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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Revisit: Letter to AARP . . .

I am revisiting this posting because it is worthy of repeating given the current political atmosphere—kudos once again to the couple that originally submitted the letter to AARP.

The original posting follows:

I received this letter in a friend’s e-mail and felt that it would be worthwhile to make it available to everyone that visits my blog—it’s a good read, regardless of one’s political preferences or affiliation. In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that the original letter, although written in the first person, was signed by two people, so I took liberties and edited it, including the substitution of the personal plurals of we, us and ours. And I, without the slightest hint of blushing, consider my editing to have significantly improved the original letter.

Hey, it’s my blog—I’m allowed to do that, especially if it adds to, and does not take from, the spirit and intent of the missive.

Okay?

Lighten up!

This is the e-mail I received—the first paragraph is from the sender of the e-mail:

This letter is well written, and it’s a good shot across the bow of AARP. I checked it out and it’s a real letter, and Miller Farms Equine Transport is real. The letter to the AARP says it all, a must read regardless of one’s age. Some people just make sense in what they say, and this couple certainly does that. Their letter was sent to Mr. Rand, the Executive Director of AARP, and is as follows:

Dear Mr. Rand,

Recently you sent a letter encouraging us to renew our lapsed membership in AARP by the requested date. We know this is not the letter you were looking for, but this is the most honest response we can give you.

Our gap in coverage is merely a microscopic symptom of the real problem, a deepening lack of faith. While we have proudly maintained our membership for several years and have long-admired AARP’s goals and principles, we regret that we cannot endorse its abdication of our values.

Your letter specifically stated that we may depend on AARP to speak up for our rights, yet the voice we hear is not ours—it’s yours. Your offer of keeping us up to date on important issues through Divided We Fail presents neither an impartial view nor the one we have come to embrace. We do believe that when two parties agree all the time on everything presented to them, one is probably not necessary. But when the opinions and long-term goals of the two parties are diametrically opposed, divorce is imminent.

This is the philosophy that spawned our 200 years of government. At one time we looked forward to being part of the senior demographic. We looked to AARP to provide certain benefits and give our voice a power we could not possibly hope to achieve on our own. AARP gave us a sense of belonging, one that we no longer enjoy. The socialist politics practiced by the present administration, and empowered by AARP, serve only to raise the blood pressure our medical insurance strives to contain—clearly a conflict of interest!

We do not understand AARP’s posture. We feel greatly betrayed by the guiding forces that we expected to map out our senior years, and we leave your ranks with a great sense of regret. We mitigate that disappointment with the relief of knowing that we are not contributing to the problem anymore by renewing our membership. There are numerous other organizations that offer discounts without threatening our way of life or offending our sensibilities.

This administration scares the living daylights out of us, not just for ourselves, but also for our proud and bloodstained heritage, and even more important, for what our children and grandchildren will inherit. Washington has rendered Soylent Green a prophetic cautionary tale rather than a fictional scare tactic.

We have never endorsed any militant or radical groups, yet now we find ourselves listening to them. We don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the fear that birthed their existence. Their borderline insanity presents little more than a balance to the voice of the socialist mindset of those in power. We became Americans by a great stroke of luck in some cosmic uterine lottery, but as adults we choose to embrace our heritage, and we embrace and nurture the freedoms it represents and the responsibilities it requires.

Your website generously offers us the opportunity to receive all communications in Spanish. Are you kidding? People are breaking into our houses and invading our homes without our invitation or consent. And now our president insists that we keep the invaders in comfort and learn their language so we can communicate our reluctant welcome to them.

We do not choose to welcome them.

We do not choose to support them.

We do not choose to educate them.

We do not choose to medicate them.

We do not choose to feed, clothe or house them.

American home invaders are arrested. Please explain to us why foreign lawbreakers enjoy privileges on American soil that Americans do not have. Legal immigrants must comply with our immigration laws to be welcomed, yet illegal “immigrants” need only break and enter to be welcomed!

We travel for a living. We transport horses all over this great country, averaging more than 10,000 miles a month. While out there we meet more people than a politician overdosed on caffeine. Of all the many good folks we met on our last 10,000 miles, the trip yielded only one supporter of this administration. Either we, or those that determine policy at AARP, are out of touch with mainstream America. Since our poll is conducted without funding, I have more faith in it than any poll which is power driven.

We have decided to forward this letter to everyone on our mailing list, and will encourage all to do the same. With several hundred people in our address book, we have faith that the eventual exponential factor will make a credible statement to you.

We are disappointed as hell.

We are scared as hell.

We are mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it any more!

Walt and Cyndy,

Miller Farms Equine Transport

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

A medical miracle . . .

A medical miracle

When I was twelve years old I went to live with my brother and his family in Suitland, Maryland. This was not a voluntary change of scenery and habitat. My stepfather had returned to his parental duties after having broken up our little family for the umpteenth time. My mother, my youngest sister and I were living in Durant, Mississippi and as far as I was concerned, I would have been happy to continue there through high school, and then on to whatever life might offer.

Prior to our migration to Durant, we were living on a small farm twelve miles from Columbus, Mississippi, living an idyllic existence and had I been asked, I would have said that everything was coming up roses. Papa John, my stepfather, had other ideas. Just as he had done at other times in the few short years of his marriage to my mother, my sister and me, he found an excuse to explode into a rage and dissolve the family. Click here to learn the reason for the breakup. It’s a story of chapped hands, Jergen’s lotion, talcum powder, biscuits and breakfast, a clawed cheek, a shotgun, a young boy and girl hiding in the woods and a Model T automobile. If that doesn’t pique your interest, I can’t imagine what would!

When I left Durant I went to live with a family that was unknown to me. In my first twelve years I could count the times that I had seen my brother on the fingers of one hand, and each of those times was only for a few days. Now everything was strange to me—my brother, his wife, their young son, our neighbors, my school, the community, the people and the weather.

Now in order to continue, I must discuss a mental and physical change in me that any psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor could have predicted—I swiftly descended into a condition known as constipation. You can Google that, but it probably isn’t necessary. Sooner or later, having birthed into an unfriendly world—probably sooner rather than later—every living creature, whether human or otherwise, will suffer from that same malady.

One should think, even at the tender age of twelve years, one would know what was causing the gnawing stomach pains that began a few days after I joined my brother’s family. What began as a slight feeling of discomfort rapidly devolved into severe pain that could only be lessened by my curling up into a fetal position and doing some audible grunting and groaning.

Okay, it took a bit of ink for the prelude to the following action, and I apologize for the delay—I felt that the background leading up to my visit to a doctor was pertinent to this discussion, but from this point I will make an effort to be brief. I realize that my readers are anxious to learn what deadly malady had overtaken me.

Very soon after arriving at the doctor’s office I was lying on my side sans trousers and undergarments, and the doctor’s index finger, the one on his right hand with the hand ensconced in a white plastic glove—yes, that inordinately long digit was uncomfortably fitted into a sensitive area in my lower part of my body—yes, you guessed it—it was in the part that can be considered a homonym, a word that sounds like another but is spelled differently and has a different meaning. In this instance the word rhymes with wrecked ‘um, a condition that describes the effect of one motor vehicle colliding with another—go figure!

The doctor, calling on all his medical study and training and the sensitivity of that inordinately long finger, diagnosed my condition as severe constipation, a malady that in his opinion was caused by my reluctance to fill my brother’s small abode with unspeakable odors, thus making me the object of ridicule, scorn and sarcasm. I know, I know—it sounds really stupid, and to echo the words of Forest Gump, stupid is as stupid does, and it was stupid of me to worry about something that is as common to mankind as breathing. The exact words of the doctor’s diagnosis were, There’s a lot there that needs to be cleared out.

Now on to my recovery, a miracle that was accomplished with a solution of warm water with some sort of powder dissolved therein and placed in a red rubber bag known as a hot water bottle—well, there was another common term for the bag, one that was not voiced in mixed company, that is in company comprised of mixed genders. That other nomenclature is douche bag, and that should indicate one of its functions to any knowledgeable reader.

Shortly after returning home from the doctor’s office I was seated in the bathroom on you know what with the business end of a flexible tube inserted in you know where with the other end attached to a red rubber bag filled with that solution of powder and warm water, with my brother manipulating the bag much as a musician manipulates an accordion.

With each squeeze of the accordion, the musician creates musical notes. With each squeeze of that devil bag my brother elicited vocal sounds from me and lifted me ever so slightly off my seat, and with each squeeze his laughter increased in tempo and volume. He was literally in tears, long before the deed was accomplished to his satisfaction.

The rest is history—I retained my seat on orders from my brother, and shortly after being disconnected from that devil apparatus following many days of discomfort and pain, I was cured by a miracle, a miracle that featured a kindly, long-fingered doctor, a red rubber bag, a medical solution and a maniacal brother, and I returned to the adventurous life I had lived before my transportation to strange surroundings.

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

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in health, Humor

 

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Alabama sans bathrooms . . .

I lived with my family in several houses before we moved from Alabama to Mississippi. Our first home in that city was on Fifth Street South. Click here for a sordid but hilarious tale of the itch, and of two naked kids undergoing treatment for their supposed infection of scabies.

The images shown at right show outhouses ranging from the most basic to the most outlandish. Note the brick outhouse in the center—is there anyone, anywhere, that has not heard this remark? Boy, she’s built like a brick—uh, like a brick—well, you know, like a brick outhouse! The last privy pictured is perhaps the ultimate outhouse, a two-story number with a ground entrance and a sky walk for the upper floors.

The house on Fifth Street was my first exposure to running water in the house and its accompanying refinement, a bathroom equipped with a bathtub and a commode. My prior residences in Alabama had neither, nor did the homes of our relatives in Alabama. Water was hauled in from the well or pumped from an underground source and hauled in, and baths were taken in a #2 wash tub or via a wash pan and a wash cloth. We mostly didn’t call them wash cloths—we called them wash rags because that’s what they were, squares of cloth taken from ragged sheets or towels or other cloth items that were no longer used for their original purposes. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were way ahead of the current recycling craze now sweeping the country!

In lieu of an inside toilet, our necessaries were outside and away from our domiciles, usually placed but not always, downwind from the house, depending on the direction of prevailing breezes, and at some locations the necessary was in any location at a distance from the house that provided a modicum of privacy, regardless of the prevailing breezes—get the picture? When a man-made structure existed, it was called privy, toilet, outhouse, the little house behind the big house and numerous other names, mostly vulgar terms. Regardless of its name, location or composition each adhered to this corruption of Shakespeare’s immortal line, namely That which we call a toilet, by any other name, would smell the same—hey, I said the line was corrupted, didn’t I? And it rhymes!

Now for the gist of this posting—it relates to personal cleansing, or bathing. I hesitate to use this term for an early Alabama bathing facility, but I don’t know how to get around using it, so I’ll borrow a truism from one of our former presidents—it is what it is, and it was what it was, so I’ll call it a wash hole and continue from that point.

A wash hole in my childhood days was any declivity in a stream that held enough water to enable one to get wet all over, and through the use of soap cleanse oneself—take a bath. As a child I was exposed—literally—to bathing in wash holes, usually on a Saturday afternoon. Farming in my early childhood days, in my area and my era, was a full time job from daylight till dark beginning with Monday’s daylight  and ending at Saturday’s noontime—from that point farm work ceased. Menfolks would leave their toils at noon, eat a hearty dinner, nap for awhile in the shade, usually on the front porch and then head for the wash hole for their weekly overall bath—seriously!

That Saturday afternoon bath held good through Saturday night and all the way to the next week on the following Saturday afternoon, and then the process would be repeated. In that interim period of one week, ablutions were restricted to face and neck and hands and arms and feet—unless one were caught in the rain, nothing else got wet until wash hole time came around again. I cannot speak for womenfolks and their bathing habits. At my tender age I was never privy—pardon the pun—to their bathroom habits or their methods or frequency of ablutions. Whatever methods were involved, the women always managed to appear and smell much better than their male counterparts.

Armed with soap, towels, clean shirts and overalls or trousers following Saturday’s dinner and brief siesta, the men and boys, regardless of their ages—even the little ones such as I—would head for the wash hole and once there, strip and wade in or dive in if the depth of the wash hole allowed it. It could be a small pond, a deep spot in a creek or a gravel pit filled with spring water. Diving required a working knowledge of the wash hole’s depth—click here for a tragic tale of a wash hole’s depth overestimated.

The hours from noon on Saturday until Monday’s return to the fields provided a respite from toil and worry, and virtually everyone–men, women and children headed for town. In my case the nearest town was five miles distant—as a child I have covered that distance in conveyances ranging from a mule-drawn wagon to a Ford Model A to an interstate bus. The trip in a wagon brings up more pleasant memories. The men sat on the wagon seat and in the wagon bed—upright cane-bottom chairs were placed for the womenfolk, and the kids were left to hang on anywhere they could find room. Depending on the length of the wagon tongue, one or two kids could sit on the rear portion for a really rocky ride. For most of the five miles we ranged ahead of the wagon chasing rabbits, picking blackberries along the roadside, throwing rocks at flying birds—we never hit one—and luxuriating in all the pleasures of childhood. Once into town with the mules tied up at the courthouse square and munching on hay, we were pretty much on our own.

The two things I remember best about the town square were Wimpy’s Hamburgers—a name taken from the Popeye comic strip featured in most newspapers—and the movie house, placed on opposite sides of the square. Movies were shown only on Friday and Saturday nights, the same films on both nights, and they usually ran for several weeks. The fare usually consisted of two feature-length films, termed a double feature, one a cowboy show and the other a detective or love story, supplemented by newsreels, cartoons and previews of coming attractions, all presented in black-and-white—-color was still in the future.

But I digress—back to the wash hole. I learned to swim in various wash holes by lying in shallow water and propelling myself along by my fingertips along the bottom, and graduated from that to pulling myself along in deep water with the same motion—the only difference was that my hands were pulling water towards me instead of pulling me along the pool’s bottom. From that point I mastered virtually every one of the dozens of swimming strokes—nah, not really—I still use my hands to propel myself along to keep my head above water to avoid drowning, a simple act that would eliminate drowning as a cause of death if learned and practiced by everyone.

The unvarnished truth is that I really learned to swim when my brother-in-law Elmer tossed me off a bluff into Pearl River, a stream that runs through the Hobolochitto Swamp in south Mississippi. In those years the swamp included alligators of all sizes, and I could feel teeth nipping at my toes from the time I hit the water. Knowing that I couldn’t climb the bluff, I thrashed and splashed my way successfully to the opposite side of the stream. I was reasonably sure that Elmer would rescue me if I foundered, but I decided not to risk sinking to the bottom in order to be rescued. No, I didn’t use the crawl I learned in wash holes. I combined the overhand front crawl with some stupendous flutter kicking—any alligator would have avoided the area on the belief that it was occupied by a monstrous specimen of its own species or perhaps of an unknown species.

My tale of being tossed into an alligator-infested river is true—I know—I was there! Sometimes, depending on my audience, I tell the story differently. I claim that I survived by swimming faster than the alligator that came after me, a Herculean feat made possible by the fact that I was swimming in clear water, as opposed to what the alligator faced.

That’s my story of bathrooms, outhouses, swimming and alligators and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in Humor, sports, swimming

 

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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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A one-mule syrup making operation . . .

I recently posted the story of the death of a favorite uncle. He was killed in a freak accident involving his ten-year-old son, a farm tractor and a grist mill. Click here to read the full story.

In listing the various businesses and occupations of my Uncle Esker, I overlooked his syrup mill where he made some gloriously sweet ribbon cane syrup with the help of  a mule. The mule was tethered to a boom that caused him to walk in an endless circle in order to turn the gears that ground the juice out of the fresh stalks of cane. The stalks were stripped of leaves and dirt and hand-fed into a set of grinding gears, and the cane juice traveled down a wooden trough to the boiling pot. The hand-feeding part of the operation was very dangerous—if one encountered a one-armed person in rural areas of Alabama in those days, the odds were that the person had been careless in pushing the cane stalks into the gears and included his hand and part of his arm into the mechanism. Accidents such as that were rarely fatal, but almost every incident required amputation of the mangled hand and arm.

No person or animal, not even a mule, could be expected to walk in a circle hour after hour and be satisfied with its work and its surroundings. However, this mule was equipped with blinders, a harness with leather side pieces that fit on his head and blocked his vision on both sides. While wearing this apparatus he could only see straight ahead, and those in the know said that it fooled him into believing he was going somewhere other than in a continuous circle. Apparently it fooled him, but I don’t believe that it would fool me—of course I am a bit smarter than the mule—at least I would like to think so.

We kids spent a lot of time hanging around the syrup mill for several reasons, not the least of which was that Uncle Esker would use his pocket knife to cut off joints of the ribbon cane, then peel the outer layer from the joint and cut the cane into bite-size pieces, and from that point it was pure pleasure for us. We chewed the pieces until we had coaxed out and swallowed all the juice, then spit out the chewed part and selected another bite. Few, perhaps none, of today’s children will ever experience the simple pleasure of chewing ribbon cane for its juice, and that’s a shame, albeit a rather messy process.

Another of the syrup mills’ pleasures was riding the mule. Sometimes as many as four of us were placed astraddle of the mule’s back and were carried around and around at a leisurely pace—about the pace of a mule walking, so to speak—playing cowboy and Indians, cocking our fingers and pointing at imaginary figures in the surrounding area and making the gunshot sound with our voices—you, the reader, know what I’m talking about. We even simulated the sound of our bullets ricocheting off rocks when we missed our elusive targets—of course, I rarely missed.

I can’t recall ever being told anything about the process of converting cane juice into table syrup. I know only that the juice was filtered and boiled and ultimately ended up in a bottle or a bucket. The syrup of choice then, and perhaps now, in Alabama was named The Pride of Dixie. Folks in that area used those initials , POD, to describe anything that they found satisfactory or attractive, whether in taste or appearance and if satisfied with something they would say, Well, that’s really POD! In other words, it was at least as good as the Pride of Dixie syrup—okay, I guess you had to be there.

Now you know as much about a primitive one mule, one man syrup mill as I do. Some may still exist in some undeveloped countries but they are ancient history in the United States.

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

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2010 in Family, farming, food, Humor

 

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Dempsey and his dad . . .

Dempsey was one of my many first-cousins, born in 1928, the younger of two sons born to Ellie, one of my mother’s sisters. Aunt Ellie was married to my Uncle Esker, a hard-working land-owner that lived with his family in a rural area some five miles south of Vernon,the county seat of Lamar County, Alabama. He  was a highly successful landowner, farmer, store keeper, blacksmith, syrup-maker, grist mill operator, auto mechanic, self-trained veterinarian and a husband and father.

He died under the wheels of a farm tractor, his head crushed by the lugs of the left rear wheel with his younger son, a boy of ten years, at the controls of the tractor. For the edification of anyone unfamiliar with lugs, they are the huge metal spikes on the rear wheels of some tractors, designed to allow the tractor to find traction in mud and loose soil. One can still see highway signs in rural areas prohibiting vehicles with lugs from operating on paved highways—for obvious reasons, of course. Those spikes can cause significant damage to asphalt pavements and bring death to living flesh, whether animals or humans.

It was an unfortunate and horrible accident, and it was impossible to know with any certainty how and why it happened. The tractor had a power take-off, and its broadband drive belt was hooked up to operate the grinding machines of grist mill at the time. Families came from farms and small communities from miles around to the grist mill with wagon loads of raw corn and grains and returned home with cornmeal and flour. The old-time tractor had no starter—its engine was started by a hand-crank from the front, as were many vehicles in those days, a procedure that often required two people for success—one to turn the crank and the other to operate the throttle and choke to provide the proper mixture of gasoline and air to start the engine.

Obviously the gearshift had to be in neutral when the engine started—otherwise the tractor would lurch forward  when the engine started, with predictable results for the person cranking the engine. The tractor should have been rendered immobile—that is, secured with safety chains or with barriers in front to keep it stationary while it was hooked up to the grist mill—it was not secured in any manner.

This was an accident waiting to happen, and it  happened. The tractor was not secured, and when the engine started the tractor was in gear and it lurched forward. My uncle slipped and fell and the left rear wheel crushed his head. His son either failed to place the gearshift in neutral before signaling his father to turn the crank, or by accident put the tractor into gear after the engine started, and before his father could move out of harm’s way—he was said to have died instantly.

I don’t know my uncle’s age or the year he died. There is no record in the Social Security Death records because this was just a short time after Social Security was established in 1935—I doubt that my uncle ever had a Social Security number. I was a little feller at the time, somewhere around five or six years of age, but I have vivid memories of my uncle’s  casket in my aunt’s house—the casket was closed, for obvious reasons. His casket was one of three  that I remember seeing in that same room in a period of perhaps five years  when I was a small boy. The others were those of my grandmother (my mother’s mother) and another uncle, one of my mother’s brothers. The life and unusual death of my mother’s brother is recorded in one of my postings. It involves my uncle, another patient in the asylum and a metal bedpan. Click here for that story—it’s worth the read.

In those days the deceased lay in state at home for a time, at least overnight, before being interred. This gave friends and relatives time to bring in flowers and food for the family and for the other mourners, and to tender their respect for the dead and condolences to the grieving family members. There were lots of flowers and lots of food at Aunt Ellie’s house—my uncle was a highly-respected man in the community, very active in his church in addition to his business activities, and people came from many miles around to attend his funeral.

I had big ears when I was a little boy—still do, as a matter of fact. I don’t mean that my ears are larger than normal—they aren’t. It’s just that I am unable to tune out conversations around me. I dislike dining at cafeterias because I am tuned in to every conversation at every table within earshot, and that becomes a bit overwhelming. As I moved around at my uncle’s wake, in the room and through the house and on the porch and in the yard, anywhere that mourners gathered, I gleaned information from people talking in low voices about the accident, going over the details and wondering how such a thing could have happened. I took in all the solemn voices and speculations and conclusions, and because I am blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a fairly decent memory, I have retained many memories of the event.

One of my most vivid memories of my Uncle Esker is of his huge barn across the highway from his house. I went with him one morning to feed the animals and to see the foal that he told me had been born the day before. It was a beautiful colt, brown with white markings. I stood in awe of the foal and my uncle asked me if I would like to have one like that. I answered in the affirmative, of course, and he told me that the colt was mine, but that I would have to wait until it grew up a bit before I could claim it.

No way—I claimed that colt that same day, and I could hardly wait to tell all my friends about my pony. I was the only kid in my circle and on my block and maybe in the entire city of Columbus, Mississippi that could claim to be the owner of such an animal, and I got as much mileage as I could with the information. My uncle died soon after the gift was made, and since he and I were the only ones that knew about the transaction, I laid no claim to the colt but I still feel, even to this day almost three-quarters of a century later that I once owned a beautiful white-faced and white-footed pony—that’s a very satisfying feeling—not many kids can make that claim!

I was not around Dempsey very much, and I didn’t know him well. I have no way of knowing how well he coped with the  knowledge that he was complicit in his father’s death. He died in 1977 at the age of 69 so whatever he felt and how he coped with his part of the accident is of no consequence now. We were four years apart in age, and few ten year old boys have much in common with six year old boys. I may have seen him three or four times in later years, but it would have been for very limited periods. The only concrete knowledge I have about him is that he worked in Birmingham, Alabama for Bama Foods, a company that produced jams and jellies for home and commercial consumption, as did most of my relatives from that period. I and my family have used their products for many years and I can highly recommend them—and no, I do not have any stock in the company!

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

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2010 in Childhood, death, drivers, Family, food, funeral

 

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Lift that thing up—if it’s not too heavy . . .

I spent twelve years working on the Mexican border at several locations as a Customs inspector, including assignments as a journeyman and as a supervisor first-level and second-level supervisor. As a journeyman in those years I conducted a goodly number of strip searches, and as a Customs supervisor I witnessed and assisted in another goodly number of strip searches. Most strip searches were routine and produced nothing, but some produced hidden contraband ranging from diet pills to parakeets, and narcotics ranging from marijuana to cocaine to heroin. Some strip searches revealed unusual body piercing and tattoos. Click here for a posting on an unusual tattoo, a rather large spider. There were other tattoos noted in that particular spot in other searches, but this is the only one that would have qualified for placement in Ripley’s Believe it or not! museum.

At the port of Progreso I and another journeyman inspector conducted a strip search on a young man in his late teens, and in the process found concealed contraband in a location that neither of us had ever found contraband before—or since. We had the subject ruffle his hands through his hair to dislodge any contraband that might  be concealed there, raise both arms to show his armpits, and bend over and spread to enable us to note any evidence of a body cavity concealment. Evidence of vaseline or other lubricant in that area could suggest concealment, and believe it or not, seizures have been made because the smuggler left a string hanging out to facilitate removal of the contraband—go figure!

Our visual inspection of the subject’s backside was negative, but when he turned around my fellow inspector told him to lift that thing up if it’s not too heavy for you. The lad lifted that thing up and a clear plastic pill box clattered to the floor. It had been sandwiched between the skin of his scrotum and that thingthat flacid thing—had kept the pillbox hidden from view. We did not measure the pillbox, but we estimated its diameter somewhere between one and two inches, about the width of a United States silver dollar, a coin that measures one and one-half inches—we speculated on that thing’s measurements, but we refrained from taking any measurements because they were not germane to our responsibilities as Customs inspectors—plus we were probably in fear of agitating it.

The pillbox contained several small white unmarked pills. We passed them around to all the other inspectors, including Immigration and Agriculture officers, but none could identify the pills. We confiscated them, required the subject to sign an Asset to Forfeiture form and later that day destroyed the pills and the pillbox in the incinerator.

The young man said he had been in Mexico for several days, just hanging out. He appeared completely disoriented, did not know where he had been or where he was now, and was unsure of where he was going. He showed every evidence of brain burn-out from using acid, the drug of choice for many young people—and some not so young—such disorientation was a common sight among acid—LSD—users in the sixties and seventies of the past century—shades of Timothy Leary!  Click here for a discussion of LSD and Professor Leary’s advice to America’s counterculture to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

We released him—the traveler, not the professor—and he departed the port area walking. My duty shift ended a short time later and I left the port for home. About two miles away from the port I saw the lad coming out of a deep irrigation ditch that ran at right angles to the highway. Thinking that perhaps he had an accomplice that may have hidden contraband in the ditch I stopped and asked him why he went into the ditch. He said that he was thirsty and went for a drink of water. I believed him but I subjected him to a pat-down search that proved negative, and I bade him farewell and God speed—no, I did not conduct another strip search.

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

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in law enforcement, strip searches

 

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