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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Crabby old man—revisited . . .

On the tenth of this month I posted the contents of an e-mail I received from my son-in-law in Dallas. His e-mail consisted of a news report, and a poem supposedly crafted by a man that died in a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska. The only comment generated by my posting was dated a few days later, but was rejected by Word Press as spam because it was posted from a commercial web site. I belatedly discovered the comment, and finding myself with mixed emotions as to its content, I decided to allow it so I could respond.

Click HERE to read my posting of the poem, and click HERE to determine whether the poem is truth or fiction.

My purpose in making this posting is to share that comment and my response with my viewers. I believe the comment is a canned message to bloggers, probably used as a message intended to attract them to a commercial web site. In our federal government terminology it would be termed a boiler-plate letter, a canned reply to an inquiry—the only changes needed would be dates, names, locations and the event in question.

Should a viewer to this posting have an interest in buying or selling diamonds, or wish to learn everything you ever wanted to know about diamonds, click here for the commercial web site—it’s worth a visit.

This is the original comment on my posting, exactly as received:

Great post. It is clear You have a great deal of unused capacity, which you have not turned to your advantage.

The way you write shows you have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself.

It seems to me that while While you have some personal weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them.

And this is my response to the comment:

Great comment! Thanks for visiting, and thanks for commenting. I apologize for not responding earlier. Word Press considered your comment to be spam, and therefore tossed it atop my spam garbage pile.

I just noticed the comment yesterday. I agree with Word Press that it is spam, intended to draw me to your commercial web site and perhaps add to your take of moola. I visited the site, and found it interesting and quite informative.

I am not, however, in the market for diamonds, neither for buying nor for selling them. I dragged your comment out of the garbage because I was fascinated with your analysis of my writing, and therefore approved the comment in order to respond to it.

I made no effort to correct minor errors in your comment—errors such as improper capitals, unnecessary commas, and duplicated words—while/While. Since the errors did not materially divert from the comment’s purpose, I allowed them to stand.

I am in awe of your ability to analyze my writing with only a small sample available. I am particularly astounded by your ability to compliment and criticize one’s writing ability in the same brief sentence—you have both complimented and criticized my literary efforts in each of the three sentences in your comment.

I cheerfully accept your criticisms and compliments with equal fervor. I also accept the fact that you have effectively outed me as a modern-day Janus, an ancient Roman god believed to have two faces that faced in diametrically opposite directions, features that enabled him to see into the past as well as the future.

Thanks again for the comment—it pleases me, so much that I plan to bring it and my response into the daylight as a separate posting, one in which I will recommend your website and highlight it for easy access by viewers to my blog. I may also expound on your astounding ability to analyze persons on a limited sample of their writing ability. You are apparently well-trained in the disciplines of psychology as well as psychiatry.

I can only imagine what personality traits you could identify if given a handwriting sample—by using the proven process of inductive reasoning, you might well be able, as was the god Janus, to peer into that person’s future!

Postcript: I would propose that every reader of this posting do the following: Imagine that you are the ancient Greek god Janus, the god of two faces. Step out of yourself, then turn around and face yourself and then ask yourself whether the comment of the diamond merchant may apply to you. Click HERE for more information on Janus.

Can you truthfully deny that you see yourself reflected in the three sentences?

Can you truthfully claim that none of the three apply to you?

I did exactly what I suggest you do and I saw my reflection—hence this posting.

Ain’t that weird!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in death, Writing

 

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Redux—Chihuahuas, ham hocks & butter beans . . .

I originally posted this story on May 24, 2009. It has languished there ever since—only one vote has been cast, albeit a vote for excellence and albeit cast by my mother’s youngest son—me.

This redux is for the benefit of those that do not delve into the past in search of blog baubles. Not that this posting is a bauble—I unashamedly and with all humility consider it to be a jewel, a true story with no equal—oh, alright, I’ll concede that some tales may equal it, but none will surpass its innate humor and pathos.

Enjoy!

Chihuahuas, ham hocks & butter beans . . .

A recipe for disaster:

Assemble one medium-size ham hock, one pound of dry butter beans, a medium-size cooking pot, a reasonable amount of water, and one Chihuahua.

Place ham hock, butter beans and water in pot. Cook over medium heat until meal is done (beans should be soft, ham should strip easily from the bone). Have the Chihuahua stand by while meal is cooking (don’t worry—when he smells it cooking he won’t stray very far).

When meal is done, strip most of ham from the bone (leave a little for the Chihuahua) and serve with butter beans and such other vegetables, drinks and breads as desired. Place leftovers (minus the ham bone) in refrigerator.

When ham bone is properly cooled, give a few beans and the ham bone, with bits of meat still attached, to Chihuahua for his enjoyment. Allow him to gnaw on the bone to his heart’s content for the next two days

After his two days of enjoyment, patiently (and very carefully) separate the snarling Chihuahua from his ham bone and place him, full of butter beans and ham cooked with butter beans, into the car for the 800-mile return trip to San Antonio, Texas.

The end result? (pun intended)

DISASTER!

My mother used the above recipe with devastating effectiveness in the summer of 1966. My wife and I took a vacation with our three daughters and Bimbo, an adult Chihuahua with a voracious appetite. En route to South Georgia to visit my wife’s relatives, we made a brief stop in Alabama to visit my mother, my brother and his family.

Mama loved animals—she and Bimbo became instant friends, and she prevailed on us to let her look after Bimbo while we were in Georgia, pointing out that we could pick him up on our way back home. We readily obliged—Bimbo had a strong predilection for intestinal gas, with its accumulation and discharge not restricted to any particular type of food. In short, we were happy to leave him in Alabama.

On any automobile outing, seating for our family, including the Chihuahua, rarely varied—elder daughter in front seat, two younger daughters on opposite sides of the back seat and their mother in the center, strategically placed to keep the two girls separated, father behind the wheel and Bimbo standing, rear feet in father’s lap and front feet placed on the door’s cushioned armrest—the little dog loved watching the scenery pass by, and barked at most of it.

I feel that I have effectively laid the groundwork and prepared the reader for the rest of this narrative—I’m fairly certain that most readers by this point are far ahead of me, so I will try to be brief in my finishing remarks (good luck there!).

At numerous times during the long trip home, anyone who happened to be watching would have seen a black-and-white 4-door automobile swerve off the highway onto its shoulder and screech to a halt—then all four doors would fly open and all the car’s occupants would stumble out, coughing and retching with eyes streaming tears—all, that is, except the Chihuahua—obviously he wasn’t as bothered by the results wrought by Mama’s recipe for ham hock and butter beans.

We made it safely back home, and in retrospect we found that part of the trip to be hilarious, but it was definitely not funny at the time.

Bimbo had a good life and a fairly long life—born in 1964, he lived until 1972 and enjoyed good health throughout those years. The little fellow met his demise while fighting another male dog over the affections of a female dog—had he known that he was no match for the other dogs, neither for fighting the male nor for (insert 4-letter verb with gerund) the female, he may not have been as quick to vie for the female’s favors, but he had no way of knowing that the other dogs, both male and female, were full-grown German Shepherds. However, I believe that had he known, he would have still persisted—he was, above all, a Chihuahua and backing away from a fight or a (insert 4-letter word here) was not in his nature.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

Postscript (not in the original posting):

My youngest daughter and I took Bimbo to the vet immediately when we learned of the brutal attack, and we said our goodbyes after the doctor gave us the results of his examination—our little lover had suffered terrible damage to his heart and lungs, damage that could not possibly be repaired—relieving him of his pain was the most humane action to take, and we gave our consent.

My daughter and I drove around for awhile before returning home—we needed some fresh country air and time to collect our thoughts, and our tears flowed freely. Bimbo had been an honored member of our family for nine years, and we loved him in spite of—or perhaps because of—his many faults, frailties and freakish actions, performances such as standing at the patio door, shivering uncontrollably on the hottest summer day in Texas’ history, begging to be allowed to come into the house.

Bimbo also did all the things that dogs do when they have not been relieved of any of their internal or external body parts, acts that should need no clarification. Bimbo seemed to do such things more frequently and with more delight than other dogs we have known and loved. A prime example was his frequent abuse of a small brown Teddy Bear, a child’s toy that was stuffed and sewn into a prostrate position, a pose that readily lent itself to abuse by our diminutive canine Lothario.

Thirty-eight years have hurtled by since Bimbo left us—I still miss him.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in Childhood, Family, food, Humor, pets, Travel, Writing

 

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Sid, Looney and a Model T Ford . . .

In my posting of A shaggy dog storyclick here to read that story— I left the viewer in suspense, with me and my sister hiding in the woods early on a cold winter morning beside a gravelled country road after Papa John, our stepfather, shouted to us from our front porch, saying he was going to get his shotgun. At the time we were standing in the middle of the road in front of our house, driven by fear that stemmed from an incident that occurred in the kitchen a few minutes earlier. He called to us to come back in, that everything would be alright, that he was not going to hurt us.

We never knew whether he actually got the gun. Our mother later said he did not, but her testimony in such instances was not very reliable. In any event we took no chances. We fled into the woods and remained hidden while Papa John and our mother drove back and forth on the road calling to us, saying that everything would be alright, to come out and go back to the house with them.

Being sound of body and reasonably sane, we silently declined and remained hidden, prostrate among the trees and undergrowth, until the sound of the car faded towards home. We then came out on the road and started our long walk toward town, some twelve miles distant. Every time we heard an auto approaching—the road was graveled, remember—we took to the woods again and remained there until the vehicle passed. We followed that in and out strategy until we heard the distinct put-put-put sound of a Model T Ford, and we were reasonably sure of its occupants. As the auto neared we came out on the road and flagged it down. The Model T was owned by Sid and Looney and occupied by the same. The two men lived a few miles from us and passed our home daily on their way to work in the city.

In retrospect, I believe they constituted a domestic couple, joined by forces that were not suitable for discussion in the company of children, particularly in our part of the country in that era. Regardless of their various preferences, they obligingly took us aboard and carried us to the edge of town. They either knew our problems and were sympathetic, or perhaps simply had no interest in knowing why two kids were in the woods instead of being on a school bus. They asked no questions and we volunteered no explanations, and they dropped us off on the outskirts of town near the lumber yard where they worked. My sister and I then walked a short distance from there to the home of an older sister.

And now for an explanation of this episode. The reader will have to take my word that the story is true, because I am the only person extant. I am the last one standing of those involved in the proceedings. All are gone. I have my opinions of the direction each took, but I’ll keep those opinions to myself. Trust me—the story is true in every detail.

My early morning tasks while we lived on the farm included interior as well as exterior duties. The interior duties included emptying chamber pots—that’s an acceptable synonym for slop jars, items used at night by the family because we had no bathroom and the necessary was set well behind our house—an outhouse, so to speak. Other interior tasks were building fires in three places—one in the room I shared with my sister, one in our parent’s bedroom and one in the kitchen stove. This allowed my sister and my mother to arise to a warm room, and my mother to a hot stove, ready for our breakfast preparation. As for our stepfather, that worthy arose to a warm room, dressed and stepped into a warm kitchen and sat down to a hot breakfast—he remained abed until breakfast was on the table.

My outdoor tasks included feeding a mule, formerly one of a team but the other died. He leaned against the barn wall on a cold night and died, an event that warrants its own posting. To continue: I slopped the pigs (slopping means feeding, a term applicable only to pigs, an unpalatable nomenclature but one that was in general mode at the time), I carried in wood for the kitchen stove and coal for the fireplace, I hand-pumped water into a huge iron kettle for our livestock, and I cleared the barnyard of any offensive material—dung—that had accumulated so my mother could make her way to the milking stall without stepping in something. Yep, her husband—my stepfather—was really solicitous of her well-being, at least in that instance.

Picture this:

On my return to the house into the kitchen after finishing my outdoor chores, I asked my mother for some of her hand lotion—my hands were reddened and chapped from the cold. I posed the question just as Papa John entered the kitchen and he said—these are his exact words: What are you, a cream puff? My sister, aged 13, entered behind him and said, Well, you use a lot of talcum powder when you bathe, and he slapped her, a blow strong enough to slam her against the kitchen wall.

My sister bounced off the wall and attacked him—she applied the fingernails of her right hand to Papa John’s left cheek and plowed four red furrows from the corner of his eye down to the corner of his mouth—I tend to believe that his eyes were the target and she missed. He cursed, raised his fist and moved to strike her again just as my mother was moving toward the table with a pan of biscuits fresh from the oven. She told him, Don’t hit her again, John, and in order to protect my sister she dropped the pan and stepped in front of him shouting, Run, kids, run outside.

And we ran—my last memory of that tableau was that of hot biscuits rolling everywhere on the kitchen floor. I ran out the front door and my sister ran out the back door. We met in front of the house in the middle of the road and waited for further developments. That’s when Papa John came out to the front porch and told us to come back in, that he would not hurt us, that everything would be alright. We refused to comply—that’s when he threatened to get his shotgun, and that’s when we headed for the woods at top speed.

Now you know the rest of that story.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2010 in Family, Humor, kitchen appliances

 

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Go west, young man, and grow up . . .

Go west, young man, and grow up with the country, a quote attributed, perhaps wrongly, to Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune. Regardless of the quote’s origin, my mother’s youngest son followed that advice—not voluntarily but certainly not reluctantly—the mere thought of going west was exciting. By the age of 12 I had read every Zane Grey western novel, and I fancied myself a fine candidate for the title of cowboy.

Click here for an interesting article dealing with Horace Greeley and the development of our country. Be forewarned—every time the author used an apostrophe or quotation marks—and they are numerous in the article—they printed out as a question mark on a black diamond background such as this:

Now on to my great adventure:

I made the trip from the deep South—Mississippi—to Midland, Texas, as a passenger in the rear seat of a 1939 Plymouth four-door sedan. The youngest of my three sisters, just eighteen months older than I, shared the rear seat with me, and my mother and our stepfather—Papa John—filled the front seat.

It took an interminable time to complete the journey. Our interstate highway system was in its infancy at the time, and most of the trip was along two-lane roads—paved, of course, but not conducive to getting anywhere anytime soon. Papa John, dressed in his trademark khakis, shod with hand-stitched Texas style boots, with a wide-brimmed Stetson hat set squarely and firmly atop the ensemble, served as our driver. He sat rigidly upright with both hands on the wheel, positioned at two and ten o’clock, and hurtled us toward our destination at a hair-raising speed of forty-five miles per hour—exactly. I gave him credit for getting us to Midland safely along treacherous roads, but gave no kudos for making good time—both comments made inaudibly, of course—I couldn’t afford to tempt fate!

My time in Midland lasted just over three months. It began in March and ended in late June when Papa John, once again weary of shepherding our small family, found an excuse to throw a tirade–or pitch a fit, as my sister put it—and send us packing, off on another great adventure. My mother, my sister and I wound up in El Paso with my older brother who lived and worked at the El Paso Smelting Works. We made the trip on a Greyhound bus, one that we hastily boarded after hastily packing our meager clothing.

Our stay in El Paso was of short duration, and that stay will form the basis for a subsequent posting. As a preview of things to come, I’ll say that my arrival in El Paso was followed by travel by my brother and me, from El Paso to Dallas and on to Valley Park, Missouri for an overnight stay in jail on a Sunday—my sixteenth birthday—then on to St. Louis and New York City for a brief stay at 21 University Place in that city’s Greenwich Village.

Here’s a teaser: My brother and I were hot on the trail of his wife, a native New Yorker that had left home with their two children, shortly after he left for work, on the pretext of a shopping trip to downtown El Paso—that pretext took them all the way to New York City.

Stay tuned– more details of our pursuit will soon follow. The pursuit proved fruitless, but provided significant adventures for my brother and me, not the least of which was our overnight stay in a Saint Louis suburb. Our sleeping accommodations were rather sparse with no freebies, but were provided by the city at no cost to us.

Had I the talent and the inclination (I have neither), I could write a book on my experiences during that summer in Texas—not just a short story but a lengthy tome. Just as a teaser, I’ll say that in that interval of time I acquired a Social Security card—illegally—I was fifteen and the minimum age requirement at that time was sixteen, and subsequently had two paying jobs while in Midland. That card enabled Papa John to hire me out, first to a self-service laundry as an indentured servant—so to speak—and then as a clerk in a retail hardware store.

In addition to swamper duties—mopping, sweeping, cleaning windows, etc., my job at the self-service laundry included bringing in dry soiled clothing from conveyances and taking out newly laundered wet clothing to the same. The bringing in was no problem, but the taking out was a serious problem because the laundry had no dryers. Customers took their wet clothes home and hung them out to dry on lines mounted in their back yards—ah, for the good old days!

Picture this: A #2 tin washtub piled high with wet clothing carried by a 100-pound teenager—I’m here to tell you that the job got old quickly. My usual sequence for outside delivery was to squat, take a deep breath, lift the tub with a loud grunt (the grunt was mine, not the tub’s) and hasten with short steps, almost running, to the proper conveyance, be it an auto, a child’s wagon or a wheelbarrow—all three modes were used at that time in that place.

Following a brief period of hauling in soiled clothes for women and returning wet clothes to the proper conveyance, Papa John thoughtfully secured a position for me as a clerk in a combination lumber yard and retail hardware store—I’ll hold that story in reserve for a future posting.

One final note on my adventures in Midland, Texas—no, belay that—this may not be the final note—there may be more to come, because writing of one aspect of our sojourn there tends to awaken more memories, many well worth separate postings.

Now to continue with my not so final note on Midland:

As in all locations in which I earned money while under the tutelage of my stepfather, my take-home pay in Midland was not subjected to discussion but was, as always, subjected to division. One half went to my mother for my room and board, and I was allowed to retain a pittance for my use—the rest went for the purchase of federal savings bonds in my name, documents that were termed war bonds during World War II. I suppose I should feel indebted to Papa John for instilling good saving habits in me, but at the time I did not appreciate the continued division of my labors, with the smallest amount left available for my use, an amount not determined by me.

Bummer!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Speaking English not good for you . . .

One of my three princesses, the one that was privileged to come into the world ahead of her two sisters, the one I love more than the other two but don’t tell them—yep, that one—sent me an e-mail with the following series of questions and answers concerning the importance of diet and exercise on health.

I felt obligated to spread this doctor’s take on diet and exercise as far and wide as possible. It’s an anonymous piece of writing, so I’m not too worried by the fact that I took the liberty of making numerous changes to the original. And I must say, with the usual humility that my viewers normally expect from me, that those changes improved the document significantly—nay, they improved it immeasurably!

What follows is a series of questions, asked by a patient and answered by Doctor Sum Ting Wong, the patient’s doctor during the two years the patient spent in China:

Q: Doctor, is it true that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life?

A: You heart only good for so many beats and that it. No waste beats on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer. It like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I cut down on meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp theory of logistical efficiency. What do cow eat? Hay and corn. And what that? Vegetables. Steak nothing more than efficient mechanism to deliver vegetable to system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef good source of field grass, and field grass green leafy vegetable. And pork chop give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of protein.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

A:  No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy distilled wine.That mean they take water out of fruit so you get more. Beer and whiskey also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body fat ratio?

A: If you have body and you have fat, you ratio one to one. If you have two body, you ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

A: Sorry, can’t think of single one. Philosophy is, no pain—good!

Q:  Are fried foods bad for us?

A:  You not listening! Food fried these day in vegetable oil. It permeated by vegetable oil. How much more vegetable bad for you?

Q:  Will sit—ups prevent me from getting soft around the middle?

A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle it get bigger. Only do sit—up if want bigger stomach.

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?

A:   Helloooo! Bean of cocoa plant is vegetable! Chocolate best feel-good food can find!

Q:  Is swimming good for my figure?

A:  If swimming good for figure, explain whale to me.

Q:  Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?

A:  Hey—round is shape!

This should help clear up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets, and remember this:

Life should not be a journey from the cradle to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, a tall glass of Chardonnay in one hand and dark chocolate in the other, with body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “Woo-hoo, what a ride that was!”

And for those that watch what they eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health—it’s a great relief to know the truth after all these conflicting nutritional studies:

Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Mexicans eat lots of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Chinese drink little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Italians drink lots of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Germans drink lots of beer and eat lots of sausages and suffer fewer heart attacks than we do.

Conclusion: Eat and drink whatever you like. It’s obvious that speaking English is what kills you.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in death, food, grammar, Humor

 

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Somewhere over the North Pole . . .

I left Vietnam in April of 1970 on a commercial airliner packed with military personnel, most of whom had finished their combat tours and were returning home. Somewhere over the North Pole, on a flight that took 14 hours to complete, the temperature in the plane dropped so low that I started shaking and couldn’t stop. I quieted my chattering teeth by keeping my jaws clenched shut, and curled up into the tightest ball I could manage in a seat considerably scaled down in order to accommodate more passengers. Seat width and leg room were severely reduced, and when the seat ahead was fully laid back, getting into and out of of my seat was a real chore.

I was a passenger on a commercial airliner, one of a fleet leased by the U.S. military to ferry personnel to and from Vietnam during our prolonged war in that country. Our flight from Da Nang, South Vietnam would take us over the North Pole and on to Los Angeles’ International Airport.

Spring was in full bloom in the United States, but the season was a hard cold winter over the North Pole. When I first began to feel the cold, I asked a flight attendant for a blanket. She said that she would be right back with a blanket, but after a considerable amount of time passed, she had not returned, and I noticed that blankets were being passed out up and down the rows of seats.

The same attendant came by and I reminded her of my request. She apologized nicely, saying that she had been busy and had forgotten my request, and told me she would return shortly with the blanket. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep—it isn’t easy to sleep when one is shivering violently. Another long interval of time passed and she finally returned, minus the blanket. She again apologized nicely, but this time she told me there were no more blankets, that the aircraft’s supply of blankets had all been handed out to other passengers. A quick look around showed that in my immediate area I was the only passenger without a blanket. Apparently they were handed out while I was trying to sleep.

My three-time loser of a flight attendant was young and attractive, attributes that would have, in a normal situation, prevented me from voicing the comments that followed the news that I would not be—could not be—given a blanket. I won’t repeat what I said—Word Press has some rather stern restrictions on the use of vulgarities and some of the terms that I used, terms that I had accumulated over many years in military service, would probably not be well received.

I will only say that, had my verbal censure of the girl been a double-barreled shotgun, she would have received censure equal to being blasted with two full loads of double-ought buckshot, delivered at very close range. Any hunter can describe the terrible damage that would be caused by such loads.

Resigned to my fate—an unnatural fate of freezing solid at 40,000 feet over the North Pole while crammed into a baby seat in a commercial aircraft traveling at some 400 miles per hour—I curled up into a ball again, wrapped my arms around myself as fully and tightly as I could, and tried to sleep—in the words of Hamlet, I sought to sleep, perchance to dream, etc.

And I did sleep—to paraphrase Brother Dave Gardner’s words, I reached for the arms of Morpheus and fell into that somnolent state of glorious oblivion—I slept, and I dreamed.

I dreamed of being warm again. I dreamed that I was covered with something soft and furry, a cover with an aroma that combined the smell of budding roses and lilacs in bloom—an aroma superior to any of the world’s most expensive perfumes, with just a hint of chicken frying in my mother’s kitchen—no, scratch the fried chicken—that was an earlier dream, one that I had the night before I boarded the plane to begin the long journey home—I suppose some residual of that odor remained in my brain.

I know the suspense is gnawing at anyone reading this posting, so I will hold back no longer. While I slept, the flight attendant that failed to deliver a blanket after my repeated requests for one—far in advance of the time blankets began to be handed out to passengers—the flight attendant that I berated so forcefully and fiercely—yep, the same attractive woman that patiently endured my verbal onslaught on her professional conduct, had returned with a full length fur coat and gently placed it over my numb body, tucking it in as well as she could, considering my fetal pose.

The coat was probably hers, but she could have borrowed from another flight attendant—that point is moot. Regardless of the owner, that fur coat saved my sanity and possible my life. I quickly returned to that somnolent state of glorious oblivion and spent the rest of the night gamboling through Elysian fields with Bambi, Flower and Thumper—I awakened only after daylight filled the cabin.

I never saw the flight attendant again. The fur coat had been retrieved while I slept on like the proverbial baby, probably picked up by its owner after we left polar bear territory. I searched for that familiar face, but exited the aircraft after landing without an opportunity to thank her, and to apologize for my boorish behavior during the flight. She may have been busy in the galley or perhaps had business in the cockpit, if you catch my drift.

No matter where she was then and regardless of where she is now, I owe her my thanks for saving me from becoming a curled up block of ice—even though it was her fault for exposing me to such a potential ending.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Third time is charm—but not always . . .

In March of 1969, I had the privilege of taking a 13-month tour of South Vietnam with all expenses paid—my tour began in the the capital city of Saigon and ended at Da Nang Air Base in April of 1970. While at Da Nang I made two week-end visits to Hong Kong. The first was rather harrowing, but turned out okay. To read my posting on the first flight click here.

The second week-end trip was even more harrowing, and I wisely declined  all invitations for additional trips. Had another aircraft been available—another model a bit less vintage, I perhaps would have returned—no, belay that—the only circumstance that would have gotten me on a third flight to Hong Kong would be the imminent fall of Da Nang to North Vietnamese regulars. In that case I would have made a third flight to Hong Kong on any conveyance that could get me off the ground, whether on the Gooney Bird, in a lawn-mower-powered ultra-light or under a parasail towed by a child in a rowboat.

This posting will reveals the details of the second flight, details that would cause anyone, particularly my mother’s youngest son, to forego a third flight to Hong Kong.

Saturday dawned bright and clear at Da Nang, South Korea on a day in 1969,  and we lifted off for our flight to Hong Kong, the star of the Orient. We were ensconced in a C-47 transport plane affectionately nicknamed Gooney Bird. Powered by two reciprocating engines, our Gooney Bird was assembled in the late 1930s or the early 1940s—a durable bird, but not exactly a state-of-the-art conveyance. However, its age and its continued use by the United States Air Force were testaments to its reliability.

Our flight from DaNang to Hong Kong was routine, uneventful, with nothing to portend the nature of our return flight to South Vietnam. We arrives at Hong Kong in mid-morning and passed the the day shopping—I purchased a a reel-to-reel tape recorder, one of the finest units available at the time, along with a plentiful supply of tape, some jewelry for my wife, and a wooden model of a Chinese junk—the recorder was junked, the jewelry is part my wife’s heritage to our three daughters, and I’m still stuck with the Chinese junk—it’s still accumulating dust and it’s still an eyesore. I can’t decide what to do with it—I’ve offered it as a present to several people—all expressed their appreciation of the offer, but none accepted it. I hate to give it up, and I hate to keep it—bummer!

But I have digressed—back to our return flight:

We left Kong Kong in mid-morning on Sunday. Our flight was routine until a short while after passing the point-of-no-return to Hong Kong—regardless of circumstances we were required to press on to Da Nang—if an inflight emegency should 0ccur, our options would be to ditch into the ocean, land somewhere in China, either on an island or on the mainland, or land somewhere in North Vietnam.

An emergency did in fact occur, and a mayday call—a call for assistance—was made to DaNang. Our #2 engine—that’s the engine on the left if one is facing the nose of the aircraft—began coughing, a series of sounds indicating a problem with fuel intake or ignition problems. The coughs were infrequent and minor at first, but soon  became more frequent and longer in duration. I was privileged to be seated at the window closest to that engine, and each time it coughed the propellers would stop, only for a tiny instant at first, but the stop  was clearly visible.

Our loadmaster told us that a mayday message had been sent to DaNang and that a Navy PBY, an aircraft with the ability to land on water as well as land, had been dispatched to meet us in the event that our aircraft had to be ditched in the ocean. The loadmaster began moving all our luggage and our Hong Kong goodies to the cargo door. I asked him why, and he said our load had to be lightened to help the Gooney Bird remain aloft in case we were reduced to only one engine. I protested—mildly, of course—and was told something to the effect that the load had to be lightened, one way or another, and that it was either my new reel-to-reel tape recorder or me. Naturally I chose to remain on board and sacrifice the recorder.

However—and that’s a really important however—I, my tape recorder, the passengers, the crew and the aircraft landed safely at DaNang. The ailing engine stopped completely several times–all three prop blades became clearly visible for a few seconds—but the engine recovered enough each time to contribute to the other engine’s efforts.

Following the loadmaster’s explanation of our current situation and his description of possible changes to that situation, the passenger section became eerily silent, with each of us enveloped in our own thoughts. I venture that my thoughts were identical to the thoughts of others.

Yep, I prayed. I prayed to my god and to the gods of others, regardless of the nature of their gods. I prayed that the engine would recover, that the PBY would arrive soon, that ditching would not be necessary, and that we would land safely in South Vietnam. If their prayers were anything like mine, then they made promises they knew the would not—or possibly could not—keep.

I have no doubt that our combined prayers were answered, all except my prayer that the engine would recover—it was still coughing mightily when we landed at DaNang. The PBY soon arrived—its pilot made a 180 degree turn and placed his aircraft near our starboard wingtip—a position taken in order to observe the ailing engine—and escorted us to a safe landing. Made all the gods bless PBYs and their pilots!

A quick aside at this point, just in case a viewer is unsure of the difference between left and right in nautical terms—port is left, starboard is right. Running lights on vessels are red and green—red is for left side, green is for right side. Here’s a memory aid that may help one remember which is which—memory aids seem to be items for which I have an ever-increasing need as I advance in years!

Just remember that port, left and red are short words with fewer letters than starboard, right and green, so port and red are on the left side—starboard and green are on the right side.

Got it?

Below is an image of today’s Da Nang—it did not look like that when I was there!

Speaking of inflight aircraft malfunctions, Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up comic, created a skit to use in his comedy routines, a skit dealing with an inflight emergency on a commercial flight in the United States. An engine caught fire inflight, and a little old man seated near the burning engine prayed long and loudly for his god to rectify the situation, saying “Please get me on the ground safely and I’ll give half of everything I own to the church.”

The fire was instantly extinguished and the plane landed safely.

When the little old man deplaned he was met by his minister and the minister said, “Brother, I heard what you said up there! I heard you tell God that if he got you on the ground safely you would give half of everything you own to the church, and I know you’re going to start right now!”

The little man said, “Nope, I made a better deal—I just now told God that if I ever get back on another one of those things, I’ll give Him everything I own!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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