By Norris Chambers  

           Clifton and I and our possum-hunting companions left our marks on the environment. Most of these marks involved some sort of initial carving. We were not the first to engage in this practice since we saw initials and dates crudely engraved on big rocks, old trees and other enduring things. Some of these carvings included dates that extended back into the 1800’s.

            I believe it was Daniel Boone that we read about who carved a message proclaiming to all comers that he “killed a bar here” in the old days. We didn’t get that elaborate in our carvings. Usually just plain initials served the purpose. We didn’t even proclaim that Norris and Clifton skinned a ‘possum here in 1931!

            Probably the most unique way we devised to initialize our territory was to carve our initials in the large leaves of prickly pears. This was a tricky and sometimes hazardous operation since the leaves were loaded with large thorns and the fine irritating stickers. But once the initials were engraved with a sharp pocket knife, they were there for a long time. The sliced areas on the pear leaves healed quickly and left the initials plainly visible. We did not perform any statistical tests to determine how long our graffiti would endure, but I doubt if it is still showing.

            During the winter season animals grew longer and thicker hair. Clifton ’s old donkey, named Slowpoke, developed a nice coat of long hair one season and Clifton was quick to take advantage of it. He took a pair of scissors and very carefully clipped his initials on each side of the stubborn animal. The letters were about six inches in height and stood out like a fresh painted signboard. Of course the nice identification disappeared when the hair began to shed in the warm spring weather. Clifton felt bad about losing his artwork and I also sympathized. He vowed to try again next season. We even discussed trying some artwork on the horses and maybe even a cow or two. A nice letter or two wouldn’t look bad on a big dog!  When the next winter rolled around we were involved in something else and never found time to initialize a winterized animal again.

            Most country kids carved their initials on the backs of turtles and terrapins. We were also guilty of this practice. I don’t think the carving hurt the creatures because the shells are pretty thick and the carving was not very deep. We never knew how long the initials were visible. We sometimes wondered if the shell grew over them and hid them or if they carried the artwork as long as they lived. There might be room for a research project there.

            When it was obvious that we were to be involved in WWII the preparation for war began in earnest. One of the first jobs I had was a 40-cents-an-hour position helping to unload railway box cars for the construction of Camp Bowie in Brownwood . This pay was almost too high to believe for a country boy emerging from a long depression where a dollar a day would have been welcome if available. Four men were assigned to each box car for unloading lumber. The lumber was stacked in the car and we worked in crews of two, one on the front and one on the back end of the long boards. We stacked as many as we could comfortable carry and placed them carefully in the beds of the trucks that were backed up to the box car doors.

            What I noticed immediately about the many box cars was the graffiti scribbled with chalk and crayon on the inside and outside of the cars. One drawing stood out in just about every group. There was a simple picture of some guy with a long brimmed hat and underneath it the words “Bozo Texino”. I had no idea if he were a hobo, a railroad worker or an inspector. But one thing was certain,  he had the opportunity to decorate many box cars that traveled all over the United States .  There were also other markings that were repeated in car after car, but none stood out like Bozo Texino. I didn’t leave initials or messages on these walls. I was too busy and I considered the competition too strong.

            Of course everyone is familiar with the WWII graffiti starring Kilroy. Usually some guy with a big nose was standing behind a board fence with his nose hanging over and the words, “Kilroy was here” underneath. Kilroy was in many places – on walls, on signboards, on tanks, on trucks, on boxcars or just about anywhere there was a space and someone had a piece of chalk or a pen. Wherever a soldier or defense worked went he left his sign. Kilroy even showed up on the fuselage of new airplanes in the factories and this really irritated the inspectors and the workers who had to remove the markings.

            Was leaving initials and graffiti a lot of fun? It sure was! Maybe you ought to build a rock garden, plant a prickly pear and carve your initials in one of the big leaves! Or you could write “Bozo Texino” on the family car with a marks-a-lot! A lot of people would think that was fun!