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Please don’t LIKE me unless . . .

Note to all bloggers:

Please do not LIKE a posting unless you tell me why you LIKE a posting. Use the comment feature to say why you like it, and please point out any perceived deficiencies in my blog. I will respond to your comments, including a critical response, provided that the criticism is constructive rather than destructive.

A pox on the LIKE feature that Word Press makes available to its readers. Perhaps not all, but certainly many and perhaps most of the readers that click on the LIKE feature are simply inviting the blogger to visit their own blog.

That’s horribly selfish and denotes a character failure on the part of the visitor, that is to say “on the part of the reader who clicks the LIKE feature.” If one likes something someone has said or written or photographed, or a combination of all three features, then tell them why the feature is likeable.

Was it the writing? Was it the composition of the image? Was the posting perfect, or was it perhaps flawed? If one feels that some change is needed, whether correcting, deleting or adding would improve the posting, point it out. Bring the author’s attention to what is considered to be a flaw, whether in composition, spelling, grammar or camera settings. Tell the blogger why you like their posting, even if your liking includes honest and constructive criticism.

If your liking is followed by a but, as in “I like your work, but . . . ,” that would morph your visit to the blog into a teachable moment for the author. Otherwise it is nothing more than an invitation to “Hey, click here to see a really great blog and while you’re there, check out what I have for sale!”

Clicking on the LIKE feature in order to avoid commenting on a posting is tantamount to a drive-by shooting. In some instances the person hit is the wrong target, and that person (assuming that person survives) will always wonder why they became a target, just as the blogger you LIKE will never know why you liked  or disliked the post.

And finally, here is my suggestion to Word Press:

Make the LIKE feature a two-part feature, as in LIKE or DO NOT LIKE. If one likes a post, tell why it is likeable and if not, why not. The target should always have the option to reject the response or to accept it and respond to the comment, whether liked or not liked. Most bloggers, if they are true to themselves, will accept and respond to genuine constructive criticism, just as most bloggers will respond to genuine praise.

Remember the joke about the strange animal that ambled onto a family camp-site in a wooded park at dinner time? The unwanted visitor gobbled down the family dinner, picked up a shotgun leaning against a tree, fired one shot, replaced the shotgun and then vanished into the forest. The father asked if anyone knew what kind of animal that was, and one of the children said it was a giant panda bear. The father asked how he knew that, and the child replied, “A panda bear always eats shoots and leaves.”

It’s highly unlikely that one or more of my readers might wonder how that joke is germane to this posting, but I feel compelled to explain it. That panda bear is the shooter in a drive-by shooting and that family, one of many others camped in the park, was the wrong target. They will always wonder why the shooter chose them, just as a blogger will always wonder why a visitor checked
the LIKE feature provided by Word Press.

Got it?

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

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Humor

 

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Listen up, Rachel Maddow—learn your possessives!

I voluntarily submitted myself to the excruciating torture of watching your show yesterday, June 3, 2011 and during your coverage of John Edwards’ current trials and tribulations I started counting the times you mispronounced John Edwards’ name. When you needed to show possession, without a single exception you pronounced his name as Edwardses, and somewhere around twenty I stopped counting, primarily because I ran out of fingers and toes.

Please note that I did not use an apostrophe in the word Edwardses in that last sentence—it’s impossible for a listener to detect the presence or the absence of an apostrophe in such usage. It may or may not have been present in the mind-numbing number of times you voiced it. With an apostrophe the word Edwards’es, or Edwards’s, is a violation of English usage—without an apostrophe Edwardses is a good word, forming the plural of the Edwards family, as in The Edwardses embarked on a family vacation aboard the Queen Elizabeth—I refer to the ocean liner, of course, not to the current royal monarch.

And no, in answer to the question that is probably forming in your mind one would not, or at least should not, identify the entire family as the Edwardss—the plural requires the es—that’s what makes it plural. Got it?

The es added to Edwards tells us that the whole famn damily went on vacation aboard the QE2. Based on that example, I would hazard a guess that each time you used the term it would be spelled thusly—Edwards’es—but I could be wrong. Words that end in an s are made possessive by the addition of an apostrophe only, not by an apostrophe and s, nor by the addition of an apostrophe and es.

Jumping Jehosaphat, Rachel! Even Sarah Palin knows that! If you were reading a teleprompter last night, I suggest that you fire the worker that compiled it, and if you were winging it I urge you to enroll in English 101—both you and your viewers will profit.

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

 

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Revisit: Words to live by—Lean on me . . .

The purpose of this posting is to share, with anyone and everyone who happens to pass this way, the beautiful thoughts expressed by Samuel Ullman in his poem Youth, excerpts of which appeared recently on Refdesk as the THOUGHT OF THE DAY. The posting is also a recommendation for Refdesk as a home page. Refdesk has an astonishing range—it has never failed me in my searches, regardless of their purpose. Donations to Refdesk are welcomed, but otherwise the service is free!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY:

“Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of red cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will; a quality of the imagination; a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over a life of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty, more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.” – Samuel Ullman

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Youth, by Samuel Ullman:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

A brief biography of Ullman (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia):

Samuel Ullman (April 13, 1840 – March 21, 1924) was an American businessman, poet, humanitarian. He is best known today for his poem Youth which was a favorite of General Douglas MacArthur. The poem was on the wall of his office in Tokyo when he became Supreme Allied Commander in Japan. In addition, he often quoted from the poem in his speeches, leading to it becoming better known in Japan than in the United States.

Born in 1840 at Hechingen, Germany to Jewish parents, Ullman immigrated with his family to America to escape discrimination at the age of eleven. The Ullman family settled in Port Gibson, Mississippi. After briefly serving in the Confederate Army, he became a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. There, Ullman married, started a business, served as a city alderman, and was a member of the local board of education.

In 1884, Ullman moved to the young city of Birmingham, Alabama, and was immediately placed on the city’s first board of education.

During his eighteen years of service, he advocated educational benefits for black children similar to those provided for whites. In addition to his numerous community activities, Ullman also served as president and then lay rabbi of the city’s reform congregation at Temple Emanu-El. Often controversial but always respected, Ullman left his mark on the religious, educational, and community life of Natchez and Birmingham.

In his retirement, Ullman found more time for one of his favorite passions – writing letters, essays and poetry. His poems and poetic essays cover subjects as varied as love, nature, religion, family, the hurried lifestyle of a friend, and living “young.” It was General Douglas MacArthur who facilitated Ullman’s popularity as a poet – he hung a framed copy of a version of Ullman’s poem “Youth” on the wall of his office in Tokyo and often quoted from the poem in his speeches. Through MacArthur’s influence, the people of Japan discovered “Youth” and became curious about the poem’s author.

In 1924, Ullman died in Birmingham, Alabama.

In 1994, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Japan-America Society of Alabama opened the Samuel Ullman Museum in Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood. The museum is located in the former Ullman residence and is operated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In my not very humble opinion, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written (title and chorus are in bold italics):

Lean on Me
Sometimes in our lives
we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don’t let show

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

So just call on me brother,
when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that
you’d understand
We all need somebody to lean on.

Lean on me . . .

All lyrics are property and copyright Bill Withers.

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

 

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Revisited: Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

While wandering around in the bowels of my archived postings on WordPress, I found this brilliantly worded essay. On re-reading it I was so enthralled by the superior quality of the writing that I felt obliged to bring it out of the Stygian darkness of the archives and offer it up to newcomers to my blog, and to any long-time followers that may have overlooked it, whether by accident or through deliberation. It’s a good read, featuring bits of our nation’s history of lost wars and a self-analysis of one who was a participant—at the scene, so to speak, and qualified to discuss such activities. Click here to read about my arrival in the Far East.

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoe box filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year-old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.
I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and un-shined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if it gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

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

In the four months the original posting was available it garnered only one comment, and that one from a highly biased viewer:

That cocky in-your-face defiance is exactly the kind of guy I want going to war for this country! Thank you for serving with such gusto and guts.

By: sue on August 13, 2010

And this is the response to Sue’s comment by the author, also highly biased:

Hi, Sue, Bless yore little ol’ pea-picking heart. Do you remember Tennessee Ernie Ford and his radio show? Do you remember radio? You have made my day! (Note the exclamation points!) You have a way of reaching the core of any thought and any situation and encapsulating and expressing it in a thoroughly remarkable and memorable manner.

I wanted to use the gerund of capsule by adding “ing” but nothing looked right, not capsuleing or capsulling or capsulleing, and all three were rejected by my spell checker, so I took a path less traveled and used encapsulate, a word that happily accepted the “ing.” I haven’t given up yet. Capsule can be used as a verb and therefore has to have a gerund form—I just ain’t yet found it.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment—y’all come back, ya’ hear!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2011 in foreign travel, Military, wartime

 

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Some thoughts from Alyce . . .

The following comment was made by Alyce, a long-time family friend, on my posting entitled A second letter to Janie in el cielo. Click here to read the letter. In that post I acknowledged that writing letters to those that have left this vale of tears and now exist in another realm strains credulity. Alyce’ comment is intended to express her feelings for loved ones she has lost, and to support my method of corresponding with family members I have lost. In my not-so-humble opinion, the comment is beautifully structured and presented—her thoughts come straight from the heart and her words ring true in every respect.

This  is her comment:

When I was a child and someone that I loved died, it was easier for me to accept. I don’t know why exactly. I remember that I was very young when my grandpa died,. My mom and I walked up to the casket and she showed me grandpa, but it didn’t look like him. He had his teeth in and no coveralls on—it was a suit. I pulled on mom’s dress and asked Who is that? She said It’s grandpa, and I said No.

Since I was so small I didn’t quite understand it, but later that day I had questions and mom always had the sweet answers. After explaining the teeth and the suit she said Grandpa is in heaven now with Jesus and happy, no pain, just enjoying the Lord, and I understood and accepted the answers mom gave me. Yes, I was sad because I would not see grandpa make tops and other things with his knife, but he was happy and I knew that someday I would see him again.

As I got older it became harder for me when someone I loved passed away to be with the Lord, probably because I knew as I got older I would someday pass away and leave the loved ones I have on earth, but knowing God’s promise of seeing them again has always comforted me.

I know after my mom died I went to the cemetery a few times, but then I remembered what my mom told me to remember, that she and daddy were not there, and it took me awhile to get it. When I lived in the Valley I would go and place flowers and clean their stone and the stones of others I knew out there. I knew the second they passed on that their soul was with the Lord. Now when I think of them and want to talk to them I do it while driving down the road, or at home sitting in the recliner or wherever I might be. I will always miss them as long as I am breathing, here in my temporary place, but someday I will see them again.

Everyone mourns in so many different ways, and each way should be respected, whether we think it’s the right way or not. That’s why God made each of us different. Oh, to be a child again and think like a child, not complicated!

I wish we could all be like that.

Always remember that God gives us seven days a week and twenty-four hours in each day, and we must choose how to spend the time that God has given us.

Happy New Year to all and may God bless all.

An afterthought: Alyce is employed in one of the most stressful occupations that exist in any society. She works as a Correction Officer in a state facility in South Texas, in close contact with people that are in prison because they look on life from a different aspect than most people, and Alyce would be the first to admit that without God at her back, she could not continue to endure the daily stress under which she labors.

 

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The day after Christmas, 2010 . . .

Yesterday was December 25, the Year of Our Lord, 2010. That day was Christmas, the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, hailed, revered and worshiped by Christians as the Son of God and the savior of mankind, One of the Christian Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It was the seventy-eighth Christmas of my life, and the fifty-eighth Christmas since I met and married my wife near the mid-point of the past century—1952.

I spent all but five of those 58 holidays with my wife. On Christmas Day in 1961 and 1962 I was in West Germany helping my country during our cold war with the Soviet Union, a war that ended in a cold stalemate. That stalemate continues to this day under different names and titles. I was in South Viet Nam on Christmas Day in 1970 and 1971, helping our country lose the war against North Viet Nam.

Just as an aside, I spend Christmas Day in 1950 and 1951 helping our country lose another war, the one ineptly labeled the Korean conflict, a conflict that cost more than 40,000 American lives over four years of fighting, a conflict that ended in a stalemate that exists to this day. Apparently stalemates run in our national history.

Yesterday was the fifty-eighth Christmas since I met and married my wife, the love of my life. It was only the fifth Christmas that I did not spend with my wife and my family. My wife died last month on the eighteenth day of November, and I spent most of yesterday alone in the house we have lived in for the past twenty-two years, alone with the furniture, decorations, artwork, various collections and photographs, my wife’s clothing and other personal articles, and our memories we accumulated over the past fifty-eight years of our marriage.

I spend most of Christmas day at home, but I accepted an invitation to enjoy a Christmas dinner with one of my three daughters and her family that live nearby. Earlier in the day I visited my wife at Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. I had planned to place a beautiful plant that our neighbors to the west, the finest next-door neighbors in existence, brought over as a Christmas gift, a beautiful poinsettia. I wanted it to grace my wife’s grave, and I intended to tell her how kind and thoughtful the neighbors were to give us the plant.

I wanted to believe—no, I did believe—that she would know the flowers were there. I realized that the plant would last longer in the home than in the open, subject to heat and cold and lack of moisture, but I felt that its brief life in the open would be better than watching it age and wither in our home—frankly speaking, I do not have a green thumb, and it’s a given that any potted plant will not last long under my tutelage.

I visited my wife without the poinsettia. My previous perfectly plotted perverted poinsettia plan (I really do love alliteration) was abandoned when I stepped outside to check the weather . The air was bitterly cold and a strong blustery wind was blowing, and I realized that the tall poinsettia plant would be lying flat and frozen even before I left the cemetery. I decided to let the plant remain in the home and take its chances with me, with the firm resolve to take flowers to my wife the following day, December 26, the day of her birth in 1932.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, but I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2010 in death, Family, flowers, funeral, Military

 

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Revisit—11th Street South and a rabbit . . .

I recently visited this posting and found it to be a fascinating and exceptional piece of literature, so I decided to re-post it for the benefit of the throngs that have been fortunate enough to have found my blog in the interim. It is my humble and modest opinion, with all seriousness set aside, that any reading or re-reading of this classic tale will enchant and delight everyone that passes this way. It’s a long read, but it’s highly educational, entertaining and well worth your time and effort—honest!

11th Street South and a rabbit . . .

When I left Plato’s realm of spirits—mind you, I was and I remain one of Plato’s ideal philosophical souls—and entered this world, I became part of a family that included my mother, one brother and five sisters, three living sisters and two dead, and no father—well, of course I had a father, but my parents were divorced a few months before I was born, a situation that technically makes me a little bastard. That technicality doesn’t bother me, even though it has been verbally confirmed many times by many people over the course of my life. Those verbal confirmations have decreased significantly since I retired from the workforce and relinquished my responsibilities and duties as a manager and supervisor of federal employees.

The Great Depression was in full swing when I left the world of souls and appeared on this planet. My brother Larry was away from home, gainfully occupied in building roads in Utah and other western states, roads that in his words started nowhere and ended nowhere. Early in the 1930s he joined the CCC—Civilian Conservation Corps—one of the alphabet organizations created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and helped build highways and tunnels in the western part of the United States, systems that would attract many millions of people in the future to our national parks. Following his stint with the CCC, he joined the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II and remained overseas through most of that conflict and never returned to the family except for short visits.

I have only retained two events over the first six years of my life that included my brother. The first memory is one of us fishing in a creek that meandered along near the house my family lived in at the time, a rental house owned by a local doctor named Box, the doctor that delivered me. Located on the outskirts of Vernon, Alabama, it was referred to as the old Box place—my family moved there from my place of birth, the old home place located some five miles south of town—I was little more than a toddler at the time. If you like, you can click here to read about the monumental event of my birth, Unto you this day a child was born. It’s a well-told tale with tons of family history and well worth your time—trust me!

The other memory involves a washtub in the front yard, filled with ice and beer, and my family enjoying and celebrating my brother’s visit. It also involves a partially filled beer left on a table within reach of a small night-shirted boy, and a set of high steps leading up to the front door of our house. The steps were necessary because the house was built on brick piers in an area prone to flooding. I have a vivid memory of standing on the top step in full view of the family gathered around the tub of ice and beer in the front yard and tossing the contents of my stomach—whatever food I had ingested along with the warm beer I had consumed—all over the steps.

Bummer!

I lived at the old Box place with my mother and three sisters. My mother and the two older sisters worked at a garment factory in Columbus, Mississippi, a city thirty miles west of Vernon, just across the Alabama-Mississippi state line. The women walked a short distance to and from town Monday through Friday and traveled to and from their work site on a county school bus set aside for that purpose. They necessarily left at an early hour and arrived home at a late hour every evening.

I and my youngest sister, a child just 18 months older than I, were left in the care of a lady that lived within walking distance. She came to our house early each morning and waited until the women left for work before escorting my sister and me to her house—she returned us home just before the women were due to arrive from work. With her husband and a passel of kids—my mother’s term—ranging from toddlers to young adults, she lived, loved, maintained her family and helped perform the many tasks involved in farming.

Whether they were the owners or were sharecroppers will never be known, but my guess is that they farmed on shares with the owners. Today the family would be called African-American, but at that time they were called everything except that hyphenated politically correct term—my family referred to them as black folks, or blacks, or that black family—other terms were available and quite popular at the time, but none were used by my family. This was a black family that included two white children five days every week, a boy and a girl, both preschoolers, two children that shared playtime and mealtime and after-dinner naps on the front porch with the family and loved every minute of every day.

My family left Vernon and moved to Columbus, Mississippi when I was five years old. My sister entered the first grade on our arrival there, and I entered the first grade the following year. That year is so filled with memories that I must reserve it for a separate posting, and I will include in this posting a third memory of my brother Larry.

He came home for a Christmas visit from his labors under the auspices of Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. That winter Columbus, Mississippi had an unusually heavy snowfall, and my brother took me on a rabbit hunt, armed only with a broomstick—just the stick, no broom. The broom part was badly worn and my brother sawed off that part. We walked a short distance from our house to a snow-covered field that served as a dumping ground for discarded items such as broken furniture, mattresses, wire-coil bed springs, old stoves and other such refuse. Yes, we lived on the south side of the city, the part that was known as the wrong side of town, an area subjected to such dumping.

This is how one hunts rabbits after a heavy snowfall—one takes a broomstick and pounds on any pile of junk where a rabbit might choose to hide, and chases the rabbit when it leaves its cover. In a heavy snowfall rabbits can’t run, so they tend to flee by burrowing under the snow rather than jumping in and out of it. Ergo, the mighty hunter simply follows the unseen rabbit as it ripples the surface of the snow by burrowing under it, estimates the location of the rabbit’s head—not a difficult task, not even for a southerner, and strikes with the broomstick a number of times, enough time sufficient to render the animal ready for skinning, cleaning and cooking.

My brother only found one rabbit with all his pounding, and that one did exactly as expected, and brother did exactly as narrated above, but landed just one blow with the stick. The rabbit’s forward motion was stopped, and on examination was found to be very much alive, only stunned by the blow but no more blows were struck. I pleaded with my brother to not kill it, and let me take it home as a pet.

And so it was. I carried a new-found pet rabbit home—I never knew whether it was male or female, but just for discussion I’ll say it was a female—perhaps I hoped for some baby rabbits. I had no way to secure her, neither inside the house nor outside, and one of my older sisters suggested I make a leash and tie her to a bedpost, and using a six-year old boy’s imagination, I did as suggested.

At this point the reader should probably keep a hankie or a box of Kleenex handy.

I fashioned a leash from a discarded pair of nylon stockings, those with the black seams running the length of the stockings, seams that ladies of the day were constantly adjusting to keep them straight on the backs of their legs. I knotted the stockings together, then secured one end of the leash to the cottontail’s neck and the other to a bedpost. My new-found pet could move around no farther than the length of nylon, so whatever deposits he made during the night would be restricted to a small area.

Okay, folks, here’s where you’ll need the hankie or the Kleenex. When I went to sleep my pet was warm and cuddly and full of life, but the next morning she was cold and stiff and dead, choked by the nylon that had tightened during the night with her circling around and around the bedpost.

I know, I know—I know just how you feel, but just blow your nose and wipe away your tears. It happened some 71 years ago, and I will say to you exactly what Lloyd Bridges said in the made-for-television movie Cold Sassy Tree. This is what he said in answer to his children when they learned he intended to marry his long-time office manager although his wife—their mother—had been dead less than a year. What he said was,

Well, she ain’t gonna get any deader!

And that rabbit ain’t gonna get any deader either, so dry your tears. I assure you that never again—not in all those years, not even once—have I strangled another rabbit by leaving it tied to a bedpost with a knotted pair of ladies’ nylons, nor have I ever strangled another rabbit by any other method, nor have I ever advised my children or the children of others to do such—in fact, largely because of that sad event I have strongly stressed that all should respect the value of life, both for humans and for the so-called lower orders of life.

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

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor, neighbors, race, Uncategorized

 

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The San Antonio Talberts . . .

What follows is a comment I made on one of my daughter’s postings way back in May of 2009. I was somewhat belated in making the comment—her posting is dated almost two years earlier, in August of 2007. Hey, better late than never! I’m bringing the comment out of the Stygian darkness of comments and into the bright light of today to make it available to more viewers, to present a beautiful family to today’s Word Press viewers. I’m proud to be part of this family.

Photos are by my daughter, Cindy Dyer. Click here for her blog at http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/ for some gorgeous photography, with interpretations and descriptions of flora, fauna and a little bit of everything else—no, make that a lot of everything else. You’ll find photos and descriptions of of places all over the United States and various foreign countries including—well, rather than listing all the places, just remember when you get to her home page to click on her Stuff About Me in the right-hand column and get ready to be impressed! I am tremendously impressed by her talents and her work. Of course I am her father and I am supposed to be impressed—but see for yourself!

This is the comment I posted almost two years ago:

It’s 4:00 AM plus 35 minutes here in San Antonio—I’ve been up and on my feet since 2:00 AM plus 13 minutes (actually, I’ve been sitting on my heine at the computer, looking over some of your past postings). Past postings sounds like a food dish—Italian, maybe. Do you perhaps have the recipe?

I am thrilled by these photos of the Talbert family—I must have overlooked them when they were first posted. My heart swells with pride when I realize that through my daughter Debbie, the family matriarch, I contributed to the formation of this gorgeous group. I hasten to add that I was not involved in the formation of the two hairy ones, the one with the beard and glasses and the family member Landen is holding, the devil cat that his mother and his grandmother—my daughter and my wife—call hussy.

I proudly proclaim—a kingly proclamation—that I have, perhaps not full but at least partial, genetic responsibility for the “beauty and brains” displayed and demonstrated by this family except, of course, for the patriarch and the pussy. I am not implying that those two are in any manner limited or deficient in beauty or brains—I simply mean that I was not privileged to contribute to their genetic makeup in any way.

Hey, The Patriarch and the Pussy Cat could well be the title for a television series, a family situation comedy centered around the activities of the title characters. However, that title may cause it to be listed in the adult section of TV listings, so it would probably be best to stick with The Talbert Family a la —in the manner of—The Partridge Family.

According to Google, heine is of Germanic origin—it’s most likely a diminutive for the surname Heinrich. I’m guessing that’s what the hn means in the Google listing below. As Bill O’Reilly is wont to say, “What say you?”

From Google:

Heine Heinrich, 1797-1856, German writer who lived in Paris after 1831. His romantic poems and social essays are marked by his love for the German land and people and derision for many modern German institutions.

How about this? If a son born to a Hispanic mother and Germanic father was unlucky enough to be named James Heinrich, he could legitimately be called Jaime Heine. Phonetic pronunciation would be as follows: Hime Hine, with a long I and the soft accent on the first syllable of each word.

I know, I know—I have far too much time on my hands.

Postscript: The family, including the devil cat, is three years older now and lots of water has flowed under the bridge in that three years. Big sister was just graduated by the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA—and little brother is no longer little—he has replaced the curls with an adult haircut, moved up into the rarified air of six feet in height, and is in his second year of studies at UTSA. The pussy cat has not changed—she is still a devil cat!

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

 

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I never owned a snowsled . . .

As a teenager I spent two winters in Suitland, Maryland and there were heavy snowfalls in both years, heavier than any snowfall I remember in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi or in any other location in which I spent time in my teenage years. The lack of snow in our winters was just one of the three reasons that I never owned a snow sled. The other two reasons were that we had no hills in Columbus worthy of sledding, and even had there been mountains, my family could not have afforded a sled—after housing, food, clothing, transportation and even a slight attention to health, there was nothing left for winter pleasures such as sleds or skis or mukluks or hot toddies. The only sleds I was familiar with were the wooden-skidded sleds drawn by mules on the farm, sleds used to move heavy items such as bagged fertilizer, wood for fireplaces and kitchen stoves, and to move corn and watermelons and pumpkins from the field to storage. No, we never tried sliding downhill on those sleds—never even considered it!

I arrived at Union Station in Washington, D.C. in December to live with my brother and his family in Suitland, Maryland and a heavy snow fell early in the spring. I had no sled, but some of my new friends in Carry Homes where my brother lived had sleds, and all were generous in sharing them with me. My brother’s duplex sat at the top of a long and fairly steep hill, and most of the sledders in the neighborhood favored that hill for sledding. I quickly became adept at sledding—it seemed to come natural to me—not that sledding is difficult to learn, because gravity does most of the work. The sled operator needs only learn to steer the sled by the sled’s handle grips and body movements and learn how to avoid anything that might impede the sled’s race to the bottom of the hill.

Yep, sledding came easy for me and I reveled in it, but I learned, late one evening on a cold and still night after the other sledders had gone home, that I still had a lot to learn about sledding. One of my playmates abandoned his sled at the top of the hill near my house, and I appropriated it for some late night sledding. There were several cars parked on the hill, but only one on the right side—keep that one in mind—but the center was open and I made several speed runs to the bottom, exalting in the bitter cold, red cheeked and nose running faster than I could keep it licked off, and I felt really happy and alive—too happy for the feeling to last.

During the day I had seen some of the kids sledding backwards down the hill, and I decided to try it. Got the picture? Can you guess what happened on my first try? If you guessed that I slid under the only car parked on the right side of the street, you win the stuffed gorilla. At the beginning of my slide I kept an eye turned over my shoulder, but as the ride progressed I became careless, feeling that I had already mastered backwards sledding.

The sled had no trouble clearing the underside of the sedan that it went under, the only auto parked on the right side of the street. It continued its journey under the rear bumper, the muffler, the transmission, the engine and the front bumper without slowing and thence to the bottom of the hill, but its successful trip did not include me. I stopped abruptly when my head hit the rear bumper.

I don’t know how long I lay on my stomach under the car, but I know that when I awoke I had a huge goose egg on the back of my head and a headache—no blood, but the mother of all headaches. I remained there for awhile, speculating on whether I should turn myself in for needed medical attention—for a concussion, perhaps, or loss of memory, or the possibility of broken speech and uncontrollable movements indicating severe brain damage. The more I considered it the longer the list of adverse possibilities became. At one point I felt that I was the victim of all those problems, but after awhile the headache began to subside and the goose egg, although still very large, was a bit less sensitive.

I crawled out from under the car, wandered around in the cold night air for awhile to get my bearings and finally trudged home, entered the house and announced to all that sledding was very tiring and that I was going to retire early. I never told anyone about the time I stupidly slid downhill backwards on a sled and had my ride interrupted by a car bumper. You, the reader, are learning about it at the same time my children are.

Eventually the goose egg disappeared, and in that winter and the following winter I had ample opportunities to go sledding—for some unaccountable reason I never sledded again. Once was enough for me—in that slide downhill with me facing uphill, I learned everything that one should do and not do while in that position on a snow sled speeding downhill. And as for skiing? Forget about it!

Oh, concerning the sled I left at the bottom of the hill that night—I’m guessing the owner found it, but I have no way of knowing that he did—at least none of the kids came around asking if I had seen a lost sled.

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

 
 

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About my uncle Dalton . . .

This post is about my Uncle Dalton, one of my mother’s younger brothers. I never knew him, and I saw him for the first and last time at his wake. I can’t pinpoint the year he died, but my best guess is that it was around 1940. I know it was before 1942, the year my mother unwisely brought a stepfather into our family, and when I picture myself standing at my uncle’s coffin and listening to my mother explain how he died, I appear to be somewhere around the age of seven or perhaps eight years—hey, don’t laugh—I said it would be a best guess, right?

My Uncle Dalton died in the old Bryce Hospital, an institution for the insane located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. You can Google it here if you like—there’s lots of info on the Internet.

According to my mother and other family members, Dalton was the victim of a beating rendered by a fellow inmate, a not-so-gentle man that attacked Dalton with a metal bedpan and the beating proved to be fatal. I have a vivid memory of standing beside my mother and watching her lift the departed’s right arm and the hand dropping limply, indicating, as voiced by my mother, that the wrist was broken. I know now that the hand dropping, or drooping, was normal and did not indicate a break. Had the body been in the maximum stiffness of rigor mortis,  the hand would not have drooped when the arm was lifted.

In humans, rigor mortis commences  about 3 hours after death, reaches maximum stiffness after 12 hours, and gradually dissipates until approximately three days after death. I am reasonably sure that Uncle Dalton had been dead for at least three days before he lay in state at his wake prior to his burial. Therefore it was natural for the hand to drop, or droop, when the arm was lifted. If you like, you can click here to confirm my findings concerning rigor mortis.

My mother told me that Uncle Dalton was a perfectly normal young adult until he unwisely dived head-first from a tree limb into shallow water and lost consciousness when his head struck the bottom—her expression was, I believe, that his head stuck in the mud. He remained unconscious for several minutes and was finally revived, but was never quite the same after the accident, and some years later was committed to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, an institution for the mentally disturbed—insane, if you will.

My mother visited Dalton numerous times during his tenure at Bryce, and she had interesting stories to tell about those visits. She said that he loved chewing gum, and she always took him gum on her visits. Patients were not allowed to shave themselves, and Mama said that he invariably removed a stick of gum from its wrapper, then reconstructed the wrapper and  pretended to shave with it. She told me a joke that she claimed Dalton told her—I seriously doubt the origin of this joke, but I must admit that it’s funny!

The joke my Uncle Dalton supposedly told was of a mental patient that had been told that after thirty years in the asylum he could go home, so he was given a razor and told to shave. As he faced the mirror and began shaving, a nurse stopped in the hallway to congratulate him, and he turned away from the mirror for an instant, and while he was turned away the mirror slipped of its hanger. When he returned to face the mirror he exclaimed, “Damn, thirty years in this place and the day I get ready to leave I cut my head off!” If that story is true, I have some doubt as to the severity of Dalton’s insanity.

One more story about my insane Uncle Dalton, and I’ll leave this posting for posterity. An official from Bryce Hospital called Dalton’s family to tell them that Dalton had wandered away from the institution and was believed to be returning to his home. A couple of days later his mother noticed that a shotgun that normally hung over the fireplace was missing. A report was made to local law enforcement, and a search began for Dalton in that area. While the search was in full swing, Dalton appeared at the house with the shotgun and several squirrels he had bagged. He said that he left the hospital with the intention of going squirrel hunting and having his mother make squirrel stew for him. As the story goes, the local law officials arrived to take Dalton back to the hospital, but waited until he had finished a meal of squirrel stew.

Possible? Yes, but plausible? No, but it makes a good read, especially as told to me by my mother, and I would like to believe it. Well, why not? It’s all in the past, and whether true of false it’s an indication of the frailty and the goodness of human nature, and our acceptance of both attributes.

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

Postscript: I overlooked a memory of my uncle, something my mother told me and was confirmed by at least two of her sisters. One manifestation of his separation from reality was his insistence that the air was filled with clocks, all manners of timepieces—clocks large and clocks small, all showing the same time of day or night, and he couldn’t understand why others could not see them.

Was that proof of his mental imbalance? Perhaps, but according to my mother and my aunts he never carried a pocket watch and never wore a wristwatch, yet when someone asked, he could give them the correct time, at any moment of the day or night. Such a gift has its advantages—assuming that the clocks required neither winding nor batteries, the absence of maintenance costs and physical effort would mount up over a lifetime.

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

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 6, 2010 in Humor, hunting, insanity, law enforcement

 

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Crabs need salt water . . .

A disclaimer: This posting is all about my family and me just as are many, perhaps most, of my postings, a fact pointed out to me in a recent comment by a visitor. In deference to that visitor and to potential viewers, I must repeat the words of one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau:  I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.

If you, the viewer, have little or no interest in America’s history and the lives of other people, you can probably spend your time in some other more productive activity. However, if you are interested in my travels and travails over a considerable number of years and would like to learn a bit about our nation and one of its families in the past century, by all means please read on. This posting and related postings on my blog will take a viewer from 1932, the year of my birth, up to the present time almost 78 years later.

For an interesting and highly informative discussion of that event and those years, click on the following URL to begin at the beginning:

http://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/unto-you-this-day-a-child-was-born/

I have lived all those years—well, not quite the 78th year but I feel well and should make it satisfactorily—and I don’t need to make up things to fill these pages. My mind is sound, my memory is excellent and my life has been and still is interesting. Stay with me and trust me, and you’ll be exposed to a lot of do and don’t do situations that you may be able to apply to your own lives. In my writings I subscribe to the first objective of the physician, and that is to do no harm. Stay with me and you’ll be returned to an era with no television, space travel, computers, cell phones, no Internet and no national network of highways, a time when the DOW topped 41 versus today’s DOW of 10,000 and counting, and the average life span of Americans was 64 years versus today’s 78 years and counting.

Haven’t you heard? Those were the good old days!

Some ten years after divorcing her first husband, my mother exchanged marriage vows with her second husband, a coupling that would eventually dissolve in divorce and then remarriage that lasted until his death. I saw my father very briefly on three widely spaced occasions in my first ten years, and a fourth time at his funeral ten years later in 1952. I knew very little about him then, and not much more now, but I will reserve a later posting to discuss, among other events, his marriage to a 16-year girl when he was in his sixties—stay tuned!

My mother’s three marriages—one to my father and two to my stepfather—were fraught with problems. Her first marriage was to an itinerant preacher that by all accounts abused her and her children, both mentally and physically. Her second and third marriages were to the same man, a four-times previously married itinerant carpenter and cabinet maker that combined physical and mental abuse with alcoholism, conditions that caused frequent re-locations of our family, and frequent breakups of the family at the whim of her husband—my stepfather. Her remarriage to him seemed to fare better, at least on the surface, principally because the two children were away from the nest and on their own with no particular attachment to the parents.

 I learned many years later from an older sister that my mother’s marriage to our stepfather was contingent on placing the two of us with relatives—my stepfather was quoted as telling our mother that, I’m marrying you, but I’m not marrying the two kids. We did not know then that our separation from the family after the marriage was supposed to be permanent, although we both wondered why we were taking all our clothing on our summer vacation.

At the end of the school year in 1942 at the tender age of nine years, I was handed over to one of my older sisters, a lovely and understanding lady that had agreed to house, feed,  clothe and school me—in fine, to bring me up to adulthood as one of her family that at the time consisted on one husband and one son, a toddler. Accordingly I, with my small metal trunk and my extremely limited wardrobe was delivered to my sister’s home in Pritchard, a small suburb of Mobile, Alabama. Prichard was a small town then, but population in 2005 was estimated at more than 28,000.

My youngest sister, a firebrand just 18 months older than I, was shuffled off to live with an aunt in rural Alabama, one of my mother’s sisters that lived five miles from Vernon, the county seat of Lamar County. That aunt made the same promise to my mother, that she would accept my sister as one of her own family. My sister was just six months short of being eleven years old.

We were babes in the woods, tossed out to live with relatives rather than with our mother and her new husband, but a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds near summer’s end. Our mother breached her agreement to give up her children and convinced her new husband that she had to have us with her—what weapons or persuasive methods she brought into play will never be known.

A few days before the beginning of the school year in 1942, my sister and I joined our mother and our stepfather in a rented apartment in Long Beach, Mississippi. Our stepfather was employed in Gulfport, Mississippi a few miles distant. My sister and I thought only that we were there because our summer vacations had ended and we were joining the family in order to enroll in school.

I will digress for a moment in order to prove that this story is true—at least to the extent that I lived in Long Beach, Mississippi in 1942. Sometimes my wife and my daughters take long looks at me and say things such as How can you possible remember so many details after so many years? I therefore use any pertinent documents available to support my memories.

This image is the title page of the New Testament that was given to me following my successful recitation of the Presbyterian catechism after spending an infinite number of hours under Mrs. Toomer’s tutelage. She offered to teach my sister, but that worthy declined—I believe she feared such knowledge might cramp her style.

That little book has followed me around the world and all the way to San Antonio over the past 68 years, and it’s still in one piece, as am I. However, I am not a Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Church of God, Church of Christ, Mormon, Nazarene or a Muslim. I am unassigned and in the pipeline between being an agnostic or a believer in a supreme deity—much, much closer to the latter.

My memories of Long Beach would fill a book—just a small paperback, not a book such as James Mitchner would write. I remember picking up pecans, using an ice pick to puncture holes in the bottoms of cans at Mrs. Toomer’s request so mosquitoes would not breed in them, and I remember being careless and putting the ice pick through the web between my left thumb and forefinger and into the can—no pain, no blood, but still not a smart thing to do. As a matter of fact, I lost interest in mosquito control soon afterward.

I remember a particularly offensive fifth grade teacher that refused to give me an A+ on a spelling test. She called out the list of twenty words and I spelled every one correctly, but a word that followed a word with a tail began with an ess, and my ess touched the drooping tail of the word above it and the teacher counted it as a capital ess and therefore an error.

Was not, was not! I ran barefoot in play for several hours the prior evening in wet grass and awoke the next morning, a school day, with laryngitis. For a full 24 hours I couldn’t speak, not even in a whisper. I could only grunt in protest and offer to show the teacher exactly how the ess came to appear to be a capital ess, but she was not interested in my artwork. The error stood on the only perfect grade I ever made in elementary school in any subject—oh, alright, okay, make that any subject in any school.

I remember walking to the beach with my sister, carrying crab nets and meat for bait, and fishing for crabs from a pier. I remember walking the beach and finding sunglasses, optical glasses, cheap jewelry and cheap necklaces and other paraphernalia lost by people on the beach—nothing of any real value, but interesting to accumulate.

And to my sorrow I remember us catching about a dozen crabs and returning home with them and putting them in a tub of fresh water and they all died. There was nobody there to tell us otherwise, so we learned the hard way, as did the crabs, that crabs must have salt water to exist. Bummer!

I remember the steps leading up to the stores on Main Street in downtown Long Beach, built that way to prevent flooding in bad weather. I don’t believe the steps helped much when Katrina roared through—some ninety percent of the homes and business in Long Beach were destroyed or damaged—the area is still recovering from that event, hoping that casinos will put the city back on the track to prosperity.

And finally, I remember Long Beach, Mississippi as a small town, perhaps one with a population of five thousand or so. The 2000 census showed a population in excess of 17, 000 and I’m reasonably certain that in the past ten years the city has experienced strong growth—minus, of course, people that may have left for other places following Katrina. We probably have some of them in San Antonio.

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

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Revisit: To comment or not to comment, that is the question . . .

On August 21, 2010 I compiled an analysis of my postings on WordPress, including total postings, categories, tags, visits by viewers and comments. I then published the analysis and expressed a desire for more comments and criticisms, with the request for visitors to comment either negative or positive. Click the following URL to read the original posting:

http://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/pearls-of-wisdom-or-pearls-before-swine/

I trust that you will find humor in the analysis. My intent was to entertain, hence such descriptions as fingers worn to the bone, nails bitten too short for nose picking, a threat to include naughty images in my posting, etc.

I also trust that you will detect self-deprecation and pathos in the thoughts I expressed in the original posting. No, I do not suffer from low self-esteem, nor am I depressed, and my appeal to pathos was an attempt to get viewers to respond emotionally and identify—just to identify, not to agree with—my point of view and perhaps to feel what I feel when I write.

Very soon after I published the analysis I received two comments that warrant a separate posting. Both are cogent, very convincing and relevant and obviously heartfelt. Both comments deserve wider and better exposure than being hidden in the shadows of the world of comments, and I believe others will appreciate reading them.

That is the purpose of this posting—to make the comments available to a wider audience.

The first comment is from a highly successful architect that specializes in churches, and has provided architectural services for more than one hundred churches and church–related projects. Click on the following URL for a tour of his website, and when you visit, be sure to take in the slide shows:

http://sones-churcharchitect.com/Curriculum_Vitae.html

This is his comment, posted as received.

You’ve reminded me of a recent meeting with a church building committee. The purpose of the meeting was to interview building contractors and to try and make a decision about which of three contractors would be chosen to build the new church building. One of the three building contractors had submitted a lower price than the other two, but there was still some doubt in the committee member’s minds about whom to select. That doubt was the reason for the meeting.

After the contractors had left the meeting, the committee discussed their feelings about how the interviews went and, generally, how they felt about the contractor’s responses to questions and comments made by various committee members. One of the committee members made the observation that a couple of the contractors didn’t seem very interested in what they had to say. When asked why he felt that, he responded by saying that he, at one time, was an insurance salesman and that he always looked for some kind of response from prospective clients when he did his sales pitch. “At least a nod,” he said. At least that let him know that they were listening.

I’ve enjoyed, in one way or the other, all of your postings. Happy. Sad. Contemplative. They’ve evoked a wide range of emotions. I haven’t commented often, but if you could see me, you would know that I am nodding. I’ll try to do better.

The second comment is from a lady in the United Kingdom, specifically in Wales, an accomplished writer, an anthropomorphistic naturalist and a brilliant artist, specializing in computer generated art. I am delighted with her analysis of my writing, and the insight she displays reflects a high degree of intelligence and a very probing and inquisitive mind—I am in complete agreement with her thoughts on my postings. You’ll find her postings and her art at the following URL:

http://absurdoldbird.wordpress.com/

This is her comment, posted as received.

I don’t really know how to comment on this without it sounding like a criticism, Mike—and I really don’t want to upset you. So—I hope you’ll just regard this as my personal thoughts (which is all they can be anyway).

Personally speaking, you lost me a little way back. Reasons? A few. One is that you keep reposting old posts in the hope (as I understand it) that the reposting will garner comments where the original posting didn’t. The thing about the blogging world is that it thrives on freshness—readers rarely enjoy seeing the same old stuff, they just move on to pastures new. A lot of your posts are ones that were not posted all that far back and anyway, there is an archive here if people want to see what you’ve posted before.

There are a lot of reasons people don’t comment on a post, some of it to do with the content, some to do with that person’s mood at the time of reading it. Some people intend to post a comment and then get distracted. Some leave it so that they can think about what to say and then decide that they can’t put into words what they want to express, or decide that they don’t really know what they think about the content anyway. Some don’t feel sufficiently tuned in to the blog author’s train of thought or way of saying what they’ve written.

You mention the number of people who have come to your blog compared to the number who have commented. 27 visits per posting…and few comments? That’s either not enough people visiting to make many comments. The reason being that this world is made up of more people who follow than people who lead, and the ones who comment tend to be those who lead and not those who like to be led. You need to attract the right sort of people, in other words the sort of people who are like yourself, possibly with a similar type of history or background or perhaps coming from a similar philosophical or political background. Does that make sense? It’s fine to have people who disagree with you, but only if you find something to agree on too and I get the impression from reading a lot of your posts that you feel more comfortable with people who don’t provoke you too much (or at all!) And how to do that? How to find those people? Only by spending time finding them, via their own blogs. Find blogs that you like yourself, find bloggers with whom you have something in common, whatever that is—whatever is important to you. It’s a strange world, the world of blogging, in many ways it’s not like ‘real life’, and in many ways it’s exactly like it—but it takes a lot of effort.

Another reason for my absence is that I feel your blog is mostly for your family, it’s full of reminiscences, which is nice, but I feel a lot of the time that I’m just intruding on someone else’s life rather than being included in any of it. A family blog is fine, but then you need to draw in your family to read it and, as I don’t personally know your family, I can offer no advice as to how you could do that. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are settings in WordPress in which, should you want, you could invite certain readers in, give them a password, and let only those people read your posts. Perhaps this might be something to consider, if you are mostly writing a memoir (which is what it seems to be). On the other hand, as your blog is (mostly) searchable via Google, you’ve obviously opened it out to be search engine friendly—so I’m rather confused about the intent of the blog!

The main reason, though that I’ve been absent, is our politics and viewpoints about things are very different and I feel quite alienated at times by the content of some of your posts. I’m not, by nature, a confrontational sort of person so I don’t comment on things that I strongly disagree with. I prefer, usually, to remain silent. However, that said—why am I responding to this post? Because I think it would be a shame if you were to stop writing your blog. You do need to attract more people to read it, and yes, you do need more comments from people, but I do understand how upsetting it can be to have no response. I hope things improve for you, I really do.


 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 21, 2010 in Humor, Writing

 

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Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior . . .

Analysis of a 17-year-old warrior

As does virtually every family, mine has a shoebox filled with snapshots of family and friends spanning decades of living and loving and working, showing many of the places where we lived and worked and places where we went for recreational purposes. I recently found an old black-and-white photo of a certain 17-year old warrior, a young lad that somehow made his way to Japan somewhere between the ages of 17 and 18 years, an age at which he should have been at home in Columbus, Mississippi enrolled in the eleventh grade at Stephen D. Lee High School, working at various part-time jobs, chasing girls and striving mightily to maintain a C-average.

I was intrigued by the differences between that lad then and the same person now, some 60 years later. I was captivated by the photo, taken sixty years ago in 1950 in front of temporary quarters in the city of Fukuoka on the Japanese island of Kyushu—so captivated that I decided to share it with my viewers.

I refer to this lad as a warrior based on the knowledge that during the summer of 1950, shortly after North Korea invaded South Korea, he was en route to Korea from Japan to help in our war to keep South Korea free from communism, and would continue in that effort for the next 15 months. Some nineteen years later he would be in Vietnam for thirteen months with a similar purpose—to help South Vietnam in its struggle against a takeover of the country by the Viet Cong, aided by North Vietnam regulars with help from Russia and China.

In both instances—the war in Korea and the one in Vietnam—he was unsuccessful, and his contributions were for naught. The Korean War ended in a truce that exists to this day, and the Vietnam War ended, for better or worse, in a united Vietnam—the communists won and we lost.

Examine the photo closely—have you ever seen a cockier, more in-your-face, more arrogant and defiant stance? This is a youth of seventeen, some six or seven inches over five feet tall, weighing 115 pounds with a 28-inch waist, dressed in regulation one-piece fatigue coveralls with a fatigue cap on top and unshined GI brogans on the bottom. Either the cuffs of the coveralls are turned up or the coveralls are too short. The cap is pushed back rather than squared off, hands are in pockets, sleeves are partially rolled up, collar is turned up—a harbinger of the Elvis style to come, still some six years in the future. The first several buttons of the fatigues are unbuttoned revealing no undershirt and a really skinny unhairy chest. And most important, even at that tender age the lad is exhibiting a strong leaning to the right, a stance that incidentally exists to this day, and if gets much more pronounced I—oops, I mean he—will be unable to stand up without falling.

I am fairly certain that any reader of this posting has already guessed that the lad in the photo is the same person that is writing this posting for his blog on Word Press—yes, I refer to my mother’s youngest son, The King of Texasthat lad is yours truly at the wizened age of seventeen.

My mother’s youngest son bears little resemblance to that 1950s figure, although he still leans to the right in any political stance, and rather than one-piece fatigues he putters around in sweats and house slippers at home and wears jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers for occasions such as weddings, funerals, jury duty and similar formal events.

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

 

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Listen up, San Antonio! More road rage . . .

On July 27, just a few days ago, I posted a story about road rage and San Antonio drivers, and told my viewers of the time my daughter had a window shot out in her car while she was driving on North Loop 410 in San Antonio. Click here to read the full posting.

Our only daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, had two articles on road rage in today’s issue—a person died in each instance. As of this writing a 44-year-old man is in jail in San Antonio, charged with murder in the beating death of a 30-year-old man. On Sunday, the first day of August, 2010 the killer was forced to wait at a green light at an intersection when the victim stopped and exited his  vehicle to “pluck a flower.”

When he returned to his vehicle—we must assume that he plucked the flower—the killer followed him to a parking lot, confronted him and “punched him several times,” then slammed his head on the asphalt. The author of the article tells us that the killer’s “temper is alleged to have cost another man his life—and it could cost him his freedom.” Please note the word could, not would, and remember that this happened in San Antonio, Texas.

After the the Express-News “journalist” told us the murder could cost the killer his freedom, the victim was abandoned—we are not told whether the victim died instantly and was pronounced dead at the scene, or was dead on arrival at a hospital, or lingered between life and death in the intensive care unit and died at a certain time on a certain day. Instead the “journalist” continued with an in-depth discussion of the killer’s background, including his criminal record, his work record, his abusive treatment of his wife and numerous other sad facets of his life. The “journalist” quotes the killer’s wife as saying, “Maybe looking at the possibility of never coming home will give him time to really think about exactly what his temper and anger had caused.” Please note the words maybe and possibility, and remember that the incident happened in San Antonio, Texas.

We are told nothing about the man that died, whether married or unmarried, where or if he worked, absolutely nothing of his background, whether he had brothers or sisters or a father and a mother or perhaps a family of his own. The only things we know about him is that he was a man and was 30 years old and he stopped to pick a flower and is now dead.

My question to the “journalist” and to the editor is this: Why were we not not given any details about the dead man? The killer was given quite a bit of space in your paper—were the details of the victim not newsworthy?

The second article on road rage deals with the murder of a 23-year-old man, shot by a 62-year-old man following a minor accident, labeled a “fender bender” by the journalist. The jury could have given five years to life for the conviction—they chose to give him seven and one-half years and he will become eligible for parole after serving just one-half of his sentence. Other than a statement made by the mother of the dead man, we were told nothing of his background.

There are multiple morals to these stories, including the fact that should you fall prey to road rage and lose your life, the sentence given to the killer will probably be light, and few details of your death will be printed. The public will know your name and age and little else, and the facts of your demise will occupy far less newspace than the killer’s actions.

There are other morals, namely, whatever you do, do not block traffic by stopping to pick a flower—not even an exotic orchid is worth your life. Don’t ever tailgate a driver because you feel he dissed you, and don’t ever cut in front too sharply for the same reason. Don’t ever flip a bird at a driver or return one that he flipped you, and don’t blow your horn unless it is absolutely necessary—and in my opinion it is virtually never necessary. If I had my way, horns on privately owned vehicles would be outlawed. I challenge any reader to describe a circumstance that absolutely requires a driver to press the horn button.

Don’t use the one about a driver coming at you traveling against traffic—blowing the horn won’t help. That driver is either too drunk to hear or to care, or is intent on committing suicide by motor vehicles—his and yours. If the driver ahead of you is asleep at a green light, either wait for him to awaken or, very carefully, back up and go around him. If you blow the horn he may be startled into instant action, regardless of the traffic situation. And if you’re thinking it’s his bad luck, think again. Another driver may hit you in his attempts to avoid the sleeper from hitting him.

I know I’m tilting at windmills on this subject. I know that people will continue to flip birds, hold up clenched fists, shout at other drivers, race around an offender and cut in too closely, follow too closely and blow the horn incessantly, and I also know that there is little sense in enumerating the myriad stupid things we tend to do when frustrated by the actions of others.

I know that we will continue to do those stupid things, and guess what?

We will continue to die.

And in Texas, light sentences will be given to our killers.

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

 

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A letter to Jessie (1915-1997) . . .

Dear Big Sister,

I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!

I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!

This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.

I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.

Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.

Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.

I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.

Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!

This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.

It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.

I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.

I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.

I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.

Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!

Lots of love,

Mike

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Family, marriage, Travel, Writing

 

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A household of many aunts and uncles, including Braxton . . .

In my grandparents household, the grandparents on my mother’s side of the family, there were numerous sons and daughters, with the result that I had many aunts and uncles. All were born considerably earlier than I, and since I am near completing the eighth decade of my life, all have sloughed off the mortal coils of this life and transferred to another, perhaps a better one than this—at least it is to be hoped that it is a better one. I know of nothing that would have caused the powers-that-be to sentence them to a worse life for the remainder of eternity.

Did you get that—remainder of eternity?

Does eternity have a remainder?

That’s kinda profound, don’t you think?

The youngest of the brood of children birthed and reared by my grandparents was a boy named Braxton, known to family and friends as Brack), but to me he was  Uncle Brack. I was far advanced into adulthood long before he left us, but I never had the temerity to call him by his name—he was always Uncle Brack, a man I idolized and longed mightily to be like when I grew up—I wanted to be just like him and do the same kind of work he did.

Over the years Uncle Brack was a share-cropper farmer, a farmer in his own right, a store-keeper, a used-car salesman and a bus driver. Only the profession of bus driver attracted me. He worked for the Miss–Ala Stage Line, a bus company that plied a route between various towns, and one of its routes moved passengers back and forth between Vernon, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi, a distance of some 30 miles. Vernon was a small town with few people and few amenities, and Columbus had many, including theaters, restaurants, department stores and small industrial components that provided jobs for people from Vernon.

Get it? Miss–Ala? Mississippi plus Alabama?

Uncle Brack’s bus driver uniform was a white shirt with black bow-tie, gray trousers with a black stripe down the side of each leg, and a gray hat with a large metal cap badge and a shiny black brim—he always wore the cap jauntily cocked to one side like our World War II aviators wore theirs. A holster on his belt at his right side held his ticket-punching machine, one with which he always executed a quick-draw, twirled it several times with it coming to rest in his palm, ready to punch a passenger’s ticket. In the eyes of a small boy in the 1930s, he was a combination of all the heroes in Zane Grey novels and in James Fennimore Cooper’s stories of the Native Americans of our great Northeast. In short, when I was a small boy I wanted to be exactly like my Uncle Brax.

He was an inveterate joker—he could no more resist making jokes, practical or otherwise, than the sun can resist rising in the east and setting in the west, and he  regaled any gathering which he attended with his stories. One that he told repeatedly involved a lady that had sneaked a black cat on when she boarded his bus. He said that before he left the station he saw the cat in his rear-view mirror and announced that The lady with that black pussy will have to leave. He said that five women left the bus and the others crossed their legs.

I never believed that story—I thought it was funny, even though I wasn’t sure why it was so funny. I didn’t believe it because in those days people rode the bus with pet cats and dogs, and even with a shoat in a gunnysack—for those unfamiliar with that phrase, that’s a pig in a poke, an actual young porker purchased at an auction in Columbus and now en route to a farm in Alabama where it would be fed and pampered until it became a hog, then slaughtered in the fall for the larder of a farm family, and that’s a fact—I’ve seen such cargo carried on a Miss-Ala  Stage Line bus more than once, and I’ve also seen such cargo carried on trains that ran between Columbus  and various small towns in Mississippi—that’s a subject for a future posting, so stay tuned!

People often bought baby chicks from a Columbus hatchery and boarded the bus with 100 peeping baby chickens in a flat box, similar to a pizza box but somewhat larger, with small round holes built into the sides of the box to provide oxygen for its occupants. Uncle Brack loved to tell the story of the time a lady—a very large lady—boarded his bus with such a box. En route to its destination of Vernon, Alabama, bumping along on a rutted potholed graveled road, the box fell from her lap and spilled the baby chicks, called biddies by country folk—out on the floor, and they scampered to all points of the globe, constrained only by the limits of the bus. The lady frantically ran around gathering them up and putting them back in the box, and at one point she leaned far over from the waist and the pressure on her stomach produced a certain sound, one that resonated all over the bus. A drunk passenger was watching the lady in her quest for the biddies and spoke up with a sage bit of advice, saying That’s right, lady, if you can’t catch ‘em, shoot ‘em! I remember other Brackisms, but most are not completely suitable for postings on WordPress.

Uncle Brack was a likeable fellow and ladies found him attractive, and he took full advantage of that attractiveness whenever the opportunity arose, so to speak. According to my mother—his sister—when Uncle Brack came in from a night out, usually tanked up with Alabama moonshine or beer illegally transported across the Alabama state line from Mississippi, his mother—my grandmother—would go through his pockets and retrieve any items that were manufactured ostensibly for the prevention of disease, but in those long ago days were mostly used for the prevention of pregnancies—condoms. As my mother told the story, on his wedding day she presented a gift, a cigar box filled with unused condoms. I believe the story because I believe my mother—had Uncle Brack told the story I would not have believed it.

After all that carousing around in search of a bride—that’s what he told his mother he was doing—Uncle Brack married a widow, a sturdy no-nonsense woman with two children from her first marriage, a six-year old girl and a boy of 12 years. The couple stayed married for many years, adding three more children to the family, and the marriage was ended only by his death. During those years of marriage I never heard a word—not even a hint—that Uncle Brack ever returned to his errant ways with women. It was, in effect, a marriage made in heaven.

There’s lots more to be told about my Uncle Brack, but I’ll hold it in abeyance for future postings, so stay tuned.

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

 
 

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Cheap tomatoes—si, o no?

This posting is one of an e-mail I received recently from a family member. A quick check of http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/tomatoes.asp shows that the truth of the letter is undetermined. The Snopes article references a June 2006 e-mail, purported to be posted to the Internet by the husband of a woman that teaches at a large southern California high school.

That husband’s original e-mail has undergone various changes wrought by its sojourn over the Internet over the past four years, including the changes I have made prior to posting it on my blog. Please trust me—the changes I made dealt strictly with paragraphing, sentence construction, subject and verb agreement, spelling, punctuation and other rules of good grammar. I also deleted unnecessary capitalizations, exclamation points and other superfluous treatments that battered and bruised the message rather than helping viewers injest and digest its intended purpose.

I neither challenged nor changed anything that would either dilute or embellish the original e-mail I received. In addition to such necessary changes, the original e-mail had garnered the usual >>>s and other junk picked up by the original document on its trip through the vast regions of space and time.

This should drive everyone, not to drink but rather to think, whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, and including the multitudes not politically oriented to any particular ideology.

From a California school teacher (ostensibly):

Tomatoes and Cheap Labor:

As you listen to the news about the student protests over illegal immigration, there are some things of which you should be aware:

I am responsible for the English as a second language department at a large southern California Title 1 high school. That title designates a school that peopled by students whose families that on the average are in lower levels of income and socioeconomic acceptability opportunities.

Most of the schools you are hearing about—South Gate High, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park and other Title 1 schools are schools where students are in the protest mode. Such schools are on the free breakfast and free lunch program. When I say free breakfast, I’m not talking about a glass of milk and a roll. I’m talking about a full breakfast and cereal bar with fruits and juices that would make a Marriott Inn proud. The waste of this food is monumental, with many trays being dumped in the trash uneaten. I estimate that more than 50 percent of these students are obese, or at least moderately overweight.

An estimated three of every four students have cell phones. The school provides day care centers for the unwed teenage pregnant girls—some as young as 13—so they can attend class without the inconvenience of having to arrange for babysitters or having family watch their kids.

I was ordered to spend $700,000 on my department or risk losing funding for the upcoming year, although there was little need for anything—my budget was already substantial. I ended up buying new computers for the computer learning center, half of which one month later had been decorated with graffiti by appreciative students that obviously feel humbled and grateful to have a free education in America.

I have had to intervene several times for substitute teachers whose classes consist of many illegal immigrant students, here in the country less then three months. Those students raised so much hell with the female teachers, calling them putas—whores—and throwing things that the teachers were reduced to tears.

Free medical benefits, free education, free food, free day care, ad nauseam—it’s no wonder that they feel entitled, not only to be in this country but free to demand additional rights, privileges and additional entitlements.

For those that like to point out how much these illegal immigrants contribute to our society because they like their gardener and their housekeeper—and because they like to pay less for tomatoes—let’s spend some time in the real world of illegal immigration and see the true costs of tomatoes. Higher insurance, medical facilities closing, higher medical costs, more crime, lower standards of education in our schools, overcrowding and new diseases—as for me, I’ll pay more for tomatoes.

Americans, we need to wake up!

The current flood of illegal immigrants has everything to do with culture. They constitute an American third-world culture that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15, a culture that refuses to assimilate, and our historic American culture has become so weak and worried about political correctness that we don’t have the will to do anything about it.

Cheap labor? Isn’t that what the whole immigration issue is about? Business doesn’t want to pay a decent wage, consumers don’t want expensive produce and government claims that we Americans don’t want the jobs.

The bottom line is cheap labor, but he phrase cheap labor is a myth and a farce. It’s a lie—there is no such thing as cheap labor.

Consider this: An illegal alien with a wife and five children takes a job for $5 or $6.00 an hour. With those earnings and six dependents he pays no income tax, yet at the end of the year if he files an income tax return he is entitled an earned income credit up to $3,200—free.

He qualifies for Section 8 housing and subsidized rent.

He qualifies for food stamps.

He qualifies for free—no deductible, no co-pay health care.

His children get free breakfasts and lunches at school.

He requires bilingual teachers and books.

He qualifies for relief from high energy bills.

If anyone in the family is or becomes aged, blind or disabled, they qualify for SSI. If qualified for SSI they can qualify for Medicaid. All this is paid for by legitimate American taxpayers.

He doesn’t worry about car insurance, life insurance, or homeowner’s insurance.

Taxpayers provide Spanish language signs, bulletins and printed material.

He and his family receive the equivalent of $20 to $30 per hour in benefits,entitlements provided by our benevolent government. Working Americans are lucky to have $5 or $6 per hour left after paying their bills and his.

Cheap labor?

Yeah, right!

Sure!

Not!

These are the facts and the questions we should be asking of the congressional members of both political parties, and when members of either party lie to us we should exercise our right to replace them via the ballot box. The outcome of upcoming congressional elections is critical for working Americans, for our economy and for American culture and heritage.

A special Pee Ess:

Hey, I didn’t write this article and I offer no mea culpas. Please do not excoriate or execute me—I’m just the messenger. Feel free to pass it on or trash it—it’s your choice. In fact, you don’t even need to read it, and I’ll understand.

That’s my story and my excuse, and I’m sticking to both.

 

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Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

For a brief period of several months I lived with my family—mother, stepfather and youngest sister—in a one room kitchenette in a small motel on East US Highway 82 in Columbus, Mississippi. This was in the latter years of World War II—although the term motel had been around since 1925, our establishment called itself the Columbus Tourist Court, the word court suggesting a more comfortable kind of accommodation—it was actually a stand-alone cabin in a line of other stand-alone cabins backed by an ages-old cemetery that historically was limited to black burials but was no longer in use.

Just as an aside, our stepfather frequently told people that the owner of the Columbus Tourist Court was a close personal and business friend of many years standing, and that if one mentioned his name—my stepfather’s name—the owner would cut some slack on the price of the accommodations. I tried that some years later and got nothing but a blank stare from the owner—he opined that he was not familiar with the gentleman—so much for slack, right?

The cemetery was in total disrepair, with tombstones missing, broken and fallen, graves sadly sunken and the ground strewn with remnants of urns and flower vases and leaves and rubbish, even a cast-off mattress or two. My sister and I roamed that cemetery picking up bits of colored glass and retrieving unbroken receptacles for flowers, some almost buried in the ground. This was the equivalent of a nature park for us, a place to linger in the evening after school and on weekends. It was also a place that prompted us to make up ghost stories, sometimes so scary that we scared ourselves.

But I digress—this story is not about cemeteries—it’s about the two pets, dogs, that our stepfather promised one day near Christmas as he and our mother headed for town in his four-door black 1939 Plymouth sedan. I mention the auto because it was never, not even once, not even on days of rain or snow or heat or cold, used to transport me and my sister to school. Had our tourist court been on a numbered thoroughfare, it would have been somewhere around Twenty-fifth Street. Our high school was located at Seventh Street and Third Avenue North—city blocks usually run 12 to the mile, so our walk to school covered some 21 blocks, almost two miles, and we walked it barefoot regardless of rain or snow or heat or cold, and it was uphill in both directions. Okay, I’m stretching it a bit, but the fact remains that we walked the distance five days a week while we lived at the Columbus Tourist Court—bummer!

When our mother and our stepfather returned that day shortly before Christmas, our stepfather gave me and my sister separate packages that we hurriedly unwrapped. My sister’s package contained a beautiful Collie, colored identically as Lassie of the movies. My package yielded a gorgeous Pekingese with the cutest face ever seen on a dog.

These were the two dogs he promised us for Christmas, and he had followed through with his promise. However, there was a hitch—my sister’s Collie was mounted on the side of a large tabletop ashtray and my Pekingese was a lead-weighted plaster dog intended to be used as a doorstop. We expected pets, of course, but we were given functional replicas of dogs instead. Mental torture? Child abuse? Of course, but in those days there was no Child Protective Service or any other service to accept complaints, even if we had been endowed with the courage and the willingness to complain.

Merry Christmas!

We were between trips to the atom bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where our stepfather worked. He was laid off for awhile and we had left a government trailer village in Gamble Valley, Tennessee to return to Columbus, and we were now returning to that area to another trailer village called Happy Valley, Tennessee—both locations are subjects for future postings. Stay tuned!

A funny thing happened to us when we were loading the car for the return trip to Tennessee. I had an armful of funny books—they were actually comic books but nobody called them comic books in those days. They were funny books, even the ones picturing the most violent mayhem, and the comic strips in newspapers were also referred to as the funnies.

Our stepfather told me I could not take my funny books because the car was already overloaded. My sister promptly spoke up and told him, in a completely serious tone, that she would carry them in her lap. That was one of the very few times that our little family laughed together—for a brief shining moment we were a happy family, albeit caused by friction. The moment was brief—the stack of comics was consigned to the trash, we climbed into the car and were off on another great adventure.

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

 
10 Comments

Posted by on June 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South and mumps for Christmas . . .

Christmas morning dawned clear and bright in my town in 1939. I was seven years old that year, an adventurous second-grader that had wished for a cowboy outfit from the Sears catalog, one complete with a gun belt hosting rows of silver bullets and two guns in their holsters, tied down at mid-thigh to facilitate quick draws, sheepskin chaps, a colorful bandana, genuine imitation leather cowboy boots and a genuine high-crowned western sombrero that would shield me from the heat of the western sun and serve as a tool to beat dust from my clothing after an arduous trail drive of cattle to the rail head for shipment to the hordes of people in Chicago longing for western beef and also serve as a drinking vessel for my horse as shown in Hollywood movies.

Evidently Santa was unaware of my wish, or else he mistakenly gave my cowboy outfit to some other kid. Instead I got a drum and a toy train and mumps. Yep, mumps—I awoke Christmas morning with a headache and two serious lumps, one behind each ear. I don’t remember going to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. In those days mumps, measles, whooping cough, chicken pox and a host of other childhood diseases were diagnosed by elder family members, relatives, friends and neighbors. Given the fact that I was at one time or another afflicted with most of those conditions and survived, that system apparently worked, at least in my case.

Each of my two gifts had problems. The drum arrived sans drum sticks. We searched frantically through the discarded Christmas wrappings and boxes but found no drum sticks, not even one.

I improvised with a pair of kitchen spoons, but the substitutes lacked any semblance of authenticity. When I wielded those spoons I neither felt like nor looked like Gene Krupa or Spike Jones—I felt like a dork and looked like a dork. Or perhaps I did look like Spike Jones—that’s Spike on the left, the one with the dorky hat.

Now on to my train and its deficits—it consisted of a really small locomotive with a coal tender, one passenger car, a little red caboose and a rather truncated circular track, one estimated to be no more than 18 inches in diameter. The locomotive was not powered by electricity, not the plug-in kind or the kind produced by dry-cell batteries—nope, not my train.

My train was a windup train—one held the locomotive in one hand and with one’s other hand wound up a steel spring that was inside with a key that projected from its side, similar to opening a can of sardines,  then one placed it on the tracks and released it and clickety clack, clickety clack, until the spring wound down. Clickety clack is the sound that real trains made in those days as they traversed narrowly spaced rail joints,but my train never made that sound.

Nope, no clickety clacks for my train—the key was already wound tight and could not be budged. It arrived tight and remained in that condition as long as I had the train. I was reduced to pushing it along and vocally sounding the clickety clacks. Bummer!

Nowadays train rails run seamless for a mile or more—passengers still hear an occasional clickety but the clack is still a mile away. The rhythm is gone—rather than lulling one to sleep, the anticipation of the next clickety and clack denies fulfillment to passengers longing for and reaching for the arms of Morpheus—the unrhythmic sounds of modern rails actually prevent sleep. Note: Unrhythmic may not be a real word, but it looks good and sounds good so I’ll use it.

I spent the Christmas of 1939 incarcerated in my own home, playing a drum with two kitchen spoons and pushing a toy train around a small circular track, writhing in pain produced by an extreme case of double mumps—not really—I had no pain at all, just lumps, and they vanished a few days later.

In retrospect, I suppose I should feel blessed. While I was housebound with mumps—double mumps, so to speak—I heard a phrase several times, whispered between the adults in my family, something similar to this: I hope they don’t go down on him. It sounded so sinister that I also hoped that they would not go down on me—they didn’t. Fast forwarding to today’s medical terminology, I imagine that parents probably whisper to one another that they hope the mumps will not descend—sounds a bit better, right? Right? Right!

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

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Mede, Zona Belle, Louise and lunch . . .

Mede is the name of a woman that was at one time a neighbor of our family, a lady with two daughters. The elder was named Zona Belle and the younger was Louise. Zona Belle was tall and thin and dark-haired, and Louise was short and fair-haired and very nicely proportioned—I was younger than they were, but I was old enough to appreciate females and their proportions.

In fairness to their mother, I will only say that she was amply proportioned, so ample that in all the years I knew her she had considerable difficulty negotiating stairs—in fact, she was challenged by the height of street curbs. I’m unsure of the spelling of her name, but it was pronounced Mee’de, two syllables with the accent on the first syllable—that spelling appears a bit awkward so I settled on Mede.

I know nothing more about Zona Belle and how she fared later in life, but I certainly hope that life has been, or perhaps was, good for her. Both she and her sister were somewhat reticent in conversations, but in one instance the sisters comported themselves in ways that exposed more of themselves than should have been exposed to a young lad of tender years—a memorable event, one that lingers on, quite favorably, in the memory of that young fellow. I hasten to add that I will neither acknowledge nor respond to any request from anyone to elaborate on that event—I do not even remember it, so don’t bother to ask.

But I digress—back to the younger sister. Louise married, birthed several children and settled down to a nice middle-class existence with her family in a house near her husband’s business of a combination service station and restaurant. At some point in their relationship, the husband became a philanderer and engaged in various infidelities.

Louise did not approve of his activities so she summarily shot and killed him. An investigation was conducted, a charge of murder was filed, a trial followed and Louise was acquitted of all charges. The jury based their acquittal on self-defense, justifiable homicide following long periods of spousal abuse including mental and physical cruelty. All this is hearsay, knowledge that I gleaned while on leave from military service shortly after the trial. The local gossips—specifically my mother and my older sisters—speculated that some, perhaps most, of the spousal abuse charge was inflated and unfair to the deceased husband.

I know nothing more of Louise and her family—I trust they fared well. As for her husband, if he was in fact guilty of long periods of spousal abuse including mental and physical cruelty shame on him, and if he was guilty only of infidelities, then shame on the jury and shame on Louise.

And now for Mede—I lived with my mother, my youngest sister and our stepfather on a Mississippi farm some 15 miles outside the city limits of Columbus, Mississippi. I was enrolled in junior high school in town and rode a bright yellow county school bus to and from school. I abhorred brown-bag lunches and shunned the school cafeteria, primarily because we country bumpkins were the objects of derision for snooty and snotty city-dwelling students, especially those in the upper echelons of society—the sons and daughters of bankers, merchants, car dealers, civil service workers and the like.

Mede at the time lived and worked as a self-employed seamstress in a spacious second-story loft in the business district near my school. My mother worked out a deal with her for me to have lunch there on school days. I don’t know the details of the deal, and I don’t remember the lunches, neither their quality nor their quantity. The arrangement lasted only a few weeks, and I began taking my lunches elsewhere, either at an uptown poolroom or on the river bank where a lady purveyed hamburgers for five cents each. If you like, you can read about the poolroom here, and about the five-cent hamburgers here. Both are worth reading!

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

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a watermelon party . . .

In a recent posting I outed a boy that lived next door to my house on Eleventh Street South. His name was Edward Earl but he responded to Tootie, a justifiable moniker that he could easily demonstrate—Edward Earl could, with little or no urging toot at will, hence the nickname Tootie.

Tootie and I were friends and we rambled together all over town and country, but I don’t remember whether he attended my school. There was another elementary school nearby and he may have been enrolled there. I say may have been, but in retrospect I suspect that he was not enrolled anywhere. I have no memories of walking to or from school with him—I usually walked with my sister, eighteen months older than I and one grade ahead of me. She constantly lorded over me in our elementary school because she was ahead, and I spend a lot of time dreaming and hoping and praying that she would fail at least one grade—two grades if the good Lord could manage it.

But I digress—back to Tootie and the watermelon party.

Early one sunny summer Saturday morning Tootie and I decided to go uptown to check out the flood waters of the Tombigbee River, a normally peaceful stream that was in flood mode at the time and was the subject of much conversation. We walked the eleven blocks east to First Street, then eleven blocks north to Main Street, a distance of some two miles—city blocks usually run about twelve blocks to the mile.

Most of the homes on First Street were, and I suppose still are, owned and occupied by the upper crust of Columbus—the wealthy, the near wealthy and a few wannabees. All the homes fronted First Street and backed up to the bluff overlooking the river. We checked out the flood waters from several backyards along the street, and at one point the water had risen so high that we were able to walk out over the flooded area on a limb of a huge tree near the bluff.

Our destination was the high bridge over the Tombigbee River. We traversed the length of the bridge, marveling at the flotsam and jetsam moving down the river, did the uptown thing, checked out the marques and the black-and-white lobby cards posted at the town’s three movie houses, rambled through Woolworth’s and McClellan’s Five and Dime stores—didn’t shoplift anything—and sometime in mid-afternoon we headed for home, primarily because we had no money and we were hungry—considerable time has passed since breakfast.

We made it home safely but not under our own power. Several blocks from home on Eleventh Street was an ice plant, a business that operated five and one-half days a week. The plant’s loading dock was near the street and as we drew near we noticed numerous watermelon halves on the dock and walked over to take a look. Apparently the workers had a watermelon party after their shift was over. The plant was silent, no vehicles or people anywhere in sight.

Evidently the workers had just left because the  melons were still cold. In most of the melons only the heart, the part with no seeds, had been gouged out, so one can guess the rest of this story. Tootie and I feasted on cold watermelon, digging out melon bites with one hand, swatting flies with the other hand and competing to see how far we could spit seeds—for two tired and hungry little boys it was heavenly!

We were still enjoying our find when a city police cruiser, a black-and-white with two patrolmen, drew up and stopped at the loading dock. The driver asked us what we were doing and we told him the honest truth—we told him we were eating watermelon. He asked us for our names and we told the truth to that question also. He suggested that we hop into the rear seat so he could give us a ride home. Tootie said that it was not far and that we would rather walk, that we were going home and only stopped to eat some watermelon.

Both patrolmen exited the car and each opened a rear door. The same officer repeated his suggestion, but couched it in different terms and in a different tone—we scrambled off the dock and into the rear seat. As the doors closed Tootie whispered to me that yeah, they’re taking us home alright—home to jail. I made no response because I was so scared that I couldn’t even swallow, let alone talk.

When we got home we were met by some very relieved and very angry family members. Calls had been made to the city police around mid-morning and the search had been going on ever since. I don’t know what sort of system they had at the time—obviously there was no Amber Alert system in place. I imagine the search was simply a call to local law enforcement personnel to be on the lookout for two wayward boys, one named Mikey and one that was called Tootie.

I have every reason to believe that some sort of corporeal punishment was meted out to us. There was no doubt that we deserved it—we had earned it. However, I do not remember what transpired following our triumphant homecoming. My punishment may have been so severe and so traumatic that I blotted it from my memory. I may awaken some night screaming, drenched with perspiration, reeling from a whip lashing and recalling threats of being drawn and quartered, but I may have suffered nothing more than a few bear hugs and kisses.

At least seventy years have gone by since that day, and I have never had such dreams and what scars I have were earned in other places and in other ways. I have serious doubts that I will ever have such dreams, but hey, anything is possible. The punishment may be so deeply buried in my subconscious that nothing can bring it to the surface—I hope!

I am honest enough to admit the possibility that I may have—may have, mind you—embellished this story a tiny teeny weeny little bit along the way in my efforts and desire to enlighten and entertain those that may pass this way, but the story is true—honest! I can prove it by demonstrating that I can still eat watermelon with one hand and swat flies with the other hand.

It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


 
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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a rabbit . . .

When I left Plato’s realm of spirits—mind you, I was and I remain one of Plato’s ideal philosophical souls—and entered this world, I became part of a family that included my mother, one brother and five sisters, three living and two dead, and no father—well, of course I had a father, but my parents were divorced a few months after I was born, a situation that, technically at least, makes me a little b – - – - – d. That technicality doesn’t bother me, even though it has been verbally confirmed many times by many people over the course of my life. Those verbal confirmations have decreased significantly since I retired from the workforce and relinquished my responsibilities and duties as a manager and supervisor of federal employees.

The Great Depression was in full swing when I left the world of souls and appeared on this planet. My brother  Larry was away from home, gainfully occupied in building roads in Utah and other western states, roads that in his words started nowhere and ended nowhere. Early in the 1930s he joined the CCC—Civilian Conservation Corps—one of the alphabet organizations created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and helped build highways and tunnels in the western part of the United States, systems that would attract many millions of people in the future to our national parks. Following his stint with the CCC, he joined the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II and remained overseas through most of that conflict and never returned to the family except for short visits.

I have only retained two events over the first six years of my life that included my brother. The first memory is one of us fishing in a creek that meandered along near the house my family lived in at the time, a rental house owned by a local doctor named Box, the doctor that delivered me. Located on the outskirts of Vernon, Alabama, it was referred to as the old Box place—my family moved there from my place of birth, the old home place located some five miles south of town—I was little more than a toddler at the time. If you like, you can click here to read about the monumental event of my birth, Unto you this day a child was born. It’s a well-told tale with tons of family history and well worth your time—trust me!

The other memory involves a washtub in the front yard, filled with ice and cans of beer, and my family enjoying and celebrating my brother’s visit and celebrating. It also involves a partially filled beer can left on a table within reach of a small night-shirted boy, and a set of high steps leading up to the front door of our house. The steps were necessary because the house was built on brick piers in an area prone to flooding. I have a vivid memory of standing on the top step in full view of the family gathered around the tub of beer in the front yard and tossing the contents of my stomach—whatever food I had ingested along with the warm beer I had consumed—all over the steps.

Bummer!

I lived at the old Box place with my mother and three sisters. My mother and the two older sisters worked at a garment factory in Columbus, Mississippi, a city thirty miles west of Vernon, just across the Alabama-Mississippi state line. The women walked a short distance to and from town Monday through Friday and traveled to and from their work site on a county school bus set aside for that purpose. They necessarily left at an early hour and arrived home at a late hour every evening.

I and my youngest sister, a child just 18 months older than I, were left in the care of a lady that lived within walking distance. She came to our house early each morning and waited until the women left for work before escorting my sister and me to her house—she returned us home just before the women were due to arrive from work. With her husband and a passel of kids—my mother’s term—ranging from toddlers to young adults, she lived, loved, maintained her family and helped perform the many tasks involved in farming.

Whether they were the owners or were sharecroppers will never be known, but my guess is that they farmed on shares with the owners. Today the family would be called African-American, but at that time they were called everything except that hyphenated politically correct term—my family referred to them as black folks, or blacks, or that black family—other terms were available and quite popular at the time, but none were used by my family. This was a black family that included two white children five days every week, a boy and a girl, both preschoolers, two children that shared playtime and mealtime and after-dinner naps on the front porch with the family and loved every minute of every day there.

My family left Vernon and moved to Columbus when I was five years old. My sister entered the first grade on our arrival there, and I entered the first grade the following year. That year is so filled with memories that I must reserve it for a separate posting, and I will include in this posting a third early memory of my brother Larry.

He came home for a Christmas visit from his labors under the auspices of Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corp. That winter Columbus, Mississippi had an unusually heavy snowfall, and my brother took me on a rabbit hunt, armed only with a broomstick—just the stick, no broom. The broom part was badly worn and my brother sawed off that part. We walked a short distance from our house to a snow-covered field that served as a dumping ground for discarded items such as broken furniture, mattresses, wire-coil bed springs, old stoves and other such refuse. Yes, we lived on the south side of the city, the part that was known as the wrong side of town, an area subjected to such dumping.

This is how one hunts rabbits after a heavy snowfall. One takes a broomstick and pounds on any pile of junk where a rabbit might choose to hide, and chases the rabbit when it leaves its cover. In a heavy snowfall rabbits can’t run, so they tend to flee by burrowing under the snow rather than jumping in and out of it. Ergo, the mighty hunter simply follows the unseen rabbit as it ripples the surface of the snow by burrowing under it, estimates the location of the rabbit’s head—not a difficult task, not even for a southerner, and strikes with the broomstick a number of times, enough time sufficient to render the animal ready for skinning, cleaning and cooking.

My brother only found one rabbit with all his pounding, and that one did exactly as expected, and brother did exactly as narrated above, but landed just one blow with the stick. The rabbit’s forward motion was stopped, and on examination was found to be very much alive, only stunned by the blow but no more blows were struck. I pleaded with my brother to not kill it, and let me take it home as a pet.

And so it was. I carried a full-grown cottontail rabbit home—I never knew whether it was male or female, but just for discussion I’ll say it was a female—perhaps I hoped for some baby rabbits. I had no way to secure her, neither inside the house or outside, and one of my older sisters suggested I make a leash and tie her to a bedpost, and using a six-year old boy’s imagination, I did as suggested.

At this point the reader should probably keep a hankie or a box of Kleenex handy.

I fashioned a leash from discarded pair of nylon stockings, those with the black seams running the length of the stockings, seams that ladies of the day were constantly adjusting to keep them straight on the backs of their legs. I knotted the stocking together, then secured one end of the leash to the cottontail’s neck and the other to a bedpost. My new-found pet could move around no farther than the length of nylon, so whatever deposits he made during the night would be restricted to a small area.

Okay, folks, here’s where you’ll need the hankie or the Kleenex. When I went to sleep my pet was warm and cuddly and full of life, but the next morning she was cold and stiff and dead, choked by the nylon that had tightened during the night with her circling around and around the bedpost.

I know, I know—I know just how you feel, but just blow your nose and wipe away your tears. It happened some 71 years ago, and I will say to you exactly what Lloyd Bridges said in the made-for-television movie Cold Sassy Tree. This is what he said in answer to his children when they learned he intended to marry his long-time office manager although his wife—their mother—had been dead less than a year. What he said was,

Well, she ain’t gonna get any deader!

And that rabbit ain’t gonna get any deader either, so dry your tears. I assure you that never again—not in all those years, not even once—have I strangled another rabbit by leaving it tied to a bedpost with a knotted pair of ladies’ nylons, nor have I ever strangled another rabbit by any other method, nor have I ever advised my children or the children of others to do such—if fact, largely because of that sad event I have strongly stressed that all should respect the value of life, both for humans and for the so-called lower orders of life.

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

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Meet the family . . .

The purpose of this posting is to continue to record events in my life that my children may have heard about but don’t have many of the details, and to make a matter of record other events of which they have no knowledge—of course it is a given that there are events in my life that I will not discuss. Hey, I’m no different than everyone else—some things are better kept to one’s self, right up to and including the instant that the last breath is exhaled.

I have told my children to never give all of one’s self to another or to anything else, not to work and not to play and perhaps not even to You Know Who—I have told them to always hold something in reserve, something to build on in case everything else collapses. I taught them that if that advice seems like nonsense, disregard the advice—just forget it. And as for giving or not giving your all to You Know Who, I believe that each of us should hold back a bit there also. There will always be time to settle up at the final reckoning.

Come to think of it, I know I gave that advice to one of my daughters, but I’m not sure I rewarded the other two with such sage stuff. Hey, maybe I felt that the one I told was the only one that needed such advice, or perhaps I felt that she was the only one that needed and would heed such advice—oh, well, no matter—I suppose it’s not too late—I can still give that advice to the other two daughters.

How about that such sage stuff I mentioned? I really love alliteration!

One of my three princesses—the second born of my three daughters—the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia—has for many years urged me to submit to a recorded interview that she would conduct and create a digital video recording for her and her two sisters, and I suppose she would insist that it would also to be a record for posterity. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone other than my daughters would want such a document. I fact I can’t imagine why they would subject themselves to the torture of seeing me on film—a little bit of me goes a long way!

If I were to make the video and produce 50 copies—one each for my daughters and the additional 47 copies for friends and relatives—I’m sure that most or all of the extra 47 copies would stay on the shelf or wind up in a thrift store. I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand, and most of my relatives are neither in condition nor position to view a DVD. There may be machines and electric receptacles up there—or down there, as the case may be—but I harbor considerable doubt. Besides, I don’t even know 50 people.

My parents and my siblings and all my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have all departed for greener pastures. At one time I was aware of a gaggle of cousins, likable people of both sexes, but I have no knowledge as to whether even one has survived. Considering the ages of their parents when my cousins were born, the odds are that many, perhaps most, and possibly all have departed, and at least a couple of them departed for warmer climes. My nieces and nephews numbered thirteen at one time. I can account for seven of them, but I have no knowledge of the others as to how many and which ones may be extant.

I begged out of the interview, but I agreed to blog on Word Press in lieu of submitting to a video interview. I began blogging 15 months ago in March of 2009, and as of this date I’ve posted 168 stories, most of which deal with me, my immediate family, my parents and my siblings.

I have only slightly touched on my siblings and their families, and my daughter asked specifically for postings relating to them. My children have only a limited knowledge of my relatives, and according to that busybody in Virginia, all three of them would like to learn more.

This posting is merely an advance notice of my intention to bore—oops, I mean regale—my viewers with stories about my parents, my siblings and other relatives—aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozen. And be warned and beware—I intend to be brutally accurate in my stories—after all, why not? Virtually all—perhaps all—of those I will introduce have already departed this vale of fears and tears for Elysian fields, those fields that in Greek mythology were the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. And as this point, I will state that some of my relatives were heroic and some were virtuous, but very few qualified on both counts, as you will see when I begin posting them.

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


 
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Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Postcript to “Mayhem on Delaware campus”:

Postscript to “Mayhem on Delaware campus”  . . . 

A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.

Click here to view my original posting. It prompted the following response from a viewer:

“Significantly reduced the boy’s sentence—impressive. Schools have become such odd places. Being an older father of elementary students, I am shocked at how far schools go to assert their dominance over students. But then, I look at the parents of some of my children’s classmates and understand why.”

The viewer’s response was highly cogent—clear, logical and convincing, and obviously heartfelt. His comment about the dominance exerted on students by today’s schools was insightful and accurate. We daily abdicate our responsibilities and surrender our children to schools at every level—faculty members are in full charge of the students. In effect, the students become charges of the institution (note the definition of charge below).

I responded to the viewer’s comment as follows:

Thanks for the comment—I appreciate your interest. I realize that in your case the thoughts expressed below constitute “preaching to the choir,” but perhaps some wayward readers will be influenced by them, one way or another—we need all the help we can get!

This is the definition of CHARGE (from Wikipedia):

“During the European Middle Ages, a charge often meant an underage person placed under the supervision of a nobleman. Charges were the responsibility of the nobleman they were charged to, and they were usually expected to be treated as guests or as members of the household. Charges were at times more or less used openly as hostages, ensuring that the parents were kept in line.

The nuclear family is fast disappearing from the American scene. Our families have become splintered because of government intrusion by local, state and national authorities, intrusions that we appear to welcome.

I abhor the appellation of Chicken Little, but in this instance I embrace it—the sky is falling, and telling the king won’t stop its downward spiral because the king is, in many ways, responsible for the accelerated pace.

I fear that our slide down that slippery slope will continue.

 

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Parched peanuts and skin crawling . . .

In the fall of my sixteenth year I lived with a farm family in the rural western central area of Alabama. Their farm was one of the Reconstruction era land parcels that were passed out after the end of the Civil War. It originally consisted of 40 acres and a mule, and in 1948, having passed down through some four generations (not of the same family, of course), still boasted the same 40 acres and a mule—not the same mule but one that, without a doubt, remarkably resembled the original, with the same long ears and same surly disposition, but with the same desirable work traits.

The family was comprised of four souls—the wife (my first cousin), the husband (not related to me or to his wife, other than by marriage) and two sons, both under the age of five years. My mother had decided that it would be beneficial for me to live with them and help out around the house and the 40 acres, and in return for that help the family would house me, feed me, clothe me and educate me.

Such a deal!

I arrived on the farm with a small metal trunk, a pitifully small amount of clothing and a pedigreed  pit bulldog named Buster, a fine and faithful companion, registered with the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, the original owner, had named him Buster. I inherited Buster when my brother returned to active duty with the U. S. Army after an absence of several years. My trunk, my dog and I joined the family on the farm in September after the school term had begun.

No mention was made of my being enrolled in the eleventh grade, and I happily maintained my silence. The helping out, however, began immediately. A trip to the nearest town some five miles distant to a dry goods store outfitted me with two pairs of overalls—one pair to wear and one pair to spare, and a pair of sturdy work shoes known as brogans. Some folks referred to them as clodhoppers, and some applied the same term to the wearers of such shoes. Perhaps some of my readers are unfortunate enough to have never worn overalls and therefore may be unfamiliar with such garments. If that be the case, those readers can click here for a detailed description. That posting also tells a story featuring a blue-eyed snake.

And now to my original reason for this posting, namely the parching of peanuts and situations related thereto. The term parched in regard to peanuts may be unfamiliar to some—perhaps roasted would be a more familiar term. On many cool fall evenings and cold winter evenings, the family gathered around an open fireplace and ate parched peanuts. The peanuts, having dried since harvested, were placed on a shallow metal roasting pan and roasted in the shell in the kitchen stove oven, and afterward the pan was placed on the fireplace hearth to keep the peanuts warm and accessible. One needed only to scoop up a handful of peanuts, then sit back, shell and enjoy.

The lady of the house, my first cousin, had a habit of rustling among the peanuts searching for those with scorched shells, saying that they had more flavor. Her moving the peanuts around on metal, with her fingernails sometimes coming in contact with the metal, produced a really irritating sound, one that, as the saying goes, made one’s flesh crawl, a phenomenon that I communicated to my cousin.

I told her that I wished she wouldn’t do that, and she said, “Why not?’ And I took the bait she offered—nay, I took the bait and hook and line and sinker. I said, “Because it makes my flesh crawl.” Her immediate response was, “How did your butt smell when it passed your face?”

Bummer!

Pretty funny, huh? I plotted and schemed for the next several weeks, doing anything and everything I could to produce a sound that would make her flesh crawl, and I finally hit on one. I was cleaning a mirror—voluntarily, and by briskly rubbing the clean glass I made a loud screeching sound and she reacted as I hoped she would. She told me to stop doing that, and I asked her the same question she had asked me. I said “Why?” and she predictably said that it made her flesh crawl.

Oh, boy, oh boy! I said, “How did your butt smell when it passed your face?” She snapped back, “It smelled like it had been licked—how did it taste?”

Bummer again!

I left the family and the farm in late December and traveled some 35 miles by bus to visit my mother and sister in Mississippi. I returned early in January, and en route on my two-mile walk on the graveled road from the paved highway to the farm, I stopped to visit an aunt that lived in the house of my birth. She told me that my cousin’s husband had killed my dog soon after I left for Mississippi.

None of the family was home when I arrived. I packed my belongings and started dragging the trunk  back to the paved highway to wait for the next interstate bus. Luckily a neighboring farmer came along in his Model T Ford and gave me and my trunk a ride to the highway—had he not come by I would probably still be walking—that trunk was pretty heavy, what with the brogans and overalls.

There was a reason my cousin’s husband killed my dog—not a reasonable reason—but I’ll save it for a later posting of some of my exploits—and my exploitation—while playing the part of a farm boy. I have never been back to the house since that day, and I never saw the husband or the two boys again. I trust that they fared well and are still faring well—unless they grew up to be like their father.

I know he died many years ago, but I never knew how the boys may have fared in their lives. Many years later I saw my cousin briefly, just long enough to learn that she had divorced her husband  shortly after I left, and a few years later met and bonded closely—I mean, like really closely—with another woman and eventually became a suicide, taking her own life with a firearm. I don’t know how the other woman fared, nor am I curious about it.

There are many more titillating, interesting, educational, emotional, humorous and fascinating tales I will tell concerning my brief sojourn as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm, but I’ll save them for later postings.

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

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Humor, Writing

 

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Revisited: Vietnam, circa 1969 . . .

This posting was originally unleashed on an unsuspecting audience almost ten months ago on June 9, 2009. It has languished in the bowels of Word Press since that time. The number of visitors the posting has drawn, for whatever reason, is unknown, but the number that bothered to rate the posting is known—one, and in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that the one vote is mine. I briefly considered commenting on the posting’s excellence, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it and remain anonymous. However, when I reread the posting I was so pleased with myself that I gave it a vote of excellence, but no one knows I did it because voters are not identified. Given its poor performance in attracting readers, voters and comments I decided to bring it out into the bright light of 2010 for the enlightenment of those that, for whatever reason, may find it in their wanderings around Word Press.

I beseech you, visitors to this posting, to leave some evidence that you were here—a footprint or a finger print or an old sock or cigarette butt or a few marijuana seeds or a burned bobby pin or a beautifully crafted joint holder—anything to show me that someone was here. Whether the story pleases or displeases you, please take the time to vote on it and leave a comment, either positive or negative. And whether you like it or hated it, tell me why your liked it or hated it—if I know why you hated it, I can change it for the better, and if you liked it I can change it by making it doubly better—or I’ll make it worse if you insist. See how that works?

The original posting follows—view it at http://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/554/

In the spring of 1969 I began an extended vacation in Southeast Asia in Vietnam, one of the most beautiful countries on our planet, courtesy of the United States military with all expenses paid. My trip over was on a commercial airliner, with a brief stop on Guam. That stop was probably meant to prepare us for the sweltering heat we would soon be enjoying at Tan Son Knut air base on the outskirts of Saigon, Vietnam’s capital city, renamed as Ho Chi Minh City when Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam fell to the communist forces of North Vietnam.

My visit at Tan Son Knut was all too brief, but it lasted long enough for me to enjoy the last three months of the southern monsoon. According to our briefings, Vietnam has two distinct monsoon periods, six months in the south and six months in the north, cleverly labeled, respectively, the southern monsoon and the northern monsoon, with one beginning when the other stops. When I was transferred to Da Nang air base in the north, very much against my will, I was privileged to enjoy all six months of the northern monsoon, for a total of nine months of rain while in the country.

Monsoon, by definition, is a seasonal prevailing wind that lasts for several months. A monsoon typically includes the monsoon rainfall, a period during which a region receives the majority of its rain. On my vacation I was granted the opportunity to be drenched almost daily over a 9-month period.

I was wet every day that I spent in Vietnam, one way or the other, either drenched by rain or soaked with perspiration—one is supposed to be cooled by the evaporation of sweat, but in that climate perspiration could not evaporate because the air was already full of moisture. Shoes, boots, wallets and anything else made of leather, if left in an enclosed space for any length of time, would come alive with a solid coat of mold, looking like something in a Japanese movie on late-night television, more realistic, of course. By eight o’clock in the morning my undershirt was soaked with sweat and clung to my body like glue—I learned to not wear an undershirt, and I continue undershirt-less to this day. I also learned to wrap my wallet in plastic to keep it from imitating a Japanese horror monster.

My vacation tour of Vietnam was scheduled to last only 12 months—the thirteenth month was the result of a death in my family. I was allowed a 30-day respite from my vacation activities, but was allowed to complete my original commitment by staying an extra month on my return to Vietnam. The purpose of the thirteenth month was to make up for the break in my vacation tour—incidentally, the U. S. Air Force generously debited the 30 days from my accumulated leave time.

What a gift!

I have much more to tell about my tour of duty in Vietnam, but for this posting I’ll cover little more than the emergency 30-day leave—how it came about, and how and why and by whom it was initially denied but later authorized. I’ll try to be brief, and then return later with more details of my vacation.

Early one morning I was summoned to the office of the Red Cross representative at Da Nang to be informed of the contents of a telegram received from his counterpart in my home town. The telegram stated that my stepfather had died peacefully in his sleep, and that “… the mother is doing well and requests that the service member not return home.” That request not withstanding, I took the telegram to my Personnel Officer and requested a 30-day emergency leave in order to be with my mother to console her in her time of grief. I told him my late stepfather had held that title for 28 of my 37 years, except for a brief period during a divorce from my mother, a divorce that was soon followed by remarriage to my mother. I told the Personnel Officer that I felt that I owed my stepfather a return home because he was the only father I ever knew.

The truth of the matter? I desperately yearned to leave beautiful Vietnam, if only for a brief period, and 30 days of emergency leave was authorized in such circumstances as the death of my stepfather.

The Personnel Officer, a major, denied my request because the telegram stated quite clearly that my mother did not want me to return. My initial reaction was anger, but I calmly—well, sorta calmly—said to the major, “Sir, if my mother had requested my presence and I did not want to return, would you have ordered me to go?” He responded to my question  with these exact words, uttered with strength, volume and passion:

“Sergeant, that’s insubordination!”

I considered that for a long moment and then said, “Thank you, major.” I saluted, did an about-face, left his office and the building and hotfooted it to the Non-commissioned Officer’s Club, an organization that I was a member of and a very frequent visitor to, and I was also a part-time off-duty worker—I considered the Club Manager to be a good friend.

I briefly explained the situation to him and asked if he could get a call through to my wife in San Antonio. He immediately picked up the phone and established a connection with a U. S. Navy vessel anchored off-shore from China Beach. From that ship the call went to a satellite, from that satellite to the ground somewhere in Scandinavia, then up to another satellite and from that satellite down to my home phone in San Antonio, Texas, all in a matter of minutes.

My friend handed me the phone and I heard my wife’s perfectly clear “Hello,” as distinct as if she were in the room with us. I told her not to talk, just listen and do what I was going to tell her to do. I told her to call my mother in Mississippi and tell her to go to the local Red Cross immediately and tell them that she desperately needs her son home from Vietnam, that she is suffering mightily from her recent loss and wants her son to come home because she feels he will be able to assuage her anguish and grief—and tell her that time is of the essence!

I used several unrepeatable words and phrases to emphasize the importance of the call to my mother. I told my wife to tell my mother that if she failed to convince the Red Cross to authorize my absence from helping lose our war with North Vietnam, she would never, ever, see me again or hear from me again. This was not a threat—it was a solemn promise that I intended to keep. My wife said she understood and we terminated the call. This was no time for small talk—time was of the essence!

I felt no pride in what I was doing, nor do I feel pride in it now. It was necessary and needed to be done, similar to the ultimatum given to the defenders of the Alamo when surrounded by the Mexican army: They were told, “Surrender now, or we will give no quarter.” I wanted my mother to surrender and deliver, and to understand the consequences if she failed—I would give no quarter. There was no time for deliberation, reluctance or self-recrimination—I needed action, not excuses—time was of the essence!

Early the next morning I was again called to the office of the American Red Cross, and  the local representative gave me another telegram and told me to take it to the Personnel Office. Always one to comply with a direct order, I hastened my return to the office of the Personnel Officer. I was again ushered into that worthy’s office, wherein I saluted smartly, placed the telegram on his desk, stepped back and remained at attention while he read the message, a message which consisted of the things my wife told my mother to say, but without the unrepeatable words and phrases.

The major, apparently speechless, said nothing. Not a word, at least not vocally, but his face spoke volumes. He stamped the telegram APPROVED, with almost enough force to make a dent in the desk. I retrieved the approval, said “Thank you, sir,” saluted smartly and smartly pivoted 180 degrees (an about face), and went to the Administration Section to process for my return to the land of the big PX and round door knobs.

I departed Da Nang the same day on a commercial airliner, stuffed mostly with military personnel who had completed their Vietnam vacations. At the exact moment the wheels broke ground, a concerted and prolonged cheer erupted from the throats of some 200 men—I didn’t expect it and it scared the hell out of me, but I managed to join the choir, albeit somewhat belatedly.

I returned to Da Nang 30 days later to complete my tour in Vietnam—I never saw the major again, something we both can appreciate.

That’s all for now. I’ll have to get back later with more details of my vacation in Vietnam. It was one of the most memorable times in my life, a life which has, to date encompassed beau coup memorable moments.

See there? Even the word “beau coup” brings back memories of Vietnam—France occupied and fought in that country for many years. They no doubt took many mementos home with them, but also left many mementos behind when they left Vietnam, including a substantial number of Vietnamese mothers with children fathered by French soldiers. The French efforts in Vietnam were, of course, a prelude to American soldiers leaving similar mementos, probably in even more substantial numbers, of Vietnamese mothers with children fathered by American soldiers.

The plight and the beauty of those children deserve a separate posting.

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

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Wylie, Texas possum saga, cont’d . . .

This posting was prompted by an e-mail from my son-in-law in Wylie, Texas concerning his running battle with possums in the attic. Other postings related to that saga can be found here, and here and also here.

Here is his e-mail:

The possum saga, continued:

Possum returns to attic after fraternizing with rabid possums and skunks recently highlighted in the news.

It takes even better food to entice possum into trap because he now knows what it is. More fruit and peanuts fail—bait escalation includes pizza, fried chicken, mahi-mahi and rack of lamb with mint sauce—still no possum in trap.

Finally $150 Chateaubriand meal from Three Forks and glass of Baron de Rothschild ’57 claret does the trick. Possum decides he is ready for another trip to visit his country cousins and enters the trap for the meal.

Brantley shoots possum while still in trap, rolls same in plastic bag and places in the trash.

I just received your e-mail concerning the demise of a possum in your attic, and I feel compelled to tell you that it was not the same possum you released into the wild “a mile away” from your house. This was definitely a different animal, obviously a female, and obviously accustomed to the finer things in life, particularly gustatory delights. Given her appetite for fine wine and Chateaubriand, she was probably a procreating Parisian possum in Plano’s possum population (I just love alliteration!).

This lady (?) possum was very likely a one-time companion—well, perhaps more than one time—to the one you captured and released. That teenage possum was in a blue funk, trying desperately to understand the loss of his one true love. That’s why he paced your attic—he couldn’t sleep for thinking of what had been, and what could again be if they could only be reunited.

Other than mere physical attraction, he had little interest in the one you summarily shot, placed in a plastic bag and consigned to the trash. She was just a temporary diversion while he continued his quest for the one trapped by your next door neighbor some time prior. The fate of that possum is unknown, but your neighbor took a snapshot of her (pictured at right). She is gorgeous, and one can readily understand why the teenager you released into the wild had such strong feelings for her!

And I’m sure he was fed up with the Parisian possum’s constant whining and complaining about his inability to satisfy her materialistic needs, such as a bigger house, better food, etc. Otherwise, he was probably doing okay for himself in their relationship. Through an intensive online search, I found an image of a female Parisian possum, pictured at right (there goes that alliteration again!). Judging by this image, it’s likely that a friendly relationship with a lady Parisian possum would be exciting and memorable.

Congratulations on your latest feat, and I assure you that it detracts in no way from your “bring ‘em back alive” status. Even Frank Buck, when faced with death or injury to himself or to others, dispatched elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers and other such wildlife to another world, far away from zoos and their natural habitat—and he probably also sometimes shot them simply because he was—well, in such instances, he was referred to as Frank “just got pissed off at ‘em” Buck.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Possum in the attic . . . got ‘im!

My favorite attorney son-in-law and his adventures with wildlife—specifically with possums— prompted this posting. I have two other sons-in-law, one of which is my favorite computer whiz son-in-law and the other is my favorite truck broker son-in-law).  My favoritism fluctuates among sons-in-law depending on my needs—whether legal matters, computer related matters, or matters related to the international transportation of goods (I also depend on the truck broker son-in-law and his son—my grandson—to assist in moving weighty goods to and from my home).

A related posting, Ode to a Possum, a must–read, can be found here.

More possum info here.

And even more here.

This is the e-mail I received from the son-in-law that luxuriates in marriage with my princess daughter in Wylie, Texas:

Here is the update on our “Possum in the Attic”:

Night 1:

Trap is carefully set; loaded with peanut butter, peanuts and an old banana.

Next day trap check:

Banana is mysteriously missing, trap was not sprung, peanut butter and peanuts untouched. Trap is adjusted for sensitivity, as it is suspected the possum is very cleverly eating the banana from outside the trap or tip toeing into the trap and slyly leaving the peanuts and peanut butter to confuse the trapper (which has had considerable success).

Night 2:

After trap is adjusted, it’s re-baited with a nice bunch of canned peaches. Peanut butter and peanuts from night before are left in place.

1:00 AM:

Kelley hears a rustling in attic and suspects the possum is up and about. Brantley stays fast asleep, hearing nothing.

7:00 AM:

Kelley checks the trap and THE POSSUM IS NABBED!  Curiously, the peaches and peanut butter and peanuts are gone completely. He’s rather large but seemingly docile and even appears friendly. Kelley demands that he be set free unharmed.

7:15 AM:

Brantley sets possum free a mile or so away in the woods. Possum seems pleased and in a good mood—Brantley wonders whether a mile is far enough.

Thus ends the possum hunt.

Or does it?

I think I’ll keep the trap for a few weeks—just in case!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to a possum . . .

Please note: There are several other postings related to this literary examination and elimination of possums in attics. Such problems are commonplace in our state, in fact in most states, and perhaps these postings will enable others to handle such problems more effectively and efficiently. The other postings can be found here, and here.

Oh, and also here.

Following in the footsteps of Keats, Shelley, Robert Frost and other exalted poets, I have penned Ode to a Possum. An ode is defined as, A lyric poem of some length, usually of a serious or meditative nature and having an elevated style and formal stanzaic structure. My Ode to a Possum conforms to that definition perfectly.

As with many similar lyric odes, this one is meant to be sung. My list of preferred singers would include Toby Keith and Diana Ross—perhaps even George Jones or Whitney Houston, depending on their current medical status.

My first choice would have been Tiny Tim and his ukulele, but that worthy is long gone, both from the music scene and from this world—may he forever happily and gracefully tiptoe through the tulips.

A perceptive reader of this posting will note the absence of an O, as in Opossum, and will undoubtedly wonder why it was omitted. That’s because the prefix O is not used in our southern regions, and especially not in the sovereign state of  Texas, neither in writing nor in speaking.

A similar spelling may be noted in the name of our Irish president, Barack O’bama—the O is present with an apostrophe added, as in O’Reilly, O’Brien and other Irish names. (Thanks, and a tip of the kingly crown to Kinky Friedman, our perennial candidate for political office in Texas, for defining the president’s heritage by adding the apostrophe and for saying he would vote for him).

And here is my lyric poem:

Ode to a Possum

In Wiley lived a possum named Fred,
That used Brantley’s insulation for his bed.
He rambled ’round the attic
Till the family grew frantic,
And wished that ol’ Fred was dead.

Brantley baited a trap with wine,
And chateaubriand quite fine.
Of each did Fred partake,
His death then did fake,
And Brantley told Kelley “It’s time.”

“Don’t kill him,” Kelley then cried,
But Brantley took Fred for a ride.
No mercy would he show,
Cause ol’ Fred had to go.
In the attic he could not abide.

Just past the limits of the city,
Brantley’s heart overflowed with pity.
Though his eye shed a tear,
Fred had nothing to fear,
And I’m nearing the end of this ditty.

Fred did Brantley return to the wild,
By handling him gently and mild.
But when Fred was free,
He climbed a tall tree,
And at Brantley thumbed his nose like a child.

The saga of Fred will be told,
By Kelley’s children when old,
How a possum so bold,
Came in from the cold,
But succumbed to a trap that would hold.

That’s my Ode to a Possum and I’m sticking to it.


 

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I married my barber . . .

The above title seemed appropriate at first, but on serious reflection I realized that the title involved certain conclusions that could possibility be drawn by viewers. I therefore hasten to add that my barber is a lady, a lady that I married in 1952 and one that has hung around and tolerated me for the past 57 years, and our union continues in its 58th year with no abatement of the passions that prompted the marriage (that simply means that we still love one another). I can understand my love for her, but I have never fully understood her love for me.

Que sera, sera—whatever will be, will be!

My wife became my barber in 1983, the year that we left the sanctity and security of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and relocated to the Washington, D.C. area following my unlikely promotion to a higher level in my duties as a law-enforcement officer in our federal Civil Service. I managed to endure those duties for three years before I bailed out and returned to Texas—to Houston, not to the Rio Grande Valley—and six months later to San Antonio for an additional ten years in service and retirement in 1997. Texas is our adoptive father and San Antonio is our adoptive mother—we love both, and we intend to remain in that family throughout this life and the next—see, I told you we love them!

The above two paragraphs comprise the foundation for this posting, one that could accurately be titled, “The time my wife cut my hair and my left ear prior to my travel from Arlington, Virginia to New York, NY and on to London, England and Johannesburg, South Africa and finally to Botswana, the capital city of the sovereign nation of Botswana, Africa.” That trip and its several stops, both outbound and return, are fodder for later posts and will be attended to in time. Just as a teaser, I will tell you that at that time, apartheid still ruled in South Africa—click here for details of that nation’s apartheid rule from 1948 until 1994.

I was running a bit behind for my flight out of National Airport (later renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport), but I was desperately in need of a trim. My barber gave me the trim but inadvertently removed a one-inch strip of skin from the outer portion of my left ear, a wound that bled very little but quickly became an unsightly scab—it ultimately healed with no discernible after effects, but that one-inch strip figured prominently in my trip to exotic foreign countries. It became a topic for conversation, and attracted stares from everyone I faced on the trip, including immigration and customs officers, taxi drivers, airline employees and fellow travelers. While few questioned the wound, their gaze invariably strayed from eye contact to ear contact, a really disconcerting situation. It made the viewer appear uninvolved, and somewhat cross-eyed. At first I felt obligated to explain the wound, so I assembled several canned responses to use when someone asked, “What happened to your ear?” I finally gave that up, and either ignored the question or steered the conversation in a different direction. Bummer!

Oh, I just remembered that my mother labeled eyes that seemed to be looking in different directions as “A and P eyes.” She explained that by saying that one looked toward the Atlantic and the other toward the Pacific. I make no apology for her little joke, nor do I feel compelled to apologize for recounting it here. My mother was a lovely lady with no hint of bias of any fashion toward any race, color,  or creed, nor was she biased toward noticeable physical or mental aberrations. And as the adage goes, the fruit never falls far from the tree—like mother, like son—seriously!

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

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Family, foreign travel, Humor, marriage, Travel

 

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Words to live by: Lean on me . . .

The purpose of this posting is to share, with anyone and everyone who happens to pass this way, the beautiful thoughts expressed by Samuel Ullman in his poem Youth, excerpts of which appeared recently on Refdesk as the THOUGHT OF THE DAY. The posting is also a recommendation for Refdesk as a home page. Refdesk has an astonishing range—it has never failed me in my searches, regardless of their purpose. Donations to Refdesk are welcomed, but otherwise the service is free!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY:

“Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of red cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will; a quality of the imagination; a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over a life of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty, more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.” – Samuel Ullman

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Youth, by Samuel Ullman:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the Infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

A brief biography of Ullman (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia):

Samuel Ullman (April 13, 1840 – March 21, 1924) was an American businessman, poet, humanitarian. He is best known today for his poem Youth which was a favorite of General Douglas MacArthur. The poem was on the wall of his office in Tokyo when he became Supreme Allied Commander in Japan. In addition, he often quoted from the poem in his speeches, leading to it becoming better known in Japan than in the United States.

Born in 1840 at Hechingen, Germany to Jewish parents, Ullman immigrated with his family to America to escape discrimination at the age of eleven. The Ullman family settled in Port Gibson, Mississippi. After briefly serving in the Confederate Army, he became a resident of Natchez, Mississippi. There, Ullman married, started a business, served as a city alderman, and was a member of the local board of education.

In 1884, Ullman moved to the young city of Birmingham, Alabama, and was immediately placed on the city’s first board of education.

During his eighteen years of service, he advocated educational benefits for black children similar to those provided for whites. In addition to his numerous community activities, Ullman also served as president and then lay rabbi of the city’s reform congregation at Temple Emanu-El. Often controversial but always respected, Ullman left his mark on the religious, educational, and community life of Natchez and Birmingham.

In his retirement, Ullman found more time for one of his favorite passions – writing letters, essays and poetry. His poems and poetic essays cover subjects as varied as love, nature, religion, family, the hurried lifestyle of a friend, and living “young.” It was General Douglas MacArthur who facilitated Ullman’s popularity as a poet – he hung a framed copy of a version of Ullman’s poem “Youth” on the wall of his office in Tokyo and often quoted from the poem in his speeches. Through MacArthur’s influence, the people of Japan discovered “Youth” and became curious about the poem’s author.

In 1924, Ullman died in Birmingham, Alabama.

In 1994, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Japan-America Society of Alabama opened the Samuel Ullman Museum in Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood. The museum is located in the former Ullman residence and is operated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In my not very humble opinion, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written (title and chorus are in bold italics):

Lean on Me

Sometimes in our lives

we all have pain

We all have sorrow

But if we are wise

We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on

For it won’t be long

‘Til I’m gonna need

Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride

If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill those of your needs

That you don’t let show

Lean on me, when you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on

For it won’t be long

‘Til I’m gonna need

Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear

That you can’t carry

I’m right up the road

I’ll share your load

If you just call me

Lean on me, when you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on

For it won’t be long

‘Til I’m gonna need

Somebody to lean on

So just call on me brother,

when you need a hand

We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that

you’d understand

We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me . . .

All lyrics are property and copyright Bill Withers.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2009 in Family, foreign travel, friends, Writing

 

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Annabelle died on Monday . . .

AnnieBelleMy best friend died on Monday, the nineteenth of January 2009, at exactly 3:33 p.m. while I was rushing her to the doctor. She was born with an enlarged heart, a heart which abruptly failed after serving her well for more than 12 years. The friend that died was Annie, a beautiful long-haired calico cat, and a loved and loving member of our family for more than 10 years.

Sue, a dear friend who lives in Alabama, learned of our loss and sent a beautiful sympathy card and a touching consolation e-mail. After reading my response, she sent the following e-mail:

“My heart continues to go out to you and Janie—it truly does take time for a broken heart to heal. Thank you for the touching e-mail and for sharing your heart with me. What a blessing you, Janie and Annie all were to one another—truly one of life’s most precious gifts. I look forward to seeing you both again sometime this year. Meanwhile, keep in mind when you see Annie again, you’ll be seeing Cindy and me also—we’re a package deal.

“With so much heartfelt love, Sue.”

This e-mail was my belated response to Sue’s initial card and e-mail:

“Sue, please forgive us for not responding sooner to your heartfelt e-mail and your beautiful card. Janie and I have had a difficult time dealing with Annie’s death. We have just now been able to discuss her without both of us breaking down. We see her in every room and in every position, and hear sounds, especially during the night, which remind us of her and, for an ever-so-brief moment, bring her back to us. We have had other pets and loved them all, but before Annie we never knew that a creature’s love could be so deep and strong and forgiving, and that such love could be demonstrated in so many ways.

“Annie and I were a couple for ten years, and we remain a couple. Since her death I have come to realize that she and I were, and still are, soul mates, and I believe that our separation is temporary. Yes, I believe that animals have souls, and it appears that Pope John Paul II agreed with me. That can be confirmed at this web site:

http://www.dreamshore.net/rococo/pope.html

“I’ve spent a lot of time online recently. I found a poem, one so sad that it broke my heart, but it is so uplifting that at the same time my heart was breaking, my spirit soared. The poem can be found, with numerous variations, on many web sites by googling “rainbow bridge poem.”

Annie & DadHere is the poem in its entirety:

“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

“When a pet that has been especially close to someone here dies, that beloved pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals that were ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those that were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one thing; they each miss someone very special to them who was left behind.

annie at comp 2“They all run and play together, but the day will come when a special one—the most special among the special—will suddenly stop and look into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent. Her eager body quivers. Suddenly she leaves the group and begins to run, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.

“Annie has spotted me, and when we meet we will cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. Her happy kisses will rain upon me; my hands will again caress her, and I will look again into the trusting eyes of my Annie, so long gone from my life but never absent from my heart.

“Then we’ll cross Rainbow Bridge together. . .”

Annie2I took the liberty of changing the poem to make it personal—it wasn’t easy—making the changes was difficult and the tears flowed freely, but the physical catharsis provided some psychological relief—albeit temporary.

Thank you, Sue, for the sympathy and understanding expressed in your e-mail, and thanks for the beautiful card. You’re one of a select group of people, quite rare, who can convey their most profound feelings to others—willingly, unsolicited and without hesitation. Janie and I are proud of your friendship for us and for Cindy (our favorite daughter, but don’t tell the other two!).

May God bless you and keep you—you’re always welcome in our home.

We’ll leave the light on for you.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2009 in death, Family, friends, pets

 

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A tale of two sisters . . .

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of—oops, wrong story—I’ll start over:

I’m posting this letter in its entirety, just as it was written, mailed and received more than 15 years ago, on the off-chance that the relationship at that time between me and two of my older sisters might be of interest. Fifteen years ago we were the only members left from a family comprised of two parents, one step-father and seven children (two boys and five girls). Not all at the same time, of course, because the total fluctuated with new births and deaths. Now the family has dwindled to one—I’m the last one standing—that’s not too unusual, since I was the last one to join the family. It’s a classic case of “last one out, last one standing.”

San Antonio Int’l Airport
February 22, 1994

Dear schwesters,

Schwesters is German for sisters. It gets worse. You are schwesters to me, but to Alta you are schwesterschafts, or sisters-in-law. And you thought being a schwester was tough! So that’s our German lesson for today and will probably be our only German lesson, because I’ve forgotten almost everything else (except for a few of the naughty words).

President’s Day has come and gone, and I’m sure we are all the better for it. A school teacher was telling her class about George Washington, and how he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” A kid in the back row (probably little Johnny) hollered, “Yeah, but he married a widow.” That was funny when I was a kid. I never really figured out just why, but it was funny. We told it over and over, and it got funnier every time we told it.

It’s 7:30 in the evening and I’m at work, waiting on a flight from Mexico City. I worked 8-5 today, but stayed to work the 6:30 flight on overtime. So the 6:30 flight is now an 8:00 flight. I guess they had a maintenance problem and left Mexico City late. I sure wouldn’t have stayed if I had known it would be late. I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut.

Hey, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow is up to 40 million dollars, so maybe by the time you read this I’ll be up to my ears in money. Don’t really know what I would do with it. Can only drive one car at a time, or live in one house at a time, or wear more than one pair of pants or one pair of shoes at a time. I guess I could have more than one wife at a time, except Alta would take a very dim view of that. Speaking of wives, Oscar Wilde has been quoted as saying, “Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.” No doubt about it, that Oscar was a clever fellow with words.

A guy who recently won $7 million here in Texas was told that $7 million won’t  buy happiness. He said, “Maybe not, but it’ll make one helluva down payment.” Or as Jackie Gleason said when told that money won’t buy happiness, “Just give me the money and I’ll do my own shopping.”

February 25, 1994

Well, I’ve been gone 3 days but now I’m back, and I’ll bet you didn’t even miss me!  It’s Friday now, about 3 p.m., and I’m working the day shift. And I’m NOT up to my ears in lottery winnings. The $40 million was won by a black 36-year-old female city bus driver in Houston, Texas. Only one winner. Her first check was for $2,100,000, and she gets one just like that one every year for the next 19 years. Pretty hard to take, huh!

The lady I work with (Doris) went home with me for lunch and we stopped at a garage sale. I bought a large (14 inch wide) Fostoria punch bowl with 15 cups for $30. I asked the lady before I bought it if it had any chips, and she said no. I got to the car with it and found a chipped place on the rim, under the piece of masking tape that had the price marked on it. So I took it back, pointed out the chipped place, and she gave back my money. I wanted to tell her what Mama always said, that “You’ll go to the bad place just as quick for lying as for stealing,” but I didn’t. Maybe it was just coincidence that the tape was placed exactly over the chip. Yeah, sure it was! If you believe that, you’ll believe anything, right?

We had lunch with Alta, got back to work, and Doris had a new price list on Fostoria that came in the mail while we were at lunch. The bowl is listed for $240 and the cups are $14 each. In other words, I could have bought $450 worth of Fostoria for $30, and didn’t because of a teeny-tiny chip! So I called Alta, gave her directions to the garage sale and told her to go buy the bowl and cups, and to play ignorant and try to get them cheaper because of the chipped place. It’s probably been sold by now, but she is going by there just in case. I’ll let you know how this turns out, probably in a few minutes. Isn’t this exciting? See how bored I am? And I don’t even like Fostoria!

Told you it would just be a few minutes. Alta just called. She bought the Fostoria, but didn’t have any luck trying to jack down the price. So I now have an extensive collection of Fostoria – 16 pieces! Are either of you interested? That doesn’t look right. Is either of you interested? Still doesn’t look right. Anyway, if either of you is/are interested, I’ll make you a great deal – just $300 for all 16 pieces. You’ll get a 33 percent discount of the estimated value and I’ll make a profit of 900 percent—such a deal! Just don’t look under that piece of masking tape!

I’m kidding, of course. I’ll let either of you have the set for $250. And if that’s too much, I’ll give it to either of you, but you’ll have to pick it up in person at our house. And if you both show up, I, with the wisdom of King Solomon, will divide the 16  pieces equally – one half of the bowl for each of you, and seven and one-half cups for each of you. That way you’ll have to get together when you want to party. You can stick the bowl and one cup back together, then split them up again afterward.

February 26, 1994

Looks like I’ll never finish this one. Just to bring you up to date on the Fostoria punch bowl—I had a time finding the chipped place on the rim when I got home. Seems like the “lady” sanded down the rough spot after I left, and told Alta it didn’t have any chipped places. I guess I’m going to have to add garage sales people to my list of less than trustworthy persons. They rank right up there with used-car salesmen, insurance agents and realtors.

The Winter Olympics are over, and I’m sure you’re as happy as I am. I’ve had enough of figure skaters to last me forever. Did you hear about the commercial Tonya Harding has with a baton company? “Who says nothing beats a great pair of L’Eggs?”

All the medal winners in figure skating are coming to the Alamodome in San Antonio in June. Alta wants to get tickets, but she’ll have to get someone else to go with her. Too many people, and too much hassle getting into town and back out again. They built the Alamodome right in the middle of downtown San Antonio where parking was already at a premium. People use Park and Ride areas, then take a city bus to the Dome. And they wait sometimes for two hours and more for transportation after the game is over. Not me. No way. I’ll stay home and watch it on television.

Did I mention that I got a scanner for my computer? Well, I did, about two weeks ago. I now have the capability to scan in just about anything, change it in just about any way I want, then print it out. Maybe I’ll add a few photos to this letter— a picture of the house perhaps, so you’ll be able to tell the taxi driver where to stop when you come to visit. Lauren just had some really nice school pictures made so I’ll try a shot of her also, and maybe one of Landen.

The scanner is a lot of fun. I put in a recent snapshot of some friends, a couple we knew in Donna, and spruced them up a little—took all the lines from the lady’s face and neck, touched up her hairdo a bit, de-wrinkled him and took the light reflections out of his glasses, straightened his eyebrows and gave him a full head of hair (he is nearly bald). Boy, they look great! Yep, I’m having fun with the scanner, but I’m not making any money with it, naturally.

It’s about 3 p.m., and I’m at work. Nothing to do, as usual. We have three flights from 9 to 11, 1 at 3 p.m., then nothing else until 6:30 p.m. Saturdays are nothing days, because we do no administrative functions, just work international arrivals, and since they drop down to almost nothing on Saturday, our biggest problem is staying awake. I guess I’ll stay and work the 6:30 flight—not because I want to and not necessarily because I’m needed—it’s mostly because I get paid double-time for the overtime and it counts on retirement, so I’m not turning any of it down.

Did I mention I bought a barbecue grill? Did. Didn’t want to but I did. The results are not worth the effort of getting ready and cooking and cleaning afterward. But I got out-voted on the matter. Alta wanted me to get one, so I did. I feel a bit better about it because I discovered a great way to clean the grill. No muss, no fuss. We grilled two nights ago and I put the cooking grate between newspapers, hosed them down and left the grate in the yard overnight. My dog Mikki got the paper off and you wouldn’t believe how clean she left that grate—it was ready for the next cookout.

What is it they say about necessity being the mother of invention? I have accidently invented a no-cost hands-off way to clean barbecue grill grates. Well, there would be some initial cost to my system if a person didn’t already have a dog, because they’d have to go out and buy one – unless they could borrow one from a neighbor. Come to think of it, that might well be an ideal entrepreneurial enterprise, renting out dogs overnight to serve as barbecue grate cleaners, with special rates for a full weekend. I know there are some companies which have rental guard dogs, so maybe the guard dogs could be utilized for my system and do double duty for the renter.

Hey, don’t laugh! Just look how much money the hula-hoop and the slinky and the pet rock made for the people who invented them. And I saw on television that some people in a small town near San Antonio have begun selling manure—no, not artificial manure but real manure, bono fide manure, as in horse-apples and cow-pies (dried, of course) sculpted in the shapes of animals. They give them such names as turdles (get it?), doo-doo birds (get it?), barnyard bagels (get it?), cow-pie pigeons and other shapes and names I don’t remember.

The odiferous objects d’art are intended to be placed in flower and vegetable gardens to enrich the soil as they slowly dissolve in the rain and sun and wind. I know – you’re wondering who did the sculpting, and how. So am I, but I don’t want to know bad enough to call the station and ask. Anyway, I believe if people will go for manure in the shape of animals, my COMBINATION BARBECUE  CLEANER AND BURGLAR  CHASER should be a winner.

Guess I better wind this thing down. I’ll take it home, add some photos on Sunday and mail it on Monday.

Lots of love, from all of us and ours to all of you and yours.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2009 in Family, Humor

 

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