In Memory

Homer Brannon

Homer Brannon

Howell passed away on March 9, 1998.  The cause of death was congestive heart failure.

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12/31/11 02:36 PM #1    

Harrell Graham (Graham)

(Please see the excerpt from “Howl” which I posted on the memorial page for Isaac Mitrani.  It applies to Howell also).

I went to elementary school with Howell.  We lived a few streets from each other and, back then, there wasn’t cable TV and the internet to keep us immobile indoors in front of a glowing screen for our entire childhoods.  We lived outdoors, playing and exploring.   Howell was so precocious, doing science experiments when he was 8 or 9.  His room was full of science stuff: rocks, minerals, telescopes, bugs, chemistry sets.  When he was in 5th grade—during the Cuban Missile Crisis where we were being taught to ‘duck and cover’ under our desks—he wasn’t afraid: he wrote a paper on his design for a “Z Bomb” which he said would “put an end to all this A-Bomb nonsense”.

As a young teenager he was diagnosed with scoliosis and put in a huge body cast and made to stay prone in bed for 6 months.   He was never the same after that.  His mind was like lightning, striking often randomly but brilliantly. But like lightning he couldn’t sustain those bursts.  Sadly, he probably never needed this back operation, as his brother explains below.

But it was still exhilarating to talk with him because the leaps he made in conversation could catch you off guard and then send you down another avenue of exciting discussion.  His sense of humor was bizarre and witty enough that it could have provided material for a stand-up comic.   He taught himself to play the guitar and could do riffs like Jimmy Hendrix.  He played baseball while in high school and could throw a very scary fastball.  He loved philosophy and quoted John Stuart Mill often.

The Joni Mitchell lines, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” come to mind when I think about Howell and how his friendship helped to shape me.

Howell was the character in the cartoon strip, “The Adventures of Man Mellon”, by Michael Mayfield in the second issue of the Plain Brown Watermelon.

His brother, Larry, wrote me not long ago:

            “Howell passed away from us on March 9, 1998.  He was only 46. Howell was cremated and is in the downtown La Grange, Texas City cemetery near a corner across from a very old and large oak tree next to my parents.

“Homer Howell Brannon, Jr. was his full name and of course named after our dad. While at Gordon Elementary, Howell made a science fair project that ran on batteries, it was of a matrix of switches and lights. It was a binary calculator, a rudimentary version of the highly evolved device we are using today, the computer.  Back then I had no idea what it was going to be used for.

“The baseball team we played on at Feld Park in Bellaire was called the Red Sox. He was about 16 at the time. I still have a couple of his trophies. We won first place one season because of his baseball skills. It was the bottom of the 9th inning and when he came to bat the coach of the opposing team told his pitcher to intentionally walk him. The pitcher threw the first pitch outside to the catcher, then he threw the second pitch outside as ball two, then the pitcher threw the third pitch outside. Howell had long arms and reached way out with the bat and whacked the ball, hard. It sailed out to left field, hit the top of the chain link fence and fell over for a homerun and winning the game.

“Doctors determined to implant 2 aluminum rods in his back to straighten his back. This was an extreme idea and I think contributed greatly to his many later problems. He had constant pain and nerve problems that he couldn't understand as a result. So doctors prescribed a lot of psycho meds and he went to psycho therapy. I always thought these doctors were experimenting with him with their quack ideas. But the damage was done and the meds just confused him more and created more physical problems. My parents never gave up on him. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to help him and cared for him until his untimely death.

“So, based on what I have learned (HG note: Larry’s daughter had scoliosis which doctors left untreated & she is fine), in Howell's case by the time he had his surgery around 16 years old, he had finished his growth and had they just left him alone the scoliosis would never have developed any further.  Again, those many damn quack doctors were just practicing voodoo that they really knew little about. Nonetheless, we still had many good times. We did more in our early lives than most people do in their entire lives. Howell loved fishing down at the gulf coast.  As you know, he had moments of genius and great insight. “

Howell wrote the piece titled “Interview” (allegedly with Harlan Andrews our principal) in the first issue of the Plain Brown Watermelon, which is excerpted below.

Interview (any similarity between the characters portrayed in this story and actual people is your own)

Q: Sir, as principal of this school would you say what you believe is its prime purpose?

A:  Why, yes.  Its purpose is to mold its students into decent, taxpaying members of our society, not mention to send them to college for at least 4 years to keep them off the labor market.

Q: What are your thoughts on student government?

A: Oh, it’s a wonderful institution.  It warms my heart to watch the student council in session wheeling and dealing, passing resolutions by the hundreds, just as if they were really running the school and making rules.  Afterwards we always have a chat where council members tell me what is happening around my school and I am happy to tell you that I have never received a report of major student unrest or dissent at Bellaire from one of my student council friends.

Q: What about the fifty students who came to your office the other day to protest dress rules?

A:  I will make an exception with you and tell you that I have certified evidence from the FBI that each and every one of those youths were SDS infiltrators, and their telephones are presently being tapped in the interest of the national welfare.

Q: Weren’t there some parents that called your office demanding to know why you thought you could tell their children how to dress and wear their hair?

A: Indeed so.  It is unfortunate that these people have lost control over their children.  More than ever it is my duty to carry on where the parents have failed and instruct their children with my understanding of the adult society so that their children may find their place in our great society without being hindered by the faulty advice of unqualified adults.  Incidentally, the parents’ phones are also being bugged.

Q: Why do you encourage such enthusiastic support for the football team and even allow school hours pep rallies?

A: There are two main reasons.  First of all, students find the life at Bellaire dull.  Unfortunately, this is also the way it is in the adult world.  Naturally, if tensions pent up within these youngsters are not released in a socially accepted manner, their schoolwork and future in society may be harmed.  Therefore, we dress up our finest physical specimens in glorious red and send them off to fight for the school while students in the stands gain vicarious but harmless thrills. Secondly, if my students are at an exciting football game they are less likely to start worrying about wars and poverty and other things of no importance to them.  As we all know, a worried student has less time to think about what really counts: his grades.  By the way, football games are a major source of income for my school. Student tickets aren’t free, you know.

Q: What is your opinion of the atrocious conditions which now exist in restrooms here?

A: Bite your tongue! I’ll have you know a former student council member and Hale college graduate presides over my restrooms.

Q: Does that really matter in this case?

A: As I have said before, my school must maintain its image of continued learning and intellectual stimulations. How would it look if we were to employ a mere laborer who simply kept my restrooms clean and fixed my broken commodes?   …  Excuse me, but I am a busy man, as you probably have noticed.  I have to go to a meeting of my gym coaches where we will discuss the merits of a new teachers’ manual I have distributed to them entitled “How to Talk Tough to and Make Fun of Long-Haired Commie Freaks”.  We may also discuss an unusual accident which occurred yesterday in which a misdirected, bearded student from Rice visiting one of my faculty here seriously hurt himself by running backwards into a board—fifteen times”.





08/15/15 06:11 PM #2    

Elizabeth A. Drake (Ordeman)

My senior prom date.  We were set up by Harrell, and it was a pretty embarassing night for both of us. We didn't know how to act with one another, and we certainly didn't want to "make out" like the others. So we decided to just talk, and that is how we spent the evening.

A very nice and polite guy. I'm sorry his life was cut short.

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