Goat 

The house is full of arnica And mystery profound; We do not dare to run about Or make the slightest sound; We leave the big piano shut 

And do not strike a note; 

The doctor’s been here seven times Since father rode the goat. He joined the lodge a week ago — Got in at 4 a.m. And sixteen brethren brought him home Though he says he brought them. His wrist WAS sprained and one big rip, Had rent his Sunday coat — There must have been a lively time When father rode the goat. He’s resting on the couch to-day! And practicing his signs — The hailing signal, working grip, And other monkeyshines; He mutters passwords ‘neath his breath, And other things he’ll quote — They surely had an evening’s work When father rode the goat. He has a gorgeous uniform, All gold and red and blue; A hat with plumes and yellow braid, And golden badges too. But, somehow, when we mention it, He wears a look so grim We wonder if he rode the goat Or if the goat rode him. 

“Well that’s a cute little poem Brother John,” I said. “But when you think about it, it really is pretty offensive to Masons or should be.” “Exactly my point Brother he said. “ Here we have had people bashing Masonry who have no clue what we do or who we are (and who don’t really care) who just wanted to tear down our Fraternity because of jealousy, or fear, or maybe even anger, and the worst part is that our own Brethren have perpetuated this ridiculous story by using it as a hazing tool.” I just nodded and he got real quiet and got a sort of pained look on his face. I said, “I didn’t realize it bothered you as much as it does.” He looked at me kinda 

funny and said, “As much as it aggravates me I was just realizing that my whole body has just tightened up and the pain is tremendous and I don’t think I can even stand up much less walk.” I don’t understand Brother John. I’m the one who got hurt the worse. I was being dragged …… you were riding.” “Riding, my foot,” he muttered. I was bouncing around like a rag doll on top of that monster.” “Well I don’t remember seeing you as I had my own problems to worry about,” I said laughing. “You do look like you’ve been rode hard and put up wet.” He pointed to my shirt and started chuckling, “At least I’ve still got my clothes on.” By then we were both laughing. I think the people walking by thought we were intoxicated. Not only were we laughing at each other’s appearance we looked like 100 year old men trying to get up and walk. I had to help John up and he almost fell twice which for some reason that I can’t explain both of us thought was pretty funny. We must have been a sorry sight walking back to the barn very, very slowly …….. trying to hold each other up. I left him at the barn leaning against his hog pen. I told him good bye and shuffled as best as I could towards the parking lot trying not to think badly of him. I got just about to the barn door and a thought came to mind. I turned and called to John and asked, “Hey John what is your hog’s name anyway?” He got a real goofy look on his face, shook his head, and said – “You are not going to believe this but his name is Jubelum.” I just laughed and turned away. What a perfect name for that mean old hog. I hope I can walk tomorrow. Ya’ll have a good month. 

Study Course in Masonry

III. Symbolism of the Entered Apprentice Degree-Continued

By Bro. C. P. Boon, San Antonio – Texas Freemason Magazine, June 1920

(Author of Trestle-Board and Working Tools of Symbolic Freemasonry)

INITIATION – A term used by the Romans to designate admission into the mysteries of their sacred and secret rites. It is derived from the word “initia” which signifies the first principles of a science. It is now as it has been for countless ages, employed as a symbol of the birth and endless development of the human mind and soul. The Entered Apprentice degree represents birth and the preparatory stage of life, or in other words, youth.

PREPARATION – Great care was taken of the personal condition of every Israelite who entered the Temple for divine worship, and they were instructed that no man should go into the Temple with his staff, nor with shoes on his feet, nor with outer garments, nor with money tied up in his purse. Dr. Mackey says the preparation of the candidate for initiation is entirely symbolic. It varies in the different degrees, and therefore the symbolism varies with it, and cannot be altered, abridged, or added to in any of its details, without affecting the esoteric design. Bro. Gage says the apprentice in the moral science should give up the rags of his own righteousness and also all precious metals, symbolical of worldly wealth and distinction, and all baser metals, symbolical of offense and defense, in order that he may realize his dependence upon moral forces only. He should be clad in a garment signifying that he comes with pure intentions to learn the noble art and profit by its lessons.

THE LODGE – There are three definitions of a lodge. 1st. It is a place where Freemasons meet. 2nd. It is the assembly or organized body of Freemasons duly congregated for labor or for business: 3rd. It symbolically represents the world. Its covering is the clouded canopy or starry decked heavens, the abode of those who do the will of the Grand Architect. It is furnished with the theological ladder, which reaches from earth to heaven, and is illuminated as is the world, by the refulgent rays of the sun, symbolically represented in his rising in the east, his meridian height in the south, and his setting in the west. This meaning was more manifest at the period when Freemasonry is supposed to have had its origin, for the then known world living around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea was literally of the form of an “oblong square.” If the lodge symbolizes the world, and the Mason symbolizes man, it follows that initiation must symbolize the introduction of the individual into the world or the birth of a child. It was so regarded in the ancient systems of initiation and is now so understood by Masonic scholars everywhere.

CABLE TOW – A cable tow is a rope or line for drawing or leading. The word is purely Masonic. In its first inception, the cable tow seems to have been used only as a physical means of controlling or binding anyone. It has however, a deeper symbolism. It represents those forces and Influences which have conducted not only the individual, but the race out of a condition of ignorance and darkness into one of light and knowledge. This symbolical meaning of the cable tow seems to have been accepted in all of the ancient systems of initiation. The length of a cabletow is three miles. But the Baltimore Convention in 1842 defined it to mean the scope of a man’s reasonable ability. Tradition informs us that for certain crimes committed in ancient times, the penalty was death, and the body buried in the sea three miles out from the shore. That was considered outside the jurisdiction of the country in which he lived, and was a cable tow’s length.

METAL TOOLS – We are told in the scripture that the Temple was “built of stone made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building.” (I Kings vi. 7) It is a well authenticated historical fact that the Jews, not to mention other ancient peoples, believed that an iron tool was polluting to an altar to Deity. Hence, in the days of Moses the laws prescribed that in erecting an altar of stone to Jehovah no iron tool should be employed upon it. The work of erecting the Temple therefore went on noiselessly, but with speed and perfection. Masonry has adopted this as a symbol of the peace and harmony which should reign in a Lodge, itself a type of the world, and the erection and adornment of the moral and spiritual temple in which we are engaged, that of human character, and of which Solomon’s was typical, is not characterized by the clang of noisy tools. About true character-building there is nothing of bluster and show; it is a silent, noiseless process. It also teaches us that the Temple was a type of the kingdom of God, and that the souls of men are to be prepared here, for that place of blessedness, so the stones must all be squared, and fitted here for their place in the New Jerusalem.

PRAYER – Freemasonry is a religious institution, and hence its regulations inculcate prayer “as a proper tribute of gratitude.” The custom of commencing and ending labor with prayer was adopted at an early period by the Operative Freemasons of England. Their Lodges were opened at sunrise, the Master taking his station in the East and the brethren forming a half circle around him, and received his instructions. At sunset they again assembled after labor, prayer was offered, and their wages paid to them. Bro. Riviere says we are taught that a Mason should never enter upon any great or laudable undertaking without invoking the aid of Almighty God. In the light of that lesson, prayer becomes a duty as well as the privilege of every Mason. How few understand the nature and effects of prayer. Prayer that has become merely a bed-time custom is not prayer; it is an incantation to sooth the conscience or satisfy the demands of a habit formed in more innocent and unsophisticated days. The object and effect of prayer are to bring the soul into conscious harmony with the all-wise Father, whose laws are true and just and righteous altogether. “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,” so says the old song. If that be true, how earnestly should the compasses be used to circumscribe our desires, so that no unrighteous, no unworthy, no covetous, no licentious prayer insult the Father whose All-Seeing Eye looks into the innermost recesses of our being. Prayer reveals a man to himself. For what do you pray, on what do you meditate, what thought do you ponder over and keep in your heart? Be sure that it will find expression in your outer life, for “the within is ceaselessly becoming the without.”

SECRECY – Is one of the first lessons we learn in Masonry. Bro. Riviere says this great virtue is necessary in our order so that Mason’s will appreciate the lessons taught. As a secret shared between two people binds them together, so the secrets of our fraternity bind the Brethren together. Anything taught you that is a profound secret makes a greater impression upon the mind. If our teachings of beautiful truths were scattered broadcast through the world, they would become commonplace; so they are taught under secrecy, only to those deemed worthy to receive and practice them.

UPRIGHT – The Upright Posture of the Apprentice is a symbol of upright conduct. Bro. Street says in Eastern countries the inferior approaches the superior, the servant the master, the subject the sovereign, in an abased or groveling manner, oftentimes with the face averted as though it were insolence to look directly upon the august presence. Not so in Masonry; the candidate is taught to stand erect and walk upright as a man should. Nothing adds more to a man’s self-respect and strength of character than to walk erect, holding the head well up and looking the world and every man squarely in the face. Freemasonry teaches that all men are and of right ought to be free, that, therefore, no man should abuse or humiliate himself before another. But this manly erect attitude which the candidate is taught to assume, has the same symbolism as the plumb; it teaches that we should always walk upright in our several stations before God and man.

BIBLE – The Bible is properly called a greater light of Masonry, for from the center of the Lodge it pours forth upon the East, the West, and the South it’s refulgent rays of Divine Truth. The Bible is used among Masons as the symbol of the will of God, however it may be expressed, and therefore, whatever to any people expresses that will may be used as a substitute for the Bible in a Masonic Lodge. Thus, in a Lodge consisting entirely of Hebrews, the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the altar. The Turkish Masons make use of the Koran. Whether it be the Gospels to the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Mussulman, or the Vedas to the Brahman, it everywhere Masonically conveys the same idea-that of the symbolism of the Divine Will revealed to man. One of the most important things brought to the attention of the Entered Apprentice is the Holy Bible, and he is instructed that it, alone, was to be the rule and guide to his faith and practice. At each succeeding step in this advancement he is reminded that it would guide him to all truth, direct his path to the Temple of Happiness, and point out to him the whole duty of man. And now while we are making a study of the symbols and doctrines of Freemasonry, I want to impress it upon the mind of every young Mason, in the most lasting and substantial manner possible, that the Holy Bible contains the mind of GOD, the state of Man, the plan of Salvation, the doom of Sinners, and the happiness of Believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to the wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It will furnish light to guide you, strength to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the Mason’s light, and the Christian’s Charter. Through it Heaven is opened, Paradise is restored, and the gates of hell are disclosed. The Messiah is its grand subject, our good its design, and the Glory of GOD its end, Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. If you will obey its precepts, it will be to you a river of pleasure, a mine of wealth, and a paradise of glory. It is furnished you in life to prepare for the judgment, and as you, choose, so shall your destiny be, in prosperity or adversity.

APRON – There is no one of the symbols of Speculative Masonry more important in its teachings, or more interesting in its history, than the lambskin, or white leather apron. Commencing its lessons at an early period in the Mason’s progress, it is impressed upon his memory as the first gift which he receives, the first symbol which is explained to him, and the first tangible evidence which he possesses of his admission into the Fraternity.

We find the most satisfactory evidence that the use of the apron, or some equivalent mode of investiture as a mystic symbol, was common to all the nations of the earth from the earliest periods. For a further description and explanation of the Apron, I refer the student to the beautiful article written by Bro. Geo. W. Tyler and printed in the January, 1920, number of Texas Freemason. It is the best, and every Mason ought to read it.

UNTEMPERED MORTAR – In the lecture used in the early part of the present century, the apprentices at the Temple were said to wear their aprons in a peculiar manner characteristic of that class that they might preserve their garments from being defiled by “untempered mortar.” This is mortar which has not been properly mixed for use, and it thus becomes a symbol of passions and appetites not duly restrained. Hence the Speculative Apprentice was made to wear his apron in that peculiar manner to teach him that he should not allow his soul to be defiled by the “untempered mortar of unruly passions” and that he should never do anything, or be engaged in any business, that he could not, consistently, ask the blessing of God upon it. TEMPERED MORTAR – In ancient times when Masonry was strictly an operative institution, the Masons mixed the lime and sand, and put it in large heaps, then covered it over with a heavy coating of sand, and let it remain in that condition for six months or more, in order to temper it, so that all the little particles of lime would slack; this was called good, or tempered mortar. The symbolic reference to tempered mortar is that you should never recommend any person to a participation in our privileges unless you are satisfied, and have strong reasons to believe that he will reflect honor and credit on our noble order; in other words, he is tempered mortar.

NORTH – The north is generally called a place of darkness. The sun in his progress through the ecliptic never reaches farther than 23 deg. 28 min. north of the equator. A wall being erected on any part of the earth farther north than that, will therefore, at meridian receive the rays of the sun only on its south side, while the north will be entirely in shadow at the hour of meridian. The use of the north as a symbol of darkness is found with the present interpretation, in the early rituals of the last century. It is a portion of the old sun worship, of which we find so many relics in Gnosticism. The east was the place of the sun’s daily birth, and hence highly revered.

NORTH-EAST CORNER – From the most ancient times it has been the custom of builders to lay with ceremonies the cornerstone of important edifices, in the northeast corner. In the important ceremony which refers to the northeast comer of the Lodge, the candidate becomes as one who is, to all outward appearance, a perfect and upright man and Mason, the representative of a spiritual corner-stone, on which he is to erect his future moral and Masonic edifice. This symbolic reference of the corner-stone of a material edifice to a Mason when, at his first initiation, he commences the moral and intellectual task of erecting a spiritual temple in his heart, is beautifully sustained when we look at all the qualities that are required to constitute a “well-tried, true and trusty” corner-stone. The squareness of its surface, emblematic of morality; its cubical form, emblematic of firmness and stability of character; and the peculiar finish and fineness of the material, emblematic of virtue and holiness, show that the ceremony of the north-east comer of the Lodge was undoubtedly intended to portray, in the consecrated language of symbolism, the necessity of integrity and stability of conduct, of truthfulness and uprightness of character, and of purity and holiness of life.

It may be that some of us were not as good and upright, when we represented that spiritual cornerstone, as we ought to have been, and the Good Book tells us that none of us is absolutely pure, no not one. But we can if we will, from that time on, erect our spiritual building so that it will be accepted by The Great Architect of the Universe.

Remember The Alamo And It’s Not All You Can Eat

It was Friday night and I was on my way home from work reflecting on a busy week and looking forward to the weekend. My cell phone rang and when I answered it was him. 

“I hope you didn’t call me to ruin my weekend cause it’s been a rough week and I need some rest.” 

“Enough of the small talk my Brother; do you know what tomorrow is?” 

I knew this had to be a trick question but what could I do? I said, “Ok I’ll bite. What is tomorrow?” 

“Tomorrow is the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo”, he said. “Are you going to be there for the Masonic celebration?” 

“Ah, well I have always wanted to go but I am usually working,” I replied. “I really hadn’t thought about it.” 

“Well you need to think about it”, he yelled in my ear “and meet me down there in the morning.” 

I didn’t even know he was in town but I agreed to meet him at the designated meeting place for all the Brothers behind the Alamo. I got up on Saturday morning and looked out the window and it was a little cloudy but looked like the start of a nice day. I got ready and when I stepped outside I realized it was cold and the wind was blowing. Since I was wearing a coat and tie I was not real happy about the wind and temperature but I headed downtown anyway. About halfway there it started raining and since the temperature hadn’t gone up any and the wind was still blowing I said the heck with it and found a place to turn around and I was going back home. John was just going to have to tell me about what happened. I swear that guy must have a GPS on my truck ‘cause as soon as I started back toward home my phone rang and I looked at the caller ID and it was him. 

“Where the heck are you?” He said. 

“Headed home,” I said. “I am chickening out.” 

“If you don’t show up down here there will be heck to pay,” he snarled. 

“Look John, it’s raining and the wind is blowing bad and its cold out there.” 

“You need to turn around and get down here,” he growled. “The sun is out and the wind has stopped and it’s not raining. Just come on.” 

So I turned around again and made my way downtown and found a place to park. When the machine spit out my receipt for parking it promptly disappeared down the street before I could grab it. Yup, you guessed it… wind, and lots of it. By the time I worked my way through the crowd of Brother Masons to where John was standing I was damp from the drizzle and I was cold… and not happy. 

“I thought you said it was dry and sunny and calm down here,” I said through clenched teeth. 

“Well it was when I talked to you,” he said innocently. 

I looked at all the brothers on either side of him and they all shook their heads. I glared back at John but before I could speak he pointed at the bag-pipers in their kilts who were forming up in the middle of the street for the walk over and said, “You ought to be glad you aren’t one of them. Just pray that a gust of wind doesn’t blow them there skirts up. That would ruin a perfect morning.” 

I looked… and he was right. The procession was forming up and we fell in with everyone and walked over to the front of the Alamo behind the Grand Master and the other Grand Lodge officers, with bagpipes blaring. It was quite a sight all those Brothers in their Masonic regalia, joined by members of the Shrine Temple and even the DeMolay were there. John and I positioned ourselves so that we could see everything that was going on. After paying our respects to the Supreme Architect of the Universe and the flags of Country and State, one of the Brothers gave a stirring talk about the American Flag. We listened while the Grand Orator introduced officials from the city and from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and made some opening remarks about the Alamo and its importance in Texas as well as American history. 

As the Grand Orator was praising the heroes who lost their lives at the Alamo 175 years ago, I heard John’s voice next to me. He was talking kind of low and I leaned in to hear what he was saying and I heard him saying the names… slowly… “James Bonham, Jim Bowie, Juan Seguin, David Crockett, Almaron Dickenson, William Travis…” all Brothers who died at the Alamo and I glanced at his face and I saw tears rolling down both cheeks. I guess it could have been because the wind was blowing as hard as it was but I suspect he was, as we all were, thanking those Brothers and other defenders, without whose sacrifice there might not even be a Great State of Texas. Wow, it was sure hard to keep a dry eye thinking about the sacrifices that were made here. 

As I stood there looking up at that beautiful old building my mind slowly tuned out all the sounds and in total silence as my eyes scanned the other Alamo buildings and the area around them I could feel the heavy weight of the emotions that this hallowed place invoked. I could almost see the faces of those one hundred and eighty seven heroes looking down on all of us with smiles of approval and appreciation on their faces. As the lump formed in my throat I felt so very proud to be an American and a Texan! 

I snapped out of my trance in time to hear the Grand Master’s address, and then the final prayer and thanks was given to all those brave men who gave their lives for all of us. We walked in silence back to where our vehicles were parked just enjoying the feeling of being there. It’s almost impossible to stand at the Alamo and not be moved by what it represents. As I reached for my door handle, John informed me that if I didn’t feed him soon he was going to pass out from malnutrition. “Come on John”, I said. “Who’s being the baby now? We don’t have time for lunch right now because we have to get to the Grand Masters Conference.” 

“I didn’t come down here to go to the conference,” he said. “I came for the Alamo anniversary.” 

“Well you drug me down here for this so now you have to go with me to the conference and if you don’t go I will give your name to the Grand Master as a Brother who blew off his conference… and you can bet I will do it too.” 

“Ok, Ok I’ll go with you,” he whined. “But I am hungry.” 

“Don’t worry,” I snapped back at him. “There’s a brunch at the conference so load it up and let’s go.” 

Well the brunch wasn’t near enough to come close to filling him up. He was eye balling the plates of the other Brothers at our table so I bought him another plate to hold him over until supper. The conference was great and as I sat there with the one hundred or so Brothers who were in attendance all I could think of is what a waste that the Grand Masters words were only going to be heard by less than 10% of all the Masons in the area. Every officer and every Brother of every Lodge should have been there. The important Grand Lodge programs that nine out of ten Masons have no idea what they are or how they work were discussed in detail. And when the Grand Master spoke, he delivered a message of getting back to teaching the lessons and meanings of the rituals and symbols, and not just the surface meanings but the deeper and more profound interpretations. He said that we needed to understand what Masonry really is. 

He said that Masonry is intended to be a philosophy and with proper study will provide the means to answer the three questions that every man has or will ask at some point in his life which are: where did I come from, what is my purpose here, and where am I going? He said that a student of Masonry should be always studious and inquiring as to those deeper, more hidden meanings of the lessons of our Rituals. And I agreed with him completely when he said that when a man is raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason he will have acquired a wealth of inspiration that, if he should become a true student of Masonry, will last him a lifetime. 

He also sadly told us that our West Gate has been wide open and unguarded for too long and the result has been an alarming number of men being accepted into the Fraternity that would never have been considered if a proper investigation had been performed. He talked of our history and of getting back to our basics, keeping the ritual pure, and of the things we need to do to insure our future. His words were inspirational and really made me think about my Masonic journey and the future of my Lodge and of the Craft. I glanced around the room and saw the same feelings in the eyes of the other Brothers and many including John were nodding in agreement with our Grand Master. 

John leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Durn it Brother Chris, I sure do wish all the Brothers at the last Grand Lodge could have heard this before it closed. Heck, there ain’t many Brothers here and if they are like many of the Brothers at my Lodge some will pass the words along and some won’t. But all the Brothers need to hear this.” 

“You are right John,” I said. “But how are you going to get the word to everyone when they won’t show up to hear it?” 

“I don’t know,” he growled. “But I will sure give it some deep thought while I’m eating. You are going to feed me aren’t you?” 

“You have got to be kidding me John,” I said with a shocked look on my face. “We just ate less than an hour ago.” 

With a look that conveyed to me that he wasn’t kidding at all he said, “My stomach has been growling for the last fifteen minutes and I need to eat something.” 

Actually, I had heard something emanating from his general vicinity that sounded like something a heck of lot more lethal than a stomach growl and I was relieved to know that I could resume normal breathing again. 

On the way back downtown to his truck I was trying to think of a place to stop and eat that would satisfy his taste when he noticed an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet. He got all excited and said “O’ boy I am in the mood for some good old Chinese food and a lot of it.” 

I had never been to an all you can eat buffet with John yet and it struck me as a great deal for John but not for the restaurant. I thought about how in Vegas they always identify the people who win a lot at cards because they count the cards so they aren’t allowed in the casinos and I got a little chuckle thinking about if the same thing happened to John in his town with all the “all you can eat” buffets. 

He sure was excited and when we got to our table he was gone in a flash to the buffet. By the time I got back to the table he was working on one of two heaping plates in front of him. A little Chinese lady walked by and smiled and nodded at both of us and her gaze seemed to linger on John’s double plate but she smiled and continued on to the other tables. Our drinks came and we just sat there enjoying the food, which was excellent. I think John had at least one of everything. I hadn’t finished half of my plate when he was up and heading back for the buffet again and returned shortly with two more heaping plates full. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the little Chinese lady who I figured must be one of the owners staring at John pretty intently and I don’t know why but it made me a little uneasy like she was way too interested in John and his meal. 

Soon he was finished with those two plates and happily on his way back to the buffet for a third time. I was just finishing my plate as John was headed back to our table when it happened. I could see that little Chinese lady making a bee line for our table and she got there just as John did and stabbed a long boney finger right into John’s chest and angrily and excitedly began to talk really fast. 

Now, she was 4ft 10 and he is 6ft 7 so she had her hand way above her head and looking straight up into his wide eyed shocked face and in a high shrill voice let him have it, “You… fat boy. You eat too much. You go home now. You eat up all profits!” 

She reached up and took the plates from his hands, turned him around, and proceeded to herd him toward the door pushing him in the back every couple of steps. I would have helped him if I had not been choking on my tea laughing so hard. All the other diners were staring with disbelief as this tiny lady ran this huge guy out the door giving him a tongue lashing every step of the way. Just before they got to the door one of the other employees intercepted them and he started talking to the lady, both waving their hands at each other and gesturing toward a very quiet and scared looking John Deacon. 

Our waitress had come over to me and began apologizing but I told her this was the most fun I had had in a long time. Finally I told her that I would pay for two more plates if it would get my Brother a reprieve and she smiled and went to the door to deliver the word, which as soon as the older lady heard it immediately stopped talking and began smiling and grabbed John’s hand and escorted him back to the table and sat him down. She then retreated amid a lot of bowing and smiling and bowing and smiling. 

I looked across the table at a visibly shaken John who shook his head and said, “What the heck just happened?” 

I laughed and said, “Well, I think you just got yourself whupped up on by an 85 pound Chinese lady. You better get to eating before she changes her mind.” 

Tentatively he began to eat and soon satisfied that all heck was not going to break loose again, the rest of the diners finally stopped looking our way and everything went back to normal. Not surprisingly he got done pretty quickly and was ready to leave. I handed him the bill which he gladly took and headed to the cashier. After he paid he turned around to leave and the Chinese lady was standing right behind him. It startled him and I thought he was going to have a heart attack but she smiled at him and shook his hand and bowed at him about ten times and he bowed back as he was backing out the door. I told him how ridiculous he looked and he reminded me that it probably was not a good idea to turn your back on her. I agreed and we piled in my truck and headed out. It was a short drive without any conversation. I pulled up to John’s truck but instead of getting out he just sat there staring straight ahead out the window. I was going to ask what the matter was but decided instead to be patient. I figured he would let it out when he was ready. It didn’t take long. 

He took a deep breath and said in a soft voice, “Brother Chris, he is right you know. Everything he said… He is right.” 

I figured he was talking about our Grand Master but instead of asking and being wrong I kept my big mouth shut and let him talk. 

I had to lean over a little bit cause he was still talking kinda low, “We really don’t do a very good job of investigating men who want to join the Fraternity. I have seen it all. I have seen Brothers sign a petition for a man who just walked into the Lodge off the street. I have seen Brothers mark on a petition that they have known the man for months and even years when they only just met. I have seen Brothers investigate a potential candidate in the Fellowship Hall of the Lodge before a meeting just so he could turn in the report on time. I have seen Brothers meet potential candidates in restaurants to do the investigation instead of at the Brother’s home. I have seen candidates be investigated and been voted to receive the Mysteries without their wife even knowing about it. I have seen too many times all three investigators meeting with a prospective candidate at the same time for the investigation. I have even seen Brothers fill out the investigation form before meeting with the applicant. I have seen all these things and more… all in the name of quantity and not quality. It’s enough to make you sick just thinking about it.” 

I shrugged slightly and he continued a little louder, “And do you know what it has gotten us? I’ll tell you exactly what it has gotten us. It has gotten us men of questionable character. Men who, if we had really done a proper investigation, would never have been admitted among us. We have men whose only reason for joining is because they thought it would help them in business. We have men whose only desire to be initiated is to ‘SEE WHAT THE HECK IT IS ALL ABOUT’ with no intention or desire to truly become a Mason. Oh, and there have been and continue to be many whose only desire is to clean up or enhance their tarnished reputations by becoming a Mason in name only. There are even those who join just to join because that’s what they do, they join everything. You know there IS a reason why the question about belonging to other organizations is on the petition. Most of the aforementioned individuals drop out as soon as they realize that Masonry does not and will not feed their fraud and deception. But how much wasted time and damage to our Fraternity is done by these misguided souls? How many lies noted on the petition could have been revealed if only a proper investigation had been done? How many hours wasted by degree teams and mentors and instructors on these liars and cheats? How many good and true Masons have been disillusioned by the admission of those unqualified and unworthy to ever be taken by the hand as a Brother? I think that it is impossible to calculate. Sometimes it seems that we are afraid of turning someone down. Why is that? I often wonder, knowing what I know about what true Masonry is, why there are not lines of good men wanting to become Masons. Could it be that there is a perception that Masonry and Masons aren’t as pure as they are supposed to be? How much Masonic good will be destroyed by these imposters and pretenders. I shudder to consider. Brother Chris, what makes Masonry pure is what will make Masonry grow always and forever. We have been so blinded by declining membership we have begun to sow the seeds of our total demise. I don’t know how I could state it any plainer than that.” 

“Brother John, you said a mouth full right there and I know it’s all true,” I said as I noted the sadness in his eyes. “We Masons are responsible for this and we Masons have to stop it… and now.” 

We shook hands then and made a silent vow to make sure to do what needed to be done to correct this problem. I could see that it was bothering him pretty bad so I walked around the truck as he got out and gave my sad eyed Brother a hug and said, “Don’t worry my Brother, we will get it going.” 

“I know we will,” he replied with a little smile. “We have to.” 

And with that he climbed up into Ol’ Blackie, waved and roared off in a cloud of black smoke. When I stopped coughing I made a mental note to get him in to change those fuel filters next month. 

To all my Brothers out there: Is it worth it to you to only admit those who are duly and truly prepared, worthy and well qualified? It should be. Have a great month. 

The Chamber Of Reflection And A Tater In The Crik

The Profound Pontifications

of Brother John Deacon

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

The Chamber Of Reflection And A Tater In The Crik


In my business, getting the parts necessary to repair a vehicle can sometimes be the most challenging part of the job. I had sold a clutch job on a truck and was in the process of ordering the parts. I had a choice of having the clutch parts sent to me in the mail with a hefty fee added and not receiving it for an extra day…or… driving the seventy miles to pick it up and getting it the same day. I opted for driving the seventy miles and getting it the same day. As I was walking out the door guess who drove in at the same instant…. yup none other than big John Deacon. I was in too big a hurry to stop and chit chat, so I told him to load it up and off we went.

I thought we could have some really good Masonic conversation in 140 miles but as usual all he was interested in was eating. I kept telling him I had to get that part picked up, but I might as well have been talking to myself. There were a couple of times when I almost pulled over and told him to walk, but I knew that would come back to bite me in the end. We picked up the part without incident and I was unsuccessful in leaving John behind…. not that I didn’t try.

Halfway back I got to feeling hungry and realized we were pretty close to the Gristmill Restaurant outside New Braunfels. I have to tell you that this is one of my favorite places to go. This restaurant was built literally on the bank of the Guadalupe River overlooking one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the river where tubers lazily float by all day long. John had never been there so I asked for a table halfway down the bank about forty feet up from the water. I started to realize the big guy was leery of heights when it took him 10 minutes to walk down two short flights of stairs to the platform where our table was. He was trying real hard not to let me see that he was petrified but it was obvious. I asked him if he wanted to get a different table but after sitting down, he seemed to be ok and he declined to move. He did mutter something under his breath about our table hanging off the side of the hill.

It didn’t take him long to start noticing all the pretty girls floating the river below and I actually had to remind him that we were there to eat. He mumbled something about being concerned about their safety …. which I didn’t buy. Our waitress, Marcie, wanted to know what we wanted to drink, and I told her to bring two teas and she asked if we were ready to order. John grabbed a menu but before he could open it, I reached over and took it from him and while he scowled at me, I ordered three Chicken Fried Steaks with all the fixins including baked potatoes and a basket of their really good rolls. By the time I finished ordering he had stopped scowling and was smiling. I told him we didn’t have time to be picky and their Chicken Fried Steaks were great. He was happy about that and had gone back to watching the river. I just let him watch…. heck it is sure relaxing sitting under those huge cypress trees and watching the river….and the tubers go by. He said, “You know Brother Chris, I have never floated down a river in a tube

before. It looks like a lot of fun. Maybe I will try it sometime.” I must have chuckled too loud because he looked at me and demanded to know what was so funny. “At the risk of upsetting you before you get your food,” I said slowly. “I don’t think they make a tube big enough for your big……….” “There you go again,” he interrupted me growling like a bear. “Always saying bad things about me” “I was merely telling the truth and also looking out for your safety.” “My safety?” he asked giving me a skeptical look. “Yup,” I said. “The chances that you will find a tube big enough… ahhh… your size…. is slim and none. And if you did, considering the shallowness of the river and the expected displacement of your derriere I would expect that the constant contact with the riverbed would render you with extremely scraped cheeks.” I delivered the whole thing, seriously, with a straight face while he stared at me with a confused look on his face. Finally, he said, “Displacement …. ……derriere…. scraped cheeks? Can you talk in plain talk?” “Ok,” I said. “The water is not very deep, and you are going to stick out so low below that tube that you are going to scrape your butt big time.” Well he just stared at me with a blank look on his face. I didn’t know if he was going to growl or yell or ask me to explain again. Luckily Marcie showed up and set our plates down and all of his attention turned to eating. I was enjoying my lunch and I happened to look up and saw John gazing over the side of the railing looking down at the river. Just as I started to give him a hard time about watching the tubers again Marcie walked up and asked how everything was. John looked up at her with big sad eyes and said slowly, “I knocked my tater in the crik.” Marcie just stood there with a confused look on her face and said, “You knocked your what in the what?” I quickly jumped in and tried to explain. “He said he knocked his potato off his plate down into the river.” She looked from me to him and he just nodded with a big frown on his face. She chuckled and shook her head and told John not to worry that she would bring him another. Happily, he went back to eating. I told him he needed to hurry because we needed to get back, but it wasn’t necessary because he was done in no time. I paid the bill and a nice tip for Marcie who was still giggling about John’s tater in the crik.

On the way to the truck I reminded him that he hadn’t said one thing of value so far and he needed to change that. We got back on the road and he said he did have something to talk about. He said, “I was talking with several Brothers the other day and I asked them what they thought about the “Chamber of Reflection”?

Boy, the discussion went back and forth about whether it was changing the ritual to whether it was legal or not to whether its purpose was necessary at all. What is your opinion, Brother Chris?” “Well I haven’t thought too hard about it before,” I replied. “But you can be sure I will now, but I have to say I am not sure at this point. I’ll bet you have an opinion though…. otherwise this wouldn’t be the subject of your conversation today.”

“Well you can bet your sweet bippy I have an opinion,” he said smiling. “But before I offer it up, I want to say a few things about this here Chamber of Reflection and our Grand Lodge Laws. First, You and I and every Mason has sworn to abide by the Constitution, Resolutions, and Edicts of this Grand Lodge which means that we are bound by duty and honor to follow the Laws of our Grand Lodge whether we agree with them or not. Secondly, those of us who have been Masters of our Lodges, we swore that we would make no innovations to the body of Masonry. And thirdly, is this Chamber and its purpose really necessary? Let’s start with the third point first. Is it necessary? Its purpose is to cause a new candidate just before his initiation into Masonry to sit quietly in a special place and think about his life. He is asked to ponder three questions; what is your duty to God, what is your duty to your fellow man, and what is your duty to yourself? Is it necessary that a candidate ponder these questions in relation to his life?

Brother Chris, I think it is. We would hope that as part of making the decision to become a Mason a certain period of reflection would have happened …. but that is not necessarily the case, or after hearing his first reading that he might pause to reflect on these things and others…. but sadly, most candidates receive that reading only minutes prior to their initiation and some not at all. We must not assume that every candidate for Masonry has arrived at the inner door duly and truly prepared. We must make SURE that he is. We do way too much assuming. On the second point, is sitting in a quiet place and being asked to ponder your life’s past, present, and future really an innovation to the body of Masonry? This being done before he begins his degree, is it really part of the ritual at all? And as to the first point, we don’t need to change anything at all…because WE ALREADY HAVE ONE!!” He had shouted the last four words out loud and as I looked around, a little embarrassed I shot back at him, “Whoa up there big guy. The whole world doesn’t need to know! What do you mean we already have one?” “Are you kidding me,” he asked, his voice still a little too loud? “Every Lodge has an ante room, don’t they?” In reality it’s not an ante room. It’s a preparation room. And that has, as most things in Masonry, more than just one meaning. Of course, it is to prepare the candidate physically for his introduction into the Lodge, but that is not where preparation was intended to stop. It is a place to prepare the mind also. The preparation room is there to make a candidate ready both in body and in mind for what awaits him.” “But John,” I interjected quickly, and received the usual dagger stare for interrupting his flow, “Lodges have gotten into hot water with Grand Lodge after creating a Chamber of Reflection with all the trappings of a medieval mystery school chamber in their Lodge ante roo…ahhh preparation rooms.” “I am well aware of that fact, my irritatingly observant Brother,” John growled.” It is all a matter of opposite ends of the same pole. On one end we have Grand Lodge Law, specifically Articles 127 and 223, which prohibits painting the preparation room black, adding the skull and crossbones, hourglass, or other items that symbolize our mortality or the material world vs. the spiritual, evidently because of concern that they might detract from or are not part of the ritual. On the other end of the pole we have absolutely nothing. A bare room that is hardly more than a storage closet,

and in many Lodges is exactly that. It is amazing to me sometimes just how bad we miss the mark with respect to creating the proper atmosphere and perspective for our candidates and new Brothers. Where we need to be in this debate is right in the middle, a true equilibrium. Our preparation room should be a clean, neat place and comfortably furnished. A place where, if you or I were to sit in it, would tend to calm the mind and relax the spirit and allow us as well as a prospective Brother the chance to reflect on himself and this important step in his life. In this as in everything we do in Masonry we tend to rush through it as fast as we can instead of realizing that allowing a proper time for preparation, both body and mind, can be invaluable to a new Mason preparing to take his first step in Masonry. It should be also necessary for each successive step.

To me reflection and how to reflect should be an important part of A Mason’s Masonic Education. How many times have you heard of someone saying that they don’t know how to pray? Most people just assume…there’s that word again…that a person knows how to pray just like we Masons assume that a candidate and new Brother just instinctively knows how to reflect. I know by experience that this is not true. A Brother told me the other day that I was being too dramatic and too theatrical as it relates to the Chamber of Reflection and maybe that is true to a certain extent, but I see two problems that speak to this issue.

First, we consistently fail to properly prepare a candidate mentally for his initiation. Once we have his money and his petition, we seem to have a major letdown in our commitment to his Masonic education and leave everything up to him to figure out from that point on. In fact in many Lodges instead of preparing his mind for the beautiful experience that becoming a Mason is, they instead fill his mind full of uncertainty with talk of goats and other things to the extent that he spends his whole degree thinking about things he shouldn’t. You would think that since this is, for all intents and purposes the beginning of the rest of his life that we would go above and beyond in making sure that he is totally ready mentally for this experience. Could this be a major reason we lose so many new EA’s? Add to that the lackadaisical attitude that many Lodges and Brothers have in making sure that the ritual is done right and it’s a wonder we are able to hold on to the ones we do. As far as being dramatic, each of our Degrees IS a play of sorts with Brothers playing certain parts in order to teach certain lessons and dispense wisdom or light to that candidate. A certain amount of drama is not only expected but is in fact necessary to the success of the ritual.

Every day in this society we are subjected to situations and images both in real life and in the media and movies and music that bombard our senses and emotions to the extreme. We have and continue to be desensitized as to our emotions and feelings and it takes more and more of the same bombardment to keep our interest. There are things that we can do to enhance a new candidate’s first experience in Masonry and doing the ritual correctly in words and movements

is one of the first. But to make sure that he is in the right frame of mind mentally is just as important and a period of reflection before his degree is essential. Not preparing a candidate mentally for his experience would be like telling an NFL team to show up thirty minutes before a game and suit up and take the field without any mental preparation for the game…. without a game plan. In that context, the unprepared players would surely fail to succeed in any part of the game just as our new candidates without proper preparation cannot succeed in understanding the lessons imparted to them in the degree. Instead of preparing them to succeed we set them up to fail……and then we scratch our collective heads and wonder why we lose so many new Brothers.

So, my opinion is: I believe that asking a candidate to sit quietly in reflection in some form just before his initiation and reflect upon those three important questions will not only better prepare him for his reception into the Lodge room but will also enhance the experience. Back in the earlier days of our Fraternity our degrees were an awe-inspiring experience….as they should be now…anything less should not be acceptable.

The ritualistic lessons of our Craft must be as vivid as possible. Our more philosophically and esoterically inclined “New Breed” of members will cherish the experience of reflecting before seeing the Light. They will treasure the instant when called upon to reflect on their duties to God, to their fellow beings, and to themselves. And performing this task before the degree even starts will take nothing away from the ritual itself. I think this is something we owe to our new Brethren…. I really do.”

He stopped talking and we just rode along in silence for the last 30 miles to the shop, me thinking about what he had said. I didn’t even realize we hadn’t spoken until we were turning into the driveway. I apologized to John for ignoring him and he chuckled and said, “You were deep in reflection and that is key to your and to all of our moral and spiritual development which leads to a happier more peaceful existence.”

“You know Brother John?” I said grinning. “It is sure expensive hanging around you, but you sure do get me to thinking and I thank you for that.” “He laughed out loud and grabbed me and gave me a big bear hug. “Let me go,” I gasped. “I can’t breathe.” He finally dropped me and shook my hand. “I’ll see you next month my Brother,” he called out over his shoulder as he climbed in his truck.” As he went out of sight in a cloud of diesel exhaust, I reflected…yup… I reflected on how much I enjoy my time with him. Hope it doesn’t end very soon.