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Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator on the farm . . .

To paraphrase Art Linkletter in his old-time television show, Kids say the darndest things, humor can be found in the darndest places. I received this video recently in an e-mail from a lovely retired couple in Florida that migrated from North to South, legally of course, leaving the winters of Ohio and fleeing for the flora and fauna of Florida, going from icicles to iguanas, from shoveling snow to seeking shade, and apparently living and loving every minute of life in the sunshine state.

If this seems familiar, it’s probably because I’ve used this same paraphrase in a previous post. Click here to read that post. It’s a really funny story well worth reading, featuring bagpipes, burials, blunders and septic tanks—that should pique your curiosity.

This is the video from YouTube that the Florida couple sent, a video that has already been viewed one and three quarters of a million times—you can keep it moving towards the two million mark, but please be forewarned that it makes a strong political statement, an incredibly funny one but still definitely political.

If you tend to lean toward the left on the political spectrum you might want to skip the video—it might make you laugh even if you are so tilted to the left that you are lying down, so view it at your own peril. However, if you tend to lean toward the right even ever so slightly, you will be doing yourself a gross disservice if you don’t watch it. Please note that the audience found humor in four separate places in this brief portion of the president’s speech, but their laughter and applause reached a crescendo when the Great Communicator delivered the punchline. And at the time of this posting, 2, 625 viewers say they liked the video and only 80 have voiced their dislike. None of the votes is mine—I strive to remain neutral in this area, a position that is rather difficult to maintain and I sometimes stray, but I still try.

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

 

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Listen up, Chris Matthews: Palin knows more than you do!

In your show on the evening of Friday, June 3, 2011 you covered Sarah Palin’s visit to Boston. You skewered her when she said that Paul Revere rode his horse through the towns to warn the people that the British were coming, and you said that Palin knows nothing. You said that the warning was one if by land and two if by sea, and that everybody knows that.

That phrase was not a warning—it was merely a signal to Paul Revere, as immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem Paul Revere’s Ride. Click here for the poem and Wikipedia’s discussion. And Chris, for your enlightenment the first two verses of the poem are as follows:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hand a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

So there, Chris Matthews—that one if by land, and two if by sea was merely a signal to Paul Revere to jump on his horse and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm, and here it needs to be pointed out that Palin used the term town as opposed to the term village, but in my unlearned opinion the two terms are interchangeable. In summary, Palin was right and you were wrong. And now to wrap this one up, although I do not enjoy repeating myself, I will repeat myself:

Nanny, nanny, boo-boo, Palin knows more than you do!

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

Postscript: I would be remiss if I failed to insert at least a smidgen of humor into this posting. Many years ago, far back in the mist-shrouded years of my boyhood in the past century, a popular corruption of Paul Revere’s Ride was told and retold by me and by my fellow elementary students:

Listen, my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
He jumped in his car and stepped on the gas,
And the floorboard flew up and busted his donkey.

In case you haven’t noticed, please note that the final word in the ditty above, namely the word donkey, obviously does not rhyme with gas—it is a harmless synonym used in an effort to remain in compliance with the language limitations favored by WordPress.

 
 

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A feral cat, a loaf of bread and an execution . . .

Cat in the Hat Barn

A couple of months ago I posted the story of my family’s brief attempt at living life on a farm in Mississippi in a three-room house with no bathrooms, no electricity and no running water. Winter was kept at bay by two fireplaces that heated the combination living room and bedroom and a separate bedroom. Added to those two rooms were the combination kitchen and dining area and a lean-to intended for storage, primarily for stove and fireplace wood and livestock feed. Click here to read the details—it’s well worth the read, featuring tales of cotton picking, sexual abuse of chickens, killing twin fox terriers and threatening runaway children with a shotgun.

This posting is about an incident on the farm that featured a feral tomcat. One evening at dusk my stepfather, knowing that I longed for a pet, came in from the barn and told me there was a wild cat in the barn and that if I could catch him I could keep him for a pet. Although I was exultant at the thought of having a pet, I approached the barn with more than a modicum of apprehension—I had learned earlier that his promises should not be taken literally, but with a grain of salt.

One Saturday soon after we moved to the farm he promised to bring me a present from town. I felt sure that it would be a bicycle, but it turned out to be a wheelbarrow, to be used to clean stables and other indelicate and backbreaking activities. I spent that Saturday afternoon shoveling you-know-what out of long-neglected barn stalls and hauling the loads to our garden and to what my stepfather called his horse pasture, although we didn’t have any horses. Also one year near Christmas time he promised to bring my sister and me dogs as Christmas presents—he gave her a collie and me a Pekingese—hers decorated an ashtray and mine was a leaded doorstop. Read the full story here.

I was surprised to find an actual wild feral cat in the barn, hiding out among the hay bales and equipment stored in the barn’s loft. Equipped—armed, actually—with nothing more than a flashlight with weak batteries, I finally cornered the cat, a multicolored tomcat with a ferocious temper. I caught him after many tries, each of which added to the plethora of scratches he inscribed on my hands and arms. I tried to stuff him in a burlap bag but finally just wrapped it around him and made a triumphant return to the house. The hardest part of that return was going down the ladder from the barn loft using only one hand, with the other holding firm to some fifteen pounds of wriggling screeching tomcat.

The farm included a skid-mounted store fronted by a single gas pump, a dinosaur mechanism operated by first pumping fuel from the underground tank with a hand pump into a glass reservoir with gallon marks and then using gravity to lower the required number of gallons into a vehicle’s tank.

The little store measured some 12 by thirty feet and was stocked by those items that country folks needed to replace between visits to markets in the city, items such as bread, cigarettes, cigars, snuff, candies, thread, needles, lard, sugar, flour and various canned goods. The store was infested with rats, and my stepfather told me to close the cat up in the store and it would take care of the rats. That sounded plausible to me as a temporary measure, and then I would begin a program to domesticate my new wild pet.

It was not to be. That cat ate an entire loaf of bread the first night, leaving only the plastic wrapper. Store-bought bakery bread came in one-pound loaves only in those days—today’s one and one-half pound loaves had not yet been developed.

My stepfather indicated that he understood the cat’s depredations, considering that he had been in the woods with only bugs and field mice for sustenance, and then only if he could catch them. He told me to catch the cat and cage him, then put him in the store again in the evening. Having filled up on a full loaf of bread, the cat’s movements were slowed down, and that feeling coupled with his belief that he had found a cat’s Shangri-La made him easy to corner and catch. That day happened to be a Saturday, and at dusk I locked him in the store.

The store was closed on Sundays, and my stepfather awakened to start his usual morning with a few snifters of bourbon before breakfast, a practice that continued following breakfast, and in mid-morning we opened the store’s door and the cat catapulted out—did you get that? He catapulted out and kept going, quickly disappearing under the house some one hundred feet or so from the store.

The evidence was spread all over the floor near the bread shelves. A full pound loaf was a bit too much for him this time, and several slices were scattered about, some whole and some shredded in various stages of having been eaten.

My stepfather voiced numerous epithets, loudly and earnestly and not one of them was anything similar to “That darn cat!” No, they were not gentle, and all contained words and threats not really suitable for my young ears—not that I hadn’t heard them before, of course—and all seemed to be centered on the likely untimely demise of the cat.

And so it came to pass. My stepfather raced—staggered, actually—to the house and retrieved his 16-gage shotgun from its stance against the wall in the corner nearest to his side of the bed he shared with my mother in the combination living room/bed room. The shotgun was kept fully loaded with a live shell in the chamber, as was the military .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol he kept on a bedside stand, again on his side of the bed.

The house was built on piers that provided a substantial crawl space underneath. The shooter kneeled, peered under the house and fired one shot from the shotgun. I soon learned that the cat had been outlined against the base of the brick fireplace when the buckshot took his life.

I learned that because I was tasked to bring out the remains and dispose of them properly. It was not an easy task because numerous particles had been splattered against the bricks, but I managed to clean up everything, to not leave anything that might cause unsavory odors on hot days.

There is a story about Abraham Lincoln that I would like to tell now. It seems that some unruly urchins had inserted dynamite into a certain orifice of a stray dog and then lighted the fuse. Abe was witness to the explosion and he commented at the time that, Well, that dog won’t ever amount to anything now—at least anyway not as a dog.

That story is probably apocryphal but it serves to showcase Lincoln’s sense of humor and perhaps his belief in an afterlife, perhaps even in reincarnation. Who knows? Could be!

I know that my erstwhile potential pet, that feral feline, that thief of baked goods and consumer of the same never amounted to anything else, at least not on earth and not as a cat. And as regards reincarnation, I and my family have had several cats over the years, and I cannot discount the possibility that one or more of them could have been reincarnations of that wild cat I rescued from a life in the woods and sentenced him to be executed, to die an untimely and undignified death for no other reason than his hunger and my drunken stepfather’s temper.

That was as close as I came to having a pet while I lived with my stepfather. I did come close another time when I saw a speeding car hit a black-and-tan hound dog on the road some distance from our house. I raced to him to see if he was alive, and finding him inert but breathing I carried him back to the house.

That was no easy task—that darn hound was full grown and weighed almost as much as I did. I stretched him out on the front porch and asked my mother if I could take care of him and keep him if he lived. She assented but only after considerable thought, saying that he was probably a working dog and that my stepfather would want to keep him for hunting. We scrounged around for something to use as a bed, and with an old quilt in my arms I returned to the front porch.

The dog was gone. I looked around the yard and then glanced up the graveled road where he had been hit, and there he was, going full-tilt in the same direction he had been going when the car hit him, going at full speed without a trace of a limp, kicking up gravel with every stride.

For a moment I felt anger, not for the driver that had hit him, but for the dog that fooled me and made me stagger a considerable distance to get him to the house, then forced me to convince my mother to let me nurse him and keep him. Yep, I really took it as a personal affront that he had recovered so nicely and thus denied me an opportunity to nurse him back to good health and keep him for a pet.

My anger was brief, however—I realized that had I kept him and returned him to good health and he turned out to not be a working dog, a dog that would not contribute in some way to the family larder, he would eventually suffer the same fate suffered by the two fox terriers and the wild cat—splattered, perhaps, all over the brick fireplace and at that thought I breathed a sigh of relief.

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

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Death, an indentured servant, Ruby Lee, Bonnie and me . . .

From Wikipedia:

Indentured servant: A worker, typically a laborer or tradesman, under contract to an employer for a fixed period of time, typically three to seven years, in exchange for their transportation, food, clothing, lodging and other necessities.

In my sixteenth year I was subjected to the duties of an indentured servant. I lived and worked on an Alabama farm owned by a man that was married to my first cousin. My home was broken, just as it had been periodically for the previous nine years, ever since my mother took a second husband. I had just returned to Mississippi after a circuitous journey that took me from Mississippi to Midland, Texas and on to El Paso, Texas and from there to jail in Valley Park, Missouri then to New York City for several weeks and then back to Mississippi, all in a period of less than one year. Click here for a comprehensive rendition of that Jason-like search for the Golden Fleece!

I did not voluntarily enter into indentured service—I had no choice. My mother had once again severed ties with my stepfather and Ruby Lee, my first cousin, was the only relative that was willing to shoulder the burden of looking after me. I would be remiss if I did not reveal that one of my sisters agreed to take me in, but became incensed when my mother offered the princely sum of $5 to assist in buying school clothes for the coming semester. The offer offended my sister and she scolded my mother, saying that my place was with my mother, and she should not pass that responsibility on to others. I hasten to add that my mother’s request for my sister to accept the somewhat difficult task of taking me in, her offer of $5 to assist the process, and my sister’s refusal to accept either the offer of money or the request to take me in aroused no animosity in me—the request to take me in, the offer of money and the ultimate refusal of both did not matter to me then and are of no consequence to me now. Not only have I survived—I have actually thrived in spite of all the hurdles placed in my path. I soared over all of them and landed safely.

Ruby Lee and her husband, Bonnie, agreed to take me in and provide a home for me and continue my schooling, and in return I would assist her and her husband in working a small farm, doing all the things that any farmer does—mind you, this was in the days of two-mule farms—we’re not talking about diesel tractors and milking barns and mile-long rows of crops and a cadre of hired hands. We’re talking about a hard-scrabble existence with two mules, one wagon, one cow, some chickens, a few pigs, a house cat and a yard dog and virtually no future, aside from decades of living from hand to mouth dependent on fair weather and good crops. With my addition to the family, the farm now had a cadre of one hired hand. Yes, that’s me in the image above, trying to dig my way to China just to get away from the farm! No, I’m kidding—that’s a photo I found online and I used it just for fun—at my age I’ve learned that one cannot dig all the way to China!

I left the farm after several short months. Click here to see the relationship between parched peanuts and crawling skin, and how my dog and I became farmers. That posting will also detail the reasons why I left the farm.

Now to the crux of this posting—it’s about Ruby and her life in later years, and most of what I know about her is hearsay, information gleaned from various relatives during infrequent visits, several that were generated by deaths and the requisite attendance at funerals. I never saw or heard anything about her husband Bonnie or her two young sons after I left the farm, and in all the intervening years I saw Ruby only once—we were together at a brother-in-law’s funeral in Mississippi.

I was there with my wife, and Ruby was there with her domestic partner. That relationship was all the buzz among her relatives attending the funeral—not that the buzzing took place within her hearing, of course. Ruby seemed very happy and secure in her relationship and showed no indication of what her future held. Several years later, I learned from one of my sisters that Ruby had taken her own life, although nobody was certain of the method she used. The consensus was that she had died from a gunshot wound. There was lots of speculation about her suicide among relatives and friends, but nothing concrete was ever known.

An interesting point about conversation at the funeral between Ruby and her erstwhile indentured servant—neither of us touched, even lightly, about our time together on the farm. I was filled with curiosity but I refused to broach the subject. She volunteered nothing concerning her husband killing my dog in my absence, nothing about their failure to enroll me in school per their agreement with my mother, nothing about her husband’s whereabouts and life since their divorce, and nothing about her two sons that went with her husband when they divorced. The absence of her speaking of those details is telling—I firmly believe that she had buried the details of those events deeply in the recesses of her mind, either inadvertently or deliberately.

No matter—whatever her thoughts may have been of the details of those events, whether negative or positive, she took them to her grave, at least as far as I am concerned. She may have discussed them with others over the years but if so, the discussions never reached me.

Many years have passed since my employment as an indentured servant, and many of my memories of that time are pleasant. I feel no rancor, none for Ruby nor for her husband. They are fixed in my memory, and when my thoughts turn to those days I tend to remember the good times and push the bad times away. I discuss them now only in order to provide the information to my children, and of course to any others that may find the facts interesting, for whatever reason or reasons. Quite aside from the fact that I enjoy writing about various facets of my life, these postings to Word Press are in nature autobiographical, thoughts that I can leave for posterity—ooooh, I just had shivers run up and down my spine!

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

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in death, education, Family, farming, Humor, pets

 

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19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . . (via The King of Texas)

This should have been the latest posting, the first to appear on my blog, but somehow the date placed it far back in my postings. I’m reposting it to bring it to the forefront for viewing.

19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . . This posting is based purely on a description of an incident in which a dog named Buster—my dog, a full grown sixty–pound American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog sporting a bobbed tail and surgically pointed ears, the marks of a fighting dog—caused worshipers to end a Saturday night gathering earlier than usual. Buster was christened at birth by the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, his first master, named him Buster in memory of his bo … Read More

via The King of Texas

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South, Elmer, and a hamburger steak . . .

At some time in my preteen years, one of my sisters—the pretty one, the one named Lorene—married a man named Elmer, a tall slow-walking slow-talking quick-thinking fellow that would come to figure prominently in my life. The newly-weds lived for awhile in the city within walking distance from our house on Nineteenth Street South, then later went to live with his parent’s in south Mississippi. Elmer’s father was minister to a small church just a short walk from his home. I spent a summer vacation with them as a small boy, and another summer vacation with Elmer and Lorene after they bought a small farm, built a house on it and began farming. Those two vacations include thoughts and events that will be the subjects of numerous postings, each of which should be of vital interest to any viewer—honest—stay tuned!

This posting is all about me and Elmer and a hamburger steak—except for the lack of rhyming, that could be developed into a parody of Lobo’s song from the 1970s, Me and you and a dog named Boo. Maybe I should work on that—it could well be something for Ray Stevens to consider, similar to his songs about The streak—don’t look, Ethel—and Ahab, the Arab and others. I may work on the lyrics for a future posting—stay tuned!

Eating out was a rarity for me when I was a kid—we didn’t eat out because we couldn’t afford the cost—in fact, there were a few times that we didn’t eat in either, and many times that we ate sparingly—besides, the walk to a cafe would have been prohibitive. Although everything in Columbus, Mississippi in those days was within walking distance, we would have been hungry again by the time we returned home. There was no MacDonald’s, no Burger King, no Jack-in-the-Box, no Sonic and no Dairy Queen. In my town there were only two drive-in restaurants, only remotely related to those we have today. The two establishments had no drive-through services. People simply drove up and parked near the building and a carhop would come out, take the order and return with food and drinks.

Trust me when I say that my town had only two eat-outside-in-your-car restaurants—I should know, because I worked as a carhop at both of them for varying periods. Believe it or not, in those days Mississippi state law prohibited girls from working as carhops. I suppose our legislators felt that young girls would be subjected to harassment, up to and including suffering—shudder, shudder—a fate worse than death. You know, like loonies and flashers exposing themselves and showing pornographic photos through the window and committing various lewd acts and raping and beating carhops and similar untoward actions following arousal caused by a young girl in a low-cut blouse and French-cut shorts, leaning through an open car door window tempting men, usually dirty old men—-I think I’ll stop there—I’m becoming a bit excited just thinking about it.

In retrospect, I have decided that our legislators thought that young boys would never fall prey to such predators—either that or they considered it and discarded it—perhaps none of them had young sons, or perhaps they had sons but none needed or wanted to work. I am a living witness to the fact that young boys were and are far too often targeted by predators, even in the long ago of my preteen and teen years—I hasten to add that in my case they never were successful—they never hit the target. And yes, that’s a subject for a future posting if I ever manage to get around to it—stay tuned!

I have digressed from my subject, and I apologize—back to Elmer and my very first hamburger steak:

Elmer had business in town and invited me to go with him. Around noontime  he suggested that we have lunch at a local eatery. I remember the place clearly—it was located near the top of the river bluff on which Columbus is built, within sight of the bridge spanning the Tombigbee river. The restaurant was Garoffa’s Blue Front Cafe. The proprietor’s son, Johnny, was a senior in our high school, a first string football player that suffered a serious injury that left him crippled in one leg. He walked with a decided limp, but his deformity neither lessened the number of girls that seemed to always be around him nor his ability to make the most of their attentions—Johnny was, as was Wyatt Earp, a legend in his own time.

Kids in my day, at least in the circles in which I moved, were never asked what they wanted in a cafe. The adults pored over the menu and eventually selected the items that provided the most food at the lowest cost—in effect, they ordered from the price list rather than from the list of entrees. We kids were simply asked what we wanted on our burger. I didn’t care what they put on my burger, just so it had plenty of mayo slathered on, looking like ocean waves or rows of sand dunes.

Elmer was different—before that day I liked him—after that day I loved him. We entered the cafe and he said, Hey, Mikey, let’s belly up to the counter. We did, and he took a menu and handed me one, and following a brief glance at the menu he said Hey, that hamburger steak looks good–think you might want to try one?

My heart swelled, my pulse accelerated accordingly and when I finally found my voice I replied as nonchalantly as I could, and said something on the order of Yeah, why not, might as well. I had been spinning around on my stool soaking in my surroundings, and I purt near fell off when Elmer gave me the choice of a hamburger steak instead of asking me what I wanted on my burger.

The woman behind the counter smilingly placed a full-grown hamburger steak before me, served on a full-grown platter, covered with gravy and mushrooms and onions with a full-grown pile of french fries on the side. I tried mightily to transfer the entire load on that platter from outside me to inside me—I made a Herculean effort but try as I might I couldn’t handle that mountain of fries. I reluctantly left a few fries on the plate, but I walked out with every ounce of that huge hamburger steak—and none of it was in a doggy-bag.

That hamburger steak moment and that day qualify as one of the happiest days of my life. I was treated as an equal by Elmer, and in later years I received that same treatment throughout two summer vacations I spent with him and my sister.

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

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . .

This posting is based purely on a description of an incident in which a dog named Buster—my dog, a full grown sixty–pound American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog sporting a bobbed tail and surgically pointed ears, the marks of a fighting dog—caused worshipers to end a Saturday night gathering earlier than usual. Buster was christened at birth by the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, his first master, named him Buster in memory of his boyhood pet.

I was not there—my mother and my sister described the incident to me in considerable detail on the same night that it took place. I hasten to add that my sister was given to extreme exaggeration in her story-telling, and in such instances my mother would confirm the story as told by my sister, purely to avoid confrontation with her. This posting therefore, should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.

When we lived on 19th Street South there was a small church down the street from our house, just across the Big Ditch—I have capitalized Big Ditch because it figured so prominently in my life while we lived on that street, and it is definitely a subject for a future posting—stay tuned!

I don’t remember the name or the denomination of the church, but I do remember my mother and my older sisters occasionally strolling down to the church in the evening, usually on Saturday nights. I am hesitant to use the term holy rollers, but in my memory that would describe the assembly. On summer Saturday nights in the absence of air conditioning, the doors and windows of the church were left wide open to provide relief from the summer heat. The sounds that I remember coming from the church reinforce that memory—no, I wasn’t invited but I sometimes sneaked down the street and listened and watched through the open door of the church.

Holy Roller as defined by Wikipedia:

Holy Roller is a term in American English used to describe Pentecostal Christian churchgoers. The term is commonly used derisively, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor or speaking in tongues in an uncontrolled manner. For this usage, the Oxford English Dictionary Charles G. Leland, in which he says “When the Holy Spirit seized them..the Holy Rollers..rolled over and over on the floor.” It is generally considered pejorative, but some have reclaimed it as a badge of honor, e.g. William Branham’s statement “And what the world calls today holy-roller, that’s the way I worship Jesus Christ.” Similar disparaging terms directed at outspoken Christians include Jesus freaks and Bible bashers. The name Shakers was created as a portmanteau of shaking Quakers. Gospel singer Andrae Crouch stated, “They call us holy rollers, and what they say is true. But if they knew what we were rollin’ about, they’d be rollin’ too.”

Now fast forward some eight years later to a time when I lived for several months with my mother and my youngest sister on Seventh Avenue South—yep, I intend to devote some time and effort to pulling aside the curtain of time and revealing some interesting facts about life on Seventh Avenue South, life in a small three-room house just fifty feet from railroad tracks, a house with running water and electricity but no bathroom. Strategically placed several yards behind the house was a small tin-roofed two-hole wooden privy that served quite well for toilet purposes.

Our sojourn in that house, immediately adjacent to an active railroad lasted several months, an interim period during one of various times that we were separated from our stepfather and on our own, living life as best we could with the resources we had—spare resources, indeed!

Buster was my dog, a left-over from the time I lived with my brother in Maryland—yep, that is also a future posting—is there no end to this?!! Buster spent his early years as my brother’s dog, but was inherited by me when my brother returned to military service with the United States army. Click here to learn how Buster fared during my service as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm.

Now on to Buster’s breakup of a Saturday night worship service. On a special summer Saturday evening my mother and my sister walked several blocks to the church on Nineteenth StreetSouth to join the assembled worshipers—well, they really went to observe—and Buster, as always when anyone left the house, walked with them. He was a well-trained and obedient animal and stayed outside the church as ordered. However, he could see much of the activities and could hear the sounds, and at a moment when the sounds of the worshipers reached a crescendo he broke and charged through the open door and down the aisle to the altar where those that had been entered by the spirit were demonstrating the spirit’s presence, both physically and vocally. Apparently some of the sounds consisted of keening, high-pitched tones that aroused the bulldog to action—he joined the group gathered near the altar, howling mightily in tune with the worshipers, and pandemonium ensued.

Hey, I’m not making this up—I’m relating the incident strictly as I remember it from the tale told to me by my mother and my sister, with no embellishments other than those that may have been added by my sister—I wasn’t there so I can’t vouch for its truthfulness. I do believe, however, that the basic facts are true. My mother tended to go along with my sister’s embellishments, but she was not prone to supporting details that were obviously untrue.

The way my sister told it, some worshipers abandoned the church through the two open doors. Others climbed up on benches and crawled under benches, and still others exited through open windows leaving the bulldog at the altar, still howling. He made no effort to attack anyone. There was no biting or attempts to bite, but his presence and his howling was enough to empty the church.

After my sister calmed the dog and the congregation returned with its sanity restored—not all returned, but some did—the pastor politely but forcefully asked my mother if she planned to return for future services and if so, to please refrain from bringing the bulldog. I have no recollection of my mother or my sister or my bulldog attending later assemblies of worshipers.

So there—I’ve related the incident as told to me, succinctly and completely as possible—in fine (that’s Latin for at the end), that’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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Rogue cops and rubber hoses . . .

Picture this:

A lad of 16 years jailed on suspicion of being involved in auto theft, kidnapping and murder—completely innocent, of course—being bullied by burly bulky bastardly bastions of the law—I do really love alliteration-–and threatened with a rubber hose. Click here to learn how such an unsatisfactory situation developed.

In mid-afternoon of that Sunday following our arrest and incarceration, two very large men came into the room that held the two strap-iron cells occupied by me and my brother. They introduced themselves as plain-clothes detectives and started asking questions. After a series of questions relating to our lack of identification, our hot-wired car and the rifle bullets they found in my pocket, one of the men—the larger one–unlocked the door to my cell, entered and locked the door behind him—yeah, like I was going to flee and fly out to freedom and become one of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives, with my mug shot featured prominently in every post office in the nation.

I was standing while he was outside, but when he entered I sat down on my bare metal bunk. That was a defensive measure. I believe I felt that should he decide to hit me, I would at least have only a short way to fall before hitting the steel wall behind me or the concrete floor. I could be wrong, of course—I may have sat down because of the sudden weakness my knees developed, and I mean that in all seriousness.

He held a piece of black rubber hose in his right hand. The hose was short in length, thick in diameter and long in menace, and he kept slapping it into the palm of his other hand, staring at me intently all the while.

If anyone reading this thinks I wasn’t scared, think again—I was scared witless, filled with fear that approached the point of something that rhymes with witless. I was a 110 pound 16-year old and he was a really big man, six feet tall and counting, weighing well over 200 pounds—a goodly portion of that weight was centered in his overhanging stomach, but his weight distribution detracted in no way from the fear that I felt, fear generated by his size and by the menacing length of rubber hose he wielded.

Believe me, reader, had I been guilty of any one or all of the several wrong doings of which we were accused, I would have promptly admitted that guilt. Had it been possible I would have cheerfully laid it all off on my brother—yep, I would have squealed like a pig and perhaps made a deal with the cops, or at least plea bargained my way out of what I considered to be a really bad situation. Frankly, I figured that my brother had gotten me into a big mess and I owed him zilch—none of this was my fault—I mean, like, hey, brotherly love has its limits.

The detective finally stopped slapping his hand with the hose, probably because it was beginning to hurt. He knew that he had my undivided attention, and then he held the business end of the hose close to my face and asked some really stupid questions, to all of which I gave some really brilliant answers:

Do you know what this is?

Yes, sir.

Do you know what I can do with this if you lie to me?

Yes, sir.

Did you boys steal that car?

No, sir.

Did you boys kidnap someone?

No, sir.

Did you boys kill someone and dispose of the body?

No, sir.

Have you answered all our questions truthfully?

Yes, sir.

See, I told you his questions were stupid and my answers were brilliant!

The detective ended the conversation, and taking his rubber hose with him he stepped out of my cell, locked the door and started questioning my brother, but he did not enter my brother’s cell. Evidently my brother, a World War II veteran almost twice my age, had been around the block before—he told our inquisitors in firm tones to not bother threatening him with the rubber hose, that he had been threatened with far more than that in World War II combat and survived, that he had told the truth about everything and that all they had to do was make a few phone calls to prove it and finally, that they could delay our release but could not prevent it.

In his telling my brother used some really salty language, some of which was related to the detectives’ parentage, including the legality of their births and their relationships with their mothers, and lots of other language that brought their sexual proclivities and practices into question.

Hey, my brother spent six years in the U.S. Navy, the last four of which were spent overseas in combat zones during the big war—that’s the way sailors talk. I expected the two detectives to beat him senseless, even to the point of his not recovering and spending the rest of his life as a tomato or a cabbage or a stalk of celery perhaps, but no, they listened to his tirade without responding. After he wound down with his remarks, they left the area without comments, and we never saw them again.

I find it difficult to believe that they were intimidated by my brother—I believe that they were amused and perhaps even respectful of his actions. My brother was much older than I but he was not much bigger, and I must admit that while I was shocked by his remarks, I really admired his stance in the face of bigger men with all the power of law at their disposal.

We were held incommunicado for 23 hours, just one hour short of the 24 hours the law allowed before formal charges and booking were mandated. The so-called authorities either made enough phone calls on Monday morning to prove our innocence, or perhaps had simply tired of the cat-and-mouse game they had played with us for 23 hours.

Whatever the reason, they released us, offered nothing that remotely resembled an apology and told us to get out of town and not come back. Other than the handful of rifle shells there was no need to return any possessions to us—the only things we possessed were the clothes we wore. The few dollars we had went for the burgers, and they kept any amount that remained, and I wisely refrained from demanding the return of my rifle cartridges. There was no need to return the keys to our car—we never had any—the starting lock was gone and the starter was hot-wired to the fog lights, and were soon on our way.

After a brief stop in St. Louis in a futile attempt to borrow gas money from my stepfather’s sister—click here for that story—we continued to New York City and stayed there for several weeks, then traveled to Mississipi where I was promptly shipped off to a farm in Alabama to live with a first-cousin and her family—a life very similar to that of an indentured servant. Click here for that posting.

More on my life on the farm and why I left it can be found here.

This story is all true, embellished a bit perhaps in the telling, but it’s all true and there’s nobody around either to disprove it or substantiate it—by now all the participants have departed for other realms. My fervent hope is that my brother and the cops involved in our short stay in Valley Park, Missouri traveled in opposite directions when they departed their lives on earth. I readily acknowledge that there in no way to confirm their paths, but I would like to believe that my brother ascended to his next life and the cops descended to theirs.

That’s my wish and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to both!

PeeEss: We were never told that we could ask for an attorney and were not Mirandized, but that is understandable—the year was 1949 and the Miranda law did not exist—it was still seventeen years into the future, 1966. Click here for information on the Miranda warning.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Buster, a pit bull, or why I left the farm . . .

In my posting on March 20, 2010 regarding parched peanuts and skin crawling, I told how I left the farm for a few days to visit my mother and sister in Mississippi, some 30 miles west of the farm, and in my absence my cousin Ruby’s husband killed my dog, an American Pit Bull Terrier. I never learned how he was killed but I know why, and the purpose of this posting is to tell the heart wrenching story of Buster’s untimely demise. Click here to see the relationship between parched peanuts and crawling skin, and how my dog and I became farmers.

My most heartfelt hope at the time—a hope that has consistently remained with me over the intervening years—that hope was, and still is, that before the deed was done Buster was able to remove a few chunks of meat from his killer. Please don’t fault me too much for that hope—Bonnie had considerable meat to spare, and I have never wished that Buster could have reached his throat, even if just for a few seconds. Oh, okay, if it will make the reader happy, I probably would have been very sad had Buster taken him out—hey, I disliked the farmer, but I really loved that dog.

Buster was valuable, and several purchase offers had been made for him by surrounding farmers, all of which I declined. Bonnie knew that the dog was valuable, and I would like to believe he sold Buster to some kind farmer that needed him for watch dog services, or perhaps for breeding purposes, and that he—Buster, not the farmer—enjoyed a long and pleasant life, whether barking or breeding or both. Of course I wish the same for the farmer, provided that he had the same proclivity for similar activities.

Shortly after I left the farm to visit my family for Christmas, Bonnie—I’ll call him Bonnie because that was his name—killed my dog. I suppose it’s alright to out Bonnie now. Sixty-two years have passed since the hog/dog/ear/Bonnie incident. My guess would be that by this time Bonnie has gone to that heavenly farm where all farmers go, a place where no crop ever fails and market prices are always sky high (so to speak). Whether he was received or rejected on his arrival to that heavenly farm is, of course, a matter for conjecture. Whether received or rejected, I wish him well.

On a cool cloudless day in October of 1948—a day typical for west central Alabama in the fall—Bonnie and I walked a short distance from the house to cut wood for the kitchen stove. We found a suitable pine tree, felled it and cut it into stove-length blocks, and returned to the house to hitch up the mules and use the wagon to haul the blocks to the house. There they would be chopped into pieces suitable for stoking the kitchen stove.

Yep, that’s how it was done in those days—no electric or gas stoves or heaters because neither gas nor electricity had found their way to that rural area. Cooking and heating homes was strictly a wood-burning process. Our work in the woods was accomplished with a crosscut saw, a two-man-power item in use at the time. I am not aware whether power saws, electric or gas-powered, were available at the time. They may have been, but we would have needed a really long extension cord because the nearest plug–in was several miles distant. Ah, those were the good old days!

As we approached the house, Bonnie’s prized Poland China sow—a female pig— entered the picture. She had managed to escape her pen, and was apparently enjoying her new-found freedom, probably searching for acorns among the fall leaves covering the ground. Leaving her enclosure was a big mistake, both for Buster and for her—she should have stayed in the pen.

This was a young hog, not a piglet but a hog approaching adulthood, a hog probably somewhere in its teens. This was an attractive pig, attractive at least as pigs go, that Bonnie intended to show at county fairs and perhaps breed to raise pigs for the market. The Poland China breed, then and now, fetches good prices at  auctions, and some say that its meat is superior to other breeds.

Buster went with us to fell the tree. Everywhere I went, my dog went. I always felt that he was looking out for me, protecting me. I could leave him for any length of time, telling him to stay, and he would faithfully remain at that spot until I returned. I only needed to leave something of mine with him, anything—it could be my bike or cap or jacket, anything with my scent on it, and heaven help anyone that tried to relieve him of his guard duties. My dog and I understood each other, and he responded to a variety of commands from me.

Just as an aside, Buster had a strong dislike for cats and he periodically brought them home for my approval—dead, of course. Any neighborhood in which we lived had very few roaming cats, at least not after we had lived there for a significant length of time.

On this day he was ranging a short distance in front of us as we walked up the hill toward the house, and the hog was rooting in the leaves just ahead. Startled when she saw the dog, she squealed, snorted and took off through the leaves, obviously frightened by the dog. Buster reacted to the sights and sounds and charged, clamping down on her right ear and pulling her off her feet.

Bonnie and I tried to pull him off—I applied pressure to the pads of his feet with no effect, then actually put both hands around his neck trying to cut off enough air to make him release the hog. Bonnie picked up a fairly good sized limb from the ground and struck him with it several times, without any apparent effect.

Buster never released the ear—with the precision of a surgeon he separated the ear from it owner, leaving a smooth but bloody head on the right side. Then he seemed to lose all interest in the animal, and the hog did likewise—she ran several yards away, stopped and looked back wondering, I suppose, what part the dog might decide to remove next. Bonnie stopped beating him and I stopped trying to choke him, and after the surgery Buster was as docile as I had ever seen him.

I can’t say the same for Bonnie. I fear he lost some, perhaps most, of his religion given the string of expletives that followed, along with statements such as I’ll kill that #&*(@! dogI should have already killed him.

I tried to reason with him but he stalked off to find some medication for the hog, after ordering me to lock the dog up in the corn crib. I did as I was ordered, and kept him there for several days before leaving the farm for my visit with family for Christmas—the rest is history.

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

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2010 in Humor, pets, Uncategorized

 

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How to pull and shuck corn and earn $4.00 . . .

Everyone knows that corn grows on stalks. The stalks grow tall, often even taller than some of our NBA players, and with good growing conditions produce numerous ears of corn. I imagine that the term ears is used because each ear grows angled upward on the perpendicular stalk at about 45 degrees, somewhat similar to our ears. Ears of corn that are removed while still green are harvested for the purpose of roasting, and are therefore referred to as roasting ears. Country folks in my era called them rosnears, a useful contraction of roasting ears that allows more words in a sentence, whether written or spoken. Many country folks still use that contraction.

An ear of corn, as removed from the stalk, is completely covered with overlapping leaves. That covering is called a corn shuck, or simply a shuck. Rosnears are roasted in their shucks. When done, the shuck is removed, butter and salt if desired are added to the ear of cornand I do desire butter and saltand the corn is eaten directly from the cob. The cob is the cylindrical core of the ear of corn, the part to which the kernels of corn are attached. The eating process is referred to as eating corn on the cob—I’ve always felt that it would more properly be called eating corn off the cob. In either case the taste is heavenly and the process is devilishly messy—one should keep a napkin close at hand while eating corn on the cob—or off the cob, as the case may be.

And just in case anyone wonders about the origin of the term rough as a cob. When dried corn is shelled from the cob, the small depressions left by the kernels being removed leaves the cob rough to the touch. Way back in the dim mists of antiquity, in a time when folks had limited access to manufactured toilet tissue, various substitutes were used—magazine pages, Sears Roebuck catalog pages, old letters and envelopes, outdated calendars, straw, oak leaves or whatever could be found in a time of need. Dried corn cobs were in plentiful supply following the corn harvest, and I am witness to the fact that rough as a cob is as accurately definitive as a definition can get.

Ah, those were the days!

Allow me to digress for a moment: I have gone into considerable detail so far in this posting. The reason is because legions of people in our country, particularly younger generations, have no idea how corn is grown, harvested, prepared and cooked, nor do they know the terminology of the various uses of corn. Their knowledge is often restricted to the purchase and ingestion of popcorn in our movie theaters. In addition to the ridiculous cost of tickets to the movies, movie goers pay ridiculous prices for the popcorn, and the beat goes on.

And trust me—not even one in a thousand of today’s youngsters know the origin of rough as a cob. Perhaps this posting will spread the word, so to speak, and let younger generations know that old times were not romantic at all times.

For purposes other than roasting ears, corn is allowed to remain on the stalk until the green stalks and shucks turn brown, and then the corn is harvested by giant machines that harvest multiple rows at the same time. It hasn’t always been that way—before the invention and use of such harvesters, each ear of corn was pulled from the stalk by hand. A sharp pull downward at the correct angle would snap the ear off at the stalk.

I can speak with authority because I’ve done it—ear by ear, stalk by stalk, row by row, hour after hour and day after day until the field was stripped. The hand pulled ears were dropped on the ground between the rows and later loaded on a skid for movement to the barn for storage. Yes, Virginia, a skid—a primitive conveyance fitted with runners similar to those of a sled. A skid was a flat wooden platform mounted on wooden runners, with sides forming a box to contain such items as corn, or any other items that needed to be transported in bulk. The skid was powered by a mule, a tall long-eared beast of burden with a sour disposition and a proclivity to bite, depending on its mood and the task with which it was confronted.

Let’s see—I’ve covered pulling corn, so now on to shucking corn. This is easily done—one needs grasp the ear near the stem with one hand, then start peeling the leaves of the shuck downwards with the other hand, and when the leaves are all pulled away from the ear, simply snap the stem to separate the shuck from the ear of corn. Got it?

And finally, on to the tale of the four dollars I earned by shucking corn. Christmas was near, and I needed money to buy presents for my mother and my sister. One of my aunts that lived on a farm nearby asked me if I wanted to earn some money. I answered in the affirmative, but made a serious mistake by not inquiring into what my efforts would earn. The job turned out to be corn shucking—removing the shucks to prepare the corn to be milled—ground—into corn meal.

Picture this: Two farm wagons were loaded with corn to be shucked, rounded in the center to a level a bit higher than the sides of the wagon box. Each wagon box measured approximately four by ten by one foot deep. A quick computation of length x width x depth shows that each wagon had forty cubic feet of corn, a total of eighty cubic feet for both wagons. I was paid a whopping total of four dollars for a full two long days work. I worked without gloves, so by the time I finished I had blisters on top of my blisters. I did not question my pay or grumble about it, at least not out loud. I reasoned rightly that I now had four dollars where before I had no dollars—I took the four ones, gave thanks to my aunt and left to find some cool water for my hands.

That’s it—I’ve covered the three subjects in the title of How to pull and shuck corn and earn $4.oo, so I’ll close this posting.

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

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Gardening, Humor, Travel

 

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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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Unto you this day a child was born . . .

DISCLAIMER: There is a possibility, albeit slight, that some viewers may associate this title with a different birth, one mentioned in the King James version of the Holy Bible (Luke 2:1) wherein it is said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Granted, there appears to be a certain similarity but the relationship is purely coincidental—please be assured that this posting refers to a different child, in a different time, in a different place and under remarkably different circumstances. To those who are familiar with the biblical passage and thus recognize the similarity, I offer my congratulations and my respect.

To continue with my posting:

September in West Central Alabama is a pleasant month—a beautiful month, with foliage exploding in a riotous collage of colors. The days are cool and the skies are clear, and in 1932 the smell of wood smoke was in the air. In that era most homes in Alabama’s rural areas were lighted by kerosene lamps and heated by open fireplaces, and that would continue for several more years until electricity finally made its way to my place of birth, a farmhouse well off the beaten path, located in a thickly forested area some five miles south of Vernon, the county seat of Lamar County, Alabama.

The small clapboard house built on piers is long-gone, replaced with a modern brick-and-mortar edifice with electric lighting, gas heating, air conditioning, computers and telephones. Moreover, the locations of the garbage can and toilet have been reversed—now the garbage can is outside the house and the privy, formerly an outdoor toilet, is now inside.

The smoke came from fireplace chimneys and kitchen stovepipes. Smoke from rich pine chunks, burning in cast-iron stoves, and hardwood oak burning in open fireplaces emerged from stovepipes and chimneys to merge and fill the air with a scent both sweet and pungent. Since fall was hog-killing time in rural Alabama on most farms, some of the smoke came from fires laid around and under iron wash-pots. The water in the pots had to be at, or near, its boiling point before dipping the carcasses of freshly killed hogs in it, a process necessary to loosen the hog bristles so they could be cleanly scraped from the skin.

Shortly before midnight on September 18, 1932 a country doctor completed the successful delivery of a boy baby, the seventh and final child of the 35-year old mother. After he congratulated her and voiced his post-natal instructions, he turned his horse and buggy around and set off on the return trip to his home in Vernon, a small town some five miles to the north. He arrived there on September 19 during the wee small hours of the morning. Though sleepy and tired from his arduous day, he felt obligated to record the birth before retiring from his labors. Because of that tiredness, perhaps, he mistakenly recorded the baby’s birth as 19 September rather than 18 September.

I was that child, and because my mother said I was born on the eighteenth of September, each year on that date I added another year to my age, a process which would continue for many years. The year 1949 was an important milestone in my life. In that year I wanted to join—nay, urgently needed to join—the US Army and I had no birth certificate, so I traveled (hitch-hiked) to Vernon to seek the doctor who delivered me. I found him in his office and told him I was in search of a document showing my date of birth.

In order to know where to begin his search, the doctor needed to know my age and the year I was born. I told him I was 17 years old, born on September 18, 1931. He found his pen-and-ink record of my birth in a huge ledger and noted that I was not 17—I was 16, and I was born on September 19, 1932, not September 18, 1931. He said that was what the ledger showed, and that was what would be reflected by any document he might issue. I was unnamed in his ledger, so he consented to accept the name I gave him (I have often regretted giving him my real name—shucks, I could have been anybody I wanted to be!).

I apologized for my “little white lie” and explained that I needed to be 17 years old, the minimum age required to join the army with parental consent (otherwise the minimum age was 18). I explained that my mother was willing—eager, actually—to sign a false document. My pleas were rejected, and I left the doctor’s office with a certified document showing my date of birth as September 19, 1932.

No matter—where there’s a will there’s a way. The Army recruiting sergeant (a very resourceful recruiter who, at that time, had successfully achieved his recruiting quota for 12 consecutive years) took a bottle of ink eradicator, and deftly using the bottle’s tiny brush to apply the liquid, removed the “2” from the 1932, and placed the birth certificate in an upright Royal typewriter (the state of the art at that time). After several tedious moments he was satisfied that he had the “1” key appropriately placed. He struck the key firmly and—voila!—a “1” appeared in the exact spot where the “2” had been, perfectly aligned with the “3” in 1932. With that one stroke of a typewriter key and its resulting imprint, I officially became one year older.

The rest, as some are wont to say, is history. My mother (my sole guardian) willingly and unashamedly signed the paper attesting to my age and thereby giving her permission for me to enlist, and I was scheduled for a swearing-in ceremony. However, before that time came the Army recruiter had made his monthly quota for that service and enlistments were closed. He told me I could wait until the Army recruiting quota opened the following month, or I could go into the US Air Force immediately.

I accepted the Air Force offer without hesitation and was duly sworn-in, and on the morning of March 7, 1949, shortly after my mother had taught me how to to make a Windsor knot in a necktie, I boarded a train in Columbus, Mississippi (note: 2-digit codes for states had not yet been developed) bound for New Orleans. In that city I changed to a Southern Pacific train, the Sunset Limited headed for California.

In the midst of a gaggle of other enlistees, I left the train at Sunset Station in San Antonio, Texas and presented myself, all 110 pounds of me, at the tender age of 16 years, five months and 18 days, to a burly military policeman. That worthy used some really colorful language to form us into some semblance of a military formation, a formation which he strained mightily to maintain while we waited for the bus which would transport us to Lackland Air Force Base to begin basic training.

My association with the United States Air Force lasted 22 years, plus several more months and a few more days. As one might expect, events of those years now threaten viewers with an infinite number of additional inane blog postings.

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

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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