Mambo Panties and Other Stories

Of Hulsey County, Texas

Short Stories
Written and Read
Tom Doyal

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A Biography


Tom Doyal

Tom Doyal was born in the Texas Panhandle on July 23, 1944, in the township of Lubbock, first of three sons of Odis Walter Doyal, tenant farmer and seasonal cotton-gin hand, and Tonita Otylia (Baker) Doyal, homemaker. When he was four, his mother's allergies forced the family to flee the airborne dust and cotton lint of the Panhandle and settle on a south Texas farm in Medina County. Tonita's parents farmed nearby.

The family moved into town-Devine, Texas-when Tom turned six and started school. Odis found work in a cattle-feed mill. When Tom was 11 he was hired at the local drive-in movie to pick up trash, clean the restrooms, mop the concession area, sell tickets, grind ice for snow cones, and change the marquee after the last movie of the night.

When Tom was 13, his wages got cut, so he signed on at the drugstore in Devine as janitor, stock boy, soda jerk, delivery boy, and general factotum for the owner. At 17 Tom finished high school and left Devine and the drugstore for college. Before he enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin, Tom had saved enough money for two years of college and then lost half of it in the stock market, presaging a 40-year career marked by earning and losing sums of money. But in the fall of 1964 he enrolled in pharmacy with a simpler plan: graduate, return to Devine with his degree, and replace his retiring former boss as the drugstore's new pharmacist. But Tom soon discovered that he and chemistry didn't understand each other, so he tried on several majors, some which he still recalls-English, history, drama, and radio-television-film.

In those days the University was ten times the size of Devine, and Tom was overwhelmed. His first chemistry class was taught by an Englishman with an accent so different that Tom guessed the man was teaching in another language, one that he alone did not understand. His ignorance, country ways, and small-town public education had not prepared him for University life, and he concluded that he was retarded and could only prevent exposure by staying silent, a lesson he would soon enough forget.

The summer after his freshman year, his parents ended 25 stormy years of marriage, and Tom hauled his mother and kid brother Michael to Austin because he had $80 in an Austin bank, the remains of his college savings, enough in those days to rent a duplex and pay utility deposits. He went to the army surplus store at Sixth and Red River and bought three plates, three cups, three forks, and one skillet for the family. He and Michael slept on the floor, letting their mother used the sole bed in the tiny duplex. Tom worked several temp jobs and was grateful to get on as a janitor in a discount store on Burnet Road where he soon advanced to manager of the drug department, a post of such tedium that after a few months he quit and hitched-hiked to South Texas where he got a job using a jury-rigged flame thrower to burn thorns off prickly-pears so the cattle could eat them. This seasonal job ended in several weeks, and he returned to Austin where he landed a job as a ditch-digger.

Tom wanted to return to the University, so he got a night job at the Austin State Hospital as an attendant so he could attend classes at UT during the day. Tom met his life-long best friend, David Everett, at the hospital where David was Tom's nominal supervisor and actual co-adventurer. After 18 months of this exhausting schedule, Tom joined the US Army in 1965, trained in artillery at Fort Sill, and worked as a personnel management supervisor in Augsburg, Germany, for almost 40 months. He was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant (E6) in September 1969, wearing an Army Commendation Medal.

During the last year of his service in Europe, Tom married his dear friend Bonnie.

Tom returned to UT and completed a BS in Radio-Television-Film in May 1972, almost ten years after he had first enrolled. That summer he entered the UT Law School but dropped out of law school after a year to work as a commodities broker. He and Bonnie divorced in 1974, and he returned to law school and was licensed to practice law in May 1976.

In 1977 Tom and Ann married-and divorced amicably five years later.

In 1978 Tom became the General Counsel of the Texas Association of School Boards, and in December 1979, he entered private practice mainly representing Texas public school districts, and founded a law firm with his friends Joe Hairston and Jim Walsh in 1983.

In 1986 Tom opened an independent bookstore in Austin specializing in books by, for, and about lesbians and gay men. He also started a small gay press that published six books, including a re-print of Metropolitan Community Church founder Troy Perry's autobiography titled The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. His friend and then-lover Tom Smith supported him in his efforts.

Tom was one of five plaintiffs in the state court challenge to the Texas sodomy law. The plaintiffs won at the trial court and the appeals court, only to lose the case in 1992 in a Texas Supreme Court decision with John Cornyn writing for the majority. The issue was finally decided in favor of gay Texans by the US Supreme Court in the summer of 2003.

In 1990 Tom lived in Seattle for nine months and began writing his Hulsey County, Texas, story cycle. Late in 1990 he returned to Austin to tend his mother's advancing illnesses. He worked part-time for various law clients and continued writing. In late 1999, Tom suffered a bewildering array of illnesses (Goodpasture's Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder in which one's own body rejects certain organs of one's own, a mitral heart-valve leak repaired by open-chest surgery, complications, a cerebral hemorrhage, and seminoma cancer) that halted his writing until 2005. He retired from the practice of law in 2001.

Tom continues to live and write in Austin, Texas.

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