(Visa or MasterCard are accepted)

Suggested by
Jerry M. Parsons, Ph.D.
Professor, Extension Horticulturist

Well, we all squeezed by Thanksgiving so now we must be coming into the home stretch for Christmas. That's a sobering thought! But it IS reality. Reality also involves getting those "special" people Christmas gifts. You want to be sure that the Christmas gifts are as "special" as the "special" people who are to receive them. And DON'T THINK THAT YOUR LOVED ONES ARE GOING TO FORGET A WORTHLESS CHRISTMAS GIFT! If you think it's just the thought that counts, think again. I have tried just giving thoughts for Christmas -- that mentality can get you battered and bruised!

Knowing you want to give an appreciated, worthwhile gift which can be easily (mail ordered preferably!) obtained, I have compiled a listing of THE BEST Christmas gifts possible.

GIFT CHOICE #1: Beautiful wildflower and Nature photos taken by one of Texas's most talented photographers, Joe Lowery. These prints will make the perfect gift for "the person who has everything"!! To see samples of these breath-taking photos, go to:

To see all of the selections and prices, click at the bottom of each group of images.

GIFT CHOICE #2: A useful Christmas gift
which will be enjoyed all year is a subscription to gardening magazines and books. The best garden magazine in Texas is named "Neil Sperry's Gardens". You can receive or send the next 10 issues of "Gardens" plus Neil Sperry's " Texas Gardening Calendar" for only $39. (Telephone: 1-800-752-4769; FAX line open 24 hours is 214-544-1278). The address for the magazine is: P. O. Box 864, McKinney, Texas 75070-0864.

For more information, check Neil's website:

Another gardening magazine in Texas is the Texas Gardener Magazine. An annual subscription to the Texas Gardener Magazine is $22 for 6 full color magazines. Subscriptions can be obtained from: "Texas Gardener Magazine", P.O. Box 9005, Waco, Texas 76714-9005 (telephone 1-800-727-9020).

Their website is:

They also sell books (All prices include tax):

  • Bulbs For Warm Climates By: Thad Howard

    Bulb gardening in Texas presents challenges unknown in cooler climates. Bulbs that work in Holland or New York fade in our mild winters, hot summers and uncertain rainfall. Yet there are hundreds of native and naturalized species of bulbs that thrive as far south as zone 9 and offer as many colors, shapes and fragrances.

    Price $31.97
  • Plant Propagation By: The American Horticultural Society

    This easy-to-understand manual can help even the novice gardener through the steps of propagating your favorite plants.

    Price $37.31
  • Birds of Texas: A Field Guide By: John H. Rappole & Gene W. Blacklock

    Detailed information on identification, habitat preferences, voice, seasonal occurrence, abundance and distribution of 622 bird species in Texas. Maps and photos are provided for easy identification.

    Price $20.23
  • A Book of Salvias By: Betsy Clebsch

    Over 100 species of salvias can be found in this colorful book. Blooming cycles, cultural practices and companion plants are listed. A great gift for those wishing to add low-maintenance plants to the landscape.

    Price $31.97

  • Roses in the Southern Garden By: G. Michael Shoup

    Owner of the Antique Rose Emporium, the author has made Old Garden roses available through mail order and at his display garden centers. He shows the rose as an integral part of the garden, included with perennials, herbs and annuals.

    Price $37.36

  • Gardening Success With Difficult Soils By: Scott Ogden

    This book gives frustrated gardeners everything they need to know about gardening on limestone, alkaline clay and caliche soils. Hundreds of lime-loving and heat-tolerant varieties of trees, shrubs, roses, annuals and perennials.

    Price $20.23

  • Native Texas Gardens By: Andy & Sally Wasowski

    This book is also a tribute to the diversity that defines Texas. Explore the more than 60 gardens profiled here and understand what gardening for a "sense of place" is all about.

    Price $42.65

  • Texas Bug Book By: Howard Garrett & Malcolm Beck

    Honeybees in the flowers, fire ants in the yard, roaches in the kitchen - the good, the bad, and the ugly bugs are all over Texas! And they are here in a complete guide for identifying and organically controlling all of the most common Texas insects.

    Price $26.63

  • Perennial Gardens For Texas By: Julie Ryan

    Perennial gardens are a source of year-long delight. This book covers cottage gardens and perennial borders. Ryan also defines eight major ecological regions in Texas and offers plant suggestions for each.

    Price $29.84

  • Vegetable Book: A Texan's Guide To Gardening By: Dr. Sam Cotner

    The answers to all your vegetable questions can be found in this Texas gardening source the head of the department of horticulture at Texas A&M University.

    Price $26.63

  • Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening By: Howard Garrett & Malcolm Beck

    Organic gardening is so much more than finding safer ways to kill pests. It's about understanding and working with Nature to grow great vegetables. This colorful book describes more than 100 food plants and gives specific information on the growth habits, culture, harvest and storage of each.

    Price $23.43

  • Texas Wildscapes: Gardening For Wildlife By: Noreen Damude & Kelly Conrad Bender

    This book tells you low to design your gardens to provide the habitat required by native wildlife. It also lists beautiful and useful native plants appropriate to the specific region of Texas in which you live.

    Price $26.63

  • How To Grow Native Plants By: Jill Nokes

    This new edition includes the latest information on the production, cultivation and landscape use of native plants. Over 75 new species have been added and the original 350 species have updated information on their propagation and care. In addition to the individual plant descriptions, whole chapters are devoted to gathering and storing seeds, seed germination, planting, vegetative propagation and transplanting.

    Price $31.97

  • Pass-along Plants By: Steve Bender and Felder Rushing

    Pass-along plants have survived in gardens for decades by being handed from one person to another. In this lively and sometimes irreverent book, 117 such plants are described, giving particulars on hardiness, size, uses in the garden and horticultural requirements. Although the authors live in and write about the South, many of the plants they discuss will grow elsewhere.

    Price $21.30

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Call in your credit card order: 1-800-727-9020 or e-mail:

GIFT CHOICE #3: Do you have a sports person in the family? The only videos in existence of profession exhibition shooting as it once existed feature Parsons and Toepperwein, the last of the
great exhibition shooters for Winchester-Western. A video of San Antonio's own master gunman, Ad Toepperwein is a recent find. The Herb Parsons' video entitled "Showman Shooter" and the Ad and wife Plinky Toepperwein video entitled "The Topps For 40 Years" are about 25 minute video cassettes (VHS) can be ordered for $25 each (tax and postage included) or both for $40 by telephoning 210-684-1573 (San Antonio) and leaving your name, address, telephone number and name of tape(s) which you want on the answering machine. NOW YOU CAN HAVE BOTH OF THESE EXHIBITIONS ON A DVD FORMAT FOR $40. You can also send a check made payable to Carolyn Parsons to : Carolyn Parsons, P. O. Box 380391, San Antonio 78268-7391.

You can actually see a video clip of Herb Parsons throwing and breaking seven clay targets with a Winchester 12-gauge pump shotgun before even one hits the ground at: And click on "View Clip."


To many of us the era of the exhibition shooter are just a faint memory. We may vaguely recall standing in a crowd of mesmerized spectators, watching in amazement as a fast shooting, quick talking showman accomplished difficult feats with a shotgun or rifle. We don't remember the name but we surely remember the happening---dynamite exploding, pieces of cabbage flying everywhere, and the crowd covered with juice from an orange heavily laced with perfume and squeezed with a rifle.

The fellow causing all the commotion was a comedian as well as a master gunman. Spectators were either laughing at jokes or gasping in amazement at the
firepower being nonchalantly maneuvered by this weaponry wizard. The man doing the shooting would catch his breath periodically and share with the crowd some down-home philosophy about gun safety, sportsmanship and "hunting with your boy so you will never have to hunt for him." He would blow a duck caller so clearly that one would be deceived into believing that a flock was nearby---he was a world champion duck caller.

Soon he was rested and the fast moving shooting show began again. He was good with rifles but was genius with shotguns. Effortlessly tossed clay targets, blocks of wood, cabbage, eggs and other groceries would soon fall prey to well directed shot of all gauges of shotgun. The final feat was seven clay targets thrown into the air and individually broken with a separate shot before they hit the ground---using a pump twelve gauge shotgun.

Finally the show was over and the crowd rushed forward to see the guns and talk with the man who had done so many amazing things with them. Spectators were surprised as they inspected guns which were available in any firearms store, yet were magic in the hands of Herb Parsons, the last of the great exhibition shooters for Winchester-Western.

The exhibition shooter was a traveling salesman who demonstrated firearms in order to encourage sales. Traveling all over the nation and world performing exhibitions, establishing reputations as professional marksmen, and serving as goodwill ambassadors for the companies they represented, these men became legends in their own time. Arms and ammunition companies put dozens of top-notch shooters on the road, including San Antonio's own Ad Toepperwein and his wife "Plinky" (Winchester), Ed McGivern (Colt and Smith and Wesson), Billy Hill (Remington), Dave Flanningan (Peters), and Ernie and Dot Lind (Winchester- Western).

Unfortunately, the feats of most shooters were never recorded so that future
generations could enjoy them. The wizardry of the exhibition shooters is only recorded in print and the fading memories of those who attended a performance. With one fortunate exception! A professionally produced color film record of Herb Parsons' exhibition shooting was made in 1956, entitled "Showman Shooter." This 25 minute film is available to interested sportsmen video cassette (VHS) format. There is also another film named FAST AND FANCY SHOOTERS which features Bill Jordan, Herb Parsons and Ed McGivern and is available for $25 from the same address as the Showman Shooter video. You can relive an earlier spectator shooting sport that hundreds of thousands of the older generations of shooters were privileged to personally witness and enjoy.

Readers may be wondering - what connection does the vegetable specialist have with a world famous exhibition shooter? The answer is a matter of genetics. When an exhibition shooter marries a farm girl, the resulting offspring is a horticulture specialist who is an expert at shooting off his mouth. People always wonder - is the boy horticulture specialist as good with a gun as his dad? The answer - good enough with a gun; maybe better with the mouth! My father's name was Herb so I proudly relate to those plant folks who are herb-lovers that I was ACTUALLY sired by an Herb!!!!! My father was stimulated to become an exhibition shooter by Ad Toepperwein whose life is described at: The GREAT thing about this video is that it also documents the great shooting abilities of Ad's wife whose life is described at:

GIFT CHOICE #4: I guarantee the recipes
in one of the most unique recipe books specializing in old-fashioned, good, down-home cooking is LONG LOST RECIPES OF AUNT SUSAN for $18 (postage included). Make checks payable to : LONG LOST RECIPES, P. O. Box 8524, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas 71909. Telephone orders (Visa or MasterCard) are accepted at (501) 922-3332. Some of the best recipes around are FREE from my dearly departed Mother at:

GIFT CHOICE #5: The pecan harvest is in full swing. Here are two of the area's larger pecan sources, aside from the normal supermarket.

Bragg Pecan Farm, 229 Highway 90 East (just past Walmart) in Hondo San Antonio Metro number is 830-741-5215 or 1-800-938-0261 (E-Mail: (website: Get some great pecan products, cookbooks, flavored & chocolate pecans and pecan gift bags.

AND Pape Pecan House, 101 South Street & 123 Bypass, Seguin Telephone: 1-830- 379-7442

Prices (postage NOT included): Five pounds of in-shell (not cracked or shelled) pecans = $15; Five pounds of cracked pecans = $21; Five pounds of shelled halves = $39

For LOTS of WONDERFUL pecan recipes, look at:

GIFT CHOICE #6: If you want a "taste of the wild" without the expense of the hunt, try some Wild Game Meats for Your Table from the Broken Arrow Ranch (1-800-962-4263 ). The deer and antelope "harvested" are free-ranging, feeding on natural grasses and imparting complex, natural flavors into the meat that aren't found in farmed animals. Every animal is harvested under full government inspection. There is no safer, more nutritious meat. Some of their many choices can be see at the website:

If you want to know how to catch and cook your own wild game, check out the new book by Elantu B. Veovode titled The Contented Poacher: Tales and Recipes from an Epicure in the Wilderness released in September 2003 by Ten Speed Press. The book is filled with richly narrated hunting and fishing stories, original drawings and original recipes. A description can be found at: The book is available through your local book store or online from Amazon.Com and Barnes & Noble.

GIFT CHOICE #7: For those of you who want to live happily ever after and have a lots of good luck next year, you should plan now to have black-eyed peas and country ham on New Year's Day. The peas won't be hard to find but the country ham -- true country ham -- is IMPOSSIBLE to find in Texas. However, I have located a place in Tennessee which sells the genuine item just like my old Mama used to cure. These are salt-cured hams which are hickory smoked just a little. The establishments name is Tripp Country Hams, Brownsville, Tennessee 38012- 3090 (Telephone: 1-800-471-9814 or 731-772-2130). They have a special Christmas deal in which you can get four packages (eight slices of center-cut, cured country ham) for $34 (postage and handling included). They also have biscuit ham slices available; four packages (20 slices) for $52.00. Since we're in a bit of a hurry, THEY WILL ACCEPT Visa and/or MasterCard for telephone orders. You can �check them out� on the web at:

NOW -- BEWARE -- if you do not appreciate truly good country ham, if you do not know how to cook country ham (you merely warm it since it is cured -- cook it too long and it turns to leather!), if you think Tennessee country ham is too salty and haven't got sense enough to soak it in water before cooking (if it's too salty for your taste) or if you think red-eye gravy is something you eat after a bad hang-over and are not willing to follow included preparation instructions TO THE LETTER, you should NOT buy this product!!! This pork is too precious for "non-believers"! DO NOT WASTE our time and the pig's life unless you truly appreciate this best country ham in the world. It is too precious to waste on non-connoisseurs!