Carolyn Dennis-Willingham

author perfectly flawed

Carolyn Dennis-Willingham

When You’re Hit Between the Eyes


I grabbed my little sister’s button nose and held out my hand to show her my thumb tucked between my two fingers.

“Cono, I’ve done told ya I was too big fer that!” Delma yelled and stomped her little feet in the dirt.

Instead of kicking me in the shins as usual, she picked up a stave from the ground and hit me right square between the eyes. She could tell by the look on my red face that I was madder than a hornet.

“Ya better start runnin’, Delma Jean, ’cause I’m comin’ after ya, and I’m gonna whoop ya!”

She ran those deer legs of hers right straight to the outhouse and got there just in time to lock herself in.

“I’m gonna push this outhouse right over on ya, Delma Jean!” I said, banging on the old cedar door.

I stood outside that smelly outhouse, listening for what she was gonna say next. Then I listened some more. When I didn’t hear anything, I said, “OK. Well, when ya come out, I’ll be right here waitin’. Then ya can see this knot between my eyes that’s growin’ into a real-life unicorn horn.”

I thought for sure she’d come out right then to see for herself. But she didn’t. I tiptoed away and went on about my business. I pretended that my new horn was a badge of courage, which I guess it was if you had yourself a little sister like Delma.

I can’t say for sure how long she stayed in there, but she knew that I wouldn’t spank her. And, of course, I’d never push a stinky old outhouse over with her in it.

Delma showed up for our quiet suppertime more clammed up than usual. I put an elbow on the table and used my left hand to hide the goose egg on my forehead. I didn’t want Delma to see it any more than I wanted Mother and Dad to. Then with my righthand, I ate my supper in silence like everybody else. Several times I caught Delma staring between my fingers trying to get a peek at my bump.

Later that night, Delma told me she didn’t mean to put a horn between my eyes. I told her it didn’t matter, that it didn’t really hurt anyhow.

By the next morning, my badge of courage was almost completely sucked back into my skull. Even though nobody else could see it, I reckoned it was still in there somewhere. And that’s where I decided I’d keep it from then on, next to the other ones I got elsewhere.

— Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, a novel about my father growing up in west Texas during the Great Depression.

image credit

via Courage

If I Tell You a Rooster Wears a Pistol …

To know him means you “got” his colloquialisms, his dry, sometimes sarcastic wit (I was a quick study). To know him means you understood what it was like to run away towards something good. And if it wasn’t “up to snuff,” you’d take advantage of the situation to make it so. He used to say, “If I tell you a rooster wears a pistol, look under it’s wing.” It meant, just like his grandfather intended, that he was truth-telling.

It’s 1946 and he’s telling you a piece of his story:

I was standing in my flight section of fifty-four men. All the ranking men had gone except for the second lieutenant, who was greener than a gourd. He was the squadron commander over everything, and he walked straight over to me and asked, “Soldier, you’ve done previous service, haven’t you?”

“No sir,” I said, standing in rigid attention and trying to figure out why he asked me that question.

“But you’ve had previous training, haven’t you?”

I thought real quick. Hell, I’d had previous training alright—previous training in ranching and sandwich making, not to mention in bank robbing conversations, fighting, and escaping. So I said, “Yes sir, I’ve had previous trainin’.”

“Where at?”

I knew what he was thinking, so again I lied through my teeth and said, “ROTC, sir.” Every officer likes to hear that.

“Can you drill men?”

Shoot, I’d seen enough picture shows to know how to drill men. Any idiot can drill men. I’d been drilled all my life—told what to do, what not to do, when to do it to boot.

“Yes sir!” I said.

He called over the little corporal, pointed to me, and said, “This is your new assistant.”

I had no inkling of an idea of what it meant to be an assistant to a corporal, but I learned quickly enough. An “assistant” meant wearing a piss pot, a little blue helmet that identified you as an assistant just like a piece of tape with your name on it identified you as the newcomer at a Baptist revival.

Little Corporal put that piss pot on my head, and I marched those soldiers straight to the classroom. Then I went to the PX to drink some more coffee.

Cono Dennis (12-18-1928 – 6-24-2009)

My father. I knew him well.

rooster logo copy

(new logo for my children’s books)

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper by C. Dennis-Willingham

via Inkling

Damn Straight!

I don’t ride a horse

I don’t shoot a gun

I eat Mexican food and barbecue

and bask in Texas sun

I don’t say “ain’t”

I don’t chew or spit

I can put on a Texas drawl, y’all

but only when it fits

I don’t own an oil gusher

Still,  I’ve got my Texas roots

I can play blackjack, kick back

sportin’ western boots.


First rate?

Damn straight!


painting by CD-W




No, not all the land in Texas is flat!

Nor do we all ride horses and I haven’t worn my cowboy boots in years. We have real hills and even a river that flows in west Austin and  downtown– The Colorado River.

Just sharing a few photos of Texas’ state capitol with y’all. Enjoy!







What does it mean to educate?

It means having a sister like mine. Words cannot express how proud I am of her. Pat has forever changed the lives of so many people including the ones who struggled and fought to be the first in their families to receive a higher education. Well done, “Dr. Witherspoon.” Well done.

Love always,

Your baby sister

P.S. Thank you for reading to me when I was little.


reference for following article:

Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon Retires

Last Updated on August 30, 2017 at 4:15 PM

Originally published August 30, 2017

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP Communications


When Javier Aguilar-Garcia met Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., nearly four years ago, he was wandering the halls of the Liberal Arts Building searching for a University 1301 class.

UTEP College of Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., (right) retired in August after 17 years at UTEP. Witherspoon and UTEP President Diana Natalicio (left) hold a caricature of Witherspoon by Nacho L. Garcia. Photo by UTEP News Staff

(UTEP College of Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., right, retired in August after 17 years at UTEP. Witherspoon and UTEP President Diana Natalicio, left, hold a caricature of Witherspoon by Nacho L. Garcia. Photo: Ivan Pierre Aguirre / UTEP Communications.)

As a freshman at The University of Texas at El Paso, Aguilar-Garcia was still finding his way around campus. At the time, the first-generation college student had no clue that Witherspoon, the passerby he stopped to ask for help, was the dean of the UTEP College of Liberal Arts (COLA). She smiled warmly and directed him down the hall.

Their paths would cross again a couple of years later when Aguilar-Garcia served as a COLA ambassador under Witherspoon. For two years, Aguilar assisted the dean at events, such as the college’s Pre-Commencement Awards and Hooding Ceremony.

While the Juárez native no longer needed directions to class, he began looking to Witherspoon for guidance about his future.

“What I learned from Dr. Witherspoon would take hours for me to say,” said Aguilar-Garcia, a multimedia journalism major who expects to graduate in December 2017. “I learned the value of hard work, to always be true to myself, and to not be afraid to think outside the box. She knows there is something special in each of us.”

Aguilar-Garcia was among the many students Witherspoon mentored over the past 17 years at UTEP. She retired from the University in August 2017 after a 36-year career in higher education.

“I came to UTEP for the students,” said Witherspoon, who led COLA since 2011. “I was impressed by these students who will do so much to get an education, and who understand so well that an education transforms not only an individual but a family.”

Witherspoon joined UTEP in the fall of 2000 as chair of the Department of Communication.

During the Dean’s Legacy Lecture this spring, Witherspoon recalled that shortly before she started her new job, her oldest son, Terry, told her that the people at UTEP really wanted her to come to the University, and she better not let them down.

Looking back, she said, “I hope I didn’t.”

At UTEP, Witherspoon hit the ground running. In 2002, she established the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies, which provides academic enrichment for communication majors, communication programs to high school students, and continuing education and training for media and communication professionals.

The center’s inaugural event, “An Evening with Sam Donaldson,” in 2003 attracted top journalists, including Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, George Will and Ted Koppel, White House press secretaries and major news stations. The event raised more than $100,000 for the center’s endowment.

“That was a wonderful evening to remember and to honor Sam Donaldson, but it was also wonderful to see (these journalists) come out and hear about UTEP,” Witherspoon recalled.

In August 2008, Witherspoon was named dean of the University’s Graduate School. She held that position until 2010, when she became acting dean of COLA, UTEP’s largest and most varied college with nearly 7,000 students. A year later, she was appointed the college’s dean.

“There are lots of programs, lots of departments, lots of students, not enough faculty, and not enough staff,” Witherspoon said. “That is the beauty of the College of Liberal Arts; there is so much diversity here with the arts, the humanities and the social sciences.”

UTEP Senior Executive Vice President Howard Daudistel, Ph.D., was the college’s dean before Witherspoon. He said that under Witherspoon’s “extraordinary leadership,” the college strengthened its many student success initiatives and strived to continuously improve all of its academic programs.

“Dr. Witherspoon was a vigorous advocate for the many diverse departments and programs in the college and worked hard to recruit the highest quality faculty to support these programs,” Daudistel said. “Always attentive to student needs, Dr. Witherspoon was deeply committed to UTEP’s access and excellence mission while also supporting a diverse faculty of outstanding teachers, extraordinary scholars, researchers and artists.”

During her tenure, Witherspoon worked with faculty to develop forward-thinking programs that would foster student achievement. Among them was the Student Success Initiative in 2014, which provides tutoring and programs that support student academic development, and the Liberal Arts Honors Program (LAHP) in 2012, which offers academic enrichment opportunities to top undergraduate liberal arts students.

Witherspoon said the LAHP has exceeded her expectations.

“Many of our LAHP students go on to graduate school or law school and have wonderful internships in other parts of the country,” she said. “They’re just outstanding.”

Witherspoon credits much of her success to the college’s outstanding faculty and dedicated staff who she said made her look good, even on those days when she did not deserve it.

“It almost never felt like work,” she said with a laugh. Despite her many accomplishments, Witherspoon is most proud of watching students succeed. Her favorite time of year was celebrating the achievements of liberal arts students at UTEP’s spring and winter Commencement ceremonies. From the stage in the Don Haskins Center, Witherspoon would watch as wave after wave of liberal arts graduates walked into the arena, ready to make their mark on the world.

In retirement, Witherspoon plans to spend time with family and stay involved with the University. She may help raise funds for COLA’s 50th Anniversary fund or teach an online undergraduate course in communication and organizational leadership.

Other projects include writing a book on the effect of culture on leadership, focusing on Mexican-American and Latino influences.

“I feel very proud and very gratified of having been a part of this campus during the last 17 years,” Witherspoon said. “The last 17 years has been a time of tremendous change and great growth, not only in numbers but in stature.”

Daily prompt: Educate

The Emigrant’s Legacy


Strong hands once built a structure

in 1889

Ancestors who worked endlessly

in an old, unsettled time.


And now, tis I who benefits

a creation made of stone

this house, a loving bounty

and a place I call “my own”.


Author’s note: The “homestead” was built by my great-great grandparents after they immigrated from Germany in the 1840’s. This house is shared with the appreciating many.


Backstabbing during a hurricane

In case you haven’t heard, Trump continues to posture and force Mexico to build a wall on the Texas border to “keep Mexican immigrants out” of the U.S

Meanwhile, just over the border, Mexico has offered to help get Texas “back on its feet in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.” Apparently, vehicles, boats, troops, medicine, water and food are soon to arrive.

Trump has not said anything publicly about their offer, nor has he officially accepted the it. He did, however, accept Singapore’s offer to lend us Ch-47 helicopters for rescue efforts and spoke directly to their Prime Minister.


It’s unclear how Trump, who arrived in Texas on Tuesday to survey Harvey’s catastrophic damage, will react to Mexico’s offer to help. The president and Mexico have had an acrimonious relationship dating back to Trump’s first day as a presidential candidate, when he referred to Mexicans as rapists, murderers and criminals.

Mexico is still more than happy to help its Texas neighbor.

But here’s where it gets weird.

Although our (ahem) Governor Abbott has accepted Mexico’s kind offer, he has been working to implement Senate Bill 4 which would give ...

local law enforcement the authority to ask about a person’s immigration status during routine interactions such as a traffic stop.

It also required local officials to comply with requests from federal immigration authorities to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Local law enforcement officials could be fined and removed from office if they did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities



Luckily, on Wednesday a US District Judge ruled that  “Texas officials may not implement Senate Bill 4, a controversial measure designed to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” in that state.

Ha! Take that, Trump and Abbott.

But Abbott promises to get the ruling appealed. It’s like he’s saying, “Come on in, Mexico. Help us out! Done? Now get out.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project praised Garcia’s ruling.

“The court was right to strike down virtually all of this patently unconstitutional law. Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe. That’s why police chiefs and mayors themselves were among its harshest critics — they recognized it would harm, not help, their communities,” said Gelernt.

Friday, activists are planning a statewide protest against this discriminatory bill.

Ricardo Ainslie, director of the Mexico Center at the University of Texas at Austin said, “Mexico has been the brunt of a lot of highly pressured, hostile rhetoric. So I think it’s very interesting that Mexico is saying in so many words ‘Hey, we’re present, and we’re critical to things that happen in Texas.’ They’re showing real political maturity.”

Yes, Mexico has taken the high road and many Texan, like myself, are grateful.

As to the ungrateful, fear-mongerers — I just hope it’s not too hard for you to cross your own Rio Grande River without help.


Amen-er’s drinkin’ whiskey

Delma didn’t die. Every day my little sister got stronger and stronger and more and more like her old self again. Dad stayed about the same, hardly ever getting up outta bed. After the quarantine sign was pulled off our door and our prison sentence was over, Aunt Nolie moved from Ranger to Rotan and rescued us once again.   This time she wasn’t alone. She’d gotten herself a new husband by the name of Red Griffice. Back then I thought he was called “Red” since the name matched the color of his face after a few beers.

Bootlegging was their main business. I’m not sure who learned from who, but our neighbors, the Rushing’s and the Gallagher’s were bootleggers too. Mr. Gallagher owned a gas station off the side of the road, but I remember him only having gas in those pumps one or two times. It was a problem for the out of town customers, who pulled up for petrol and there was none. The bigger problem was when Sheriff P.V. Hail. He’d pull up to the “gas station” and Mr. Gallagher had to say, again, “ Ah hell, PV. Ya know how things are. Can ya believe that I’m still waitin’ on that delivery? I got plenty of RC Cola. Can I get one for ye? It’s on the house as always.”

When PV finally left, Mr. Gallagher would wipe his forehead and recheck his supply of beer and whiskey. Nobody, nobody in Rotan knew where he hid it.

When Aunt Nolie and Red would drive up to Sweetwater to stock up on their booze, it was only P.V. they had to watch out for as they crossed that county line from wet to dry. I even heard that on Sundays, somebody from town went to church and sold “eggs” to the Amen-ers. The “eggs” came either in tall bottles or short ones.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, by C. Dennis-Willingham

Screenshot 2017-08-11 10.45.58.png

Cono’s (my father) Aunt Nolie rests in Ranger, Texas


Delivery – daily word prompt