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.
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
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!
Tags: accordian, breakfast, brother, diagnosis, doctor, durant, fetal, graduation, malady, Maryland, miracle, Mississippi, model t, plastic, school, shotgun, stepfather, Suitland, vehicle
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!
Tags: Alabama, alligator, bathtub, blackberries, cloth, commode, cowboy, hobolochitto, it is what it is, itch, male, Mississippi, model a, mule, outhouse, pearl river, popeye, rabbits, scabies, Shakespeare, theater, tiolet, tub, wagon, wimps hamburgers, wimpy
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?”
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!
Tags: alexandria, beauty, bill olreilly, brains, comedy, computer, Family, genetic makeup, German, heine, heinrich, Hispanic, matriarch, paris, partridge family, patriarch, pronunciation, pussy, San Antonio, Virginia
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!
Tags: accident, blinders, boom, cane, circle, cowboy, gristmil tractor, history, Indians, mule, POD, Pride of Dixie, ribbon cane. gear, stalks, syrup, targets, uncle
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!
Tags: accident, Alabama, asylum, bama foods, blacksmith, Columbus, corn, death, death records, farmer, father, foal, grains, grist mill, hand crank, highway, husband, Lamar County, life, lugs, Mississippi, pony, Social Security, tractor, uncle, veterinarian
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 thing—that 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!
Tags: acid, believe it or not, contraband, counterculture, customs, ditch, dollar, irrigation, leary, lsd, museum. progreso, scrotum, spider ripley, string, supervisor, tattoo, timothy leary, vaseline
Earlier this month I posted a story about a rabbit that thrived on diesel fuel—not a real rabbit, of course—this was a Volkswagen Rabbit that performed heroically for our family in the years between 1978 and 1984. I would like to believe that it is still performing, some 26 years after I donated it to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas—could be—who knows?
Click here to read about the Rabbit’s ability to travel 60 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel.
For a related story about the car, A Rabbit with an attitude, click here.
What follows is a comment from one of my three daughters, the princess that lives in a Dallas suburb with her husband, her son, her daughter and a Blue-heeled Australian Shepherd named Wrigley, along with various insects and other creepy-crawly specimens collected by her daughter. I felt that my daughter’s comment, combined with my response, qualified for a separate posting. My daughter also has a WordPress blog. She started off at top speed then came to an abrupt stop, but the initial posting is well worth the read. Click here for her posting about the Easter bunny.
This is my daughter’s comment:
What I remember most about this car was driving to San Antonio to buy the car. You and mom dumped—okay, dropped—us off at the movies to see “Jaws.” Cindy and I sat through one showing and you didn’t show up—we sat through another showing and you still hadn’t come back to pick us up. Halfway through the third showing you proudly came into the theater with the great news that you had bought the car. I am sure that seeing Jaws two and one-half times has something to do with my fear of being ripped to shreds by a shark—that and my overactive imagination.
This is my response to her comment:
Sorry about that, but thanks for your comment. It taught me a new word—galeophobia. Had I been asked the meaning of that word before now, I would have guessed that it meant a fear of strong winds—tornados, hurricanes, summer breezes wafting o’er the meadows, etc. For your edification—if needed—and that of the hordes of viewers stampeding and elbowing one another in their efforts to gain access to my blog, I am including Wikipedia’s take on fear of sharks—click here for the Wikipedia web site.
Fear of sharks: Excessive and persistent fear of sharks is termed galeophobia. Sufferers from this phobia experience anxiety even though they may be safe on a boat or in an aquarium or on a beach. Hollywood films depicting sharks as calculating, vengeful diabolical monsters have no doubt enkindled the fear of sharks in many persons. So have validated reports of sharks venturing into rivers and lakes.
Most of the more than 300 species of sharks rarely attack swimmers and scuba divers. However, great white sharks, hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks will attack on occasion, especially if they detect blood in the water. More than 60 percent of the victims of shark attacks survive. Oddly, the largest of all sharks, the whale shark, feeds on plankton and has no appetite for human flesh.
The term “galeophobia” is derived from the Greek words “galeos” (shark with markings resembling those on a weasel) and “phobos” (fear). “Galeophobia” is also sometimes used as alternate term for ailurophobia, fear of cats, because the Greek word “galeos” is derived from “galee,” a Greek meaning “polecat” and “weasel.”
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Postscript: I stumbled upon a website that featured a Panama-brown Rabbit owned by a lover of Panama-brown Rabbits. Click here to view multiple photos—this car differs from my rabbit only in the number of doors—mine had four—and its fuel requirements. The owner doesn’t say, but I believe this is a gasoline model. My Rabbit was configured for diesel fuel.
Tags: australian shepherd, belt, Brownsville, chevrolet, DC, diesel, donna, fan, fuel, glow plugs, jaws, McAllen, Mexico, panama, Rabbit, rio grande river, Roma, salvation army, San Antonio, shark, supervisor, Texas, US Air Force, US Customs, vehicle, Volkswagen, Washington
A Rabbit with an attitude . . .
While employed as a supervisory Customs inspector at the international bridge in Brownsville, Texas I worked numerous 4-12 evening shifts. When a spot was available, I parked in front of the Customhouse along an aluminum guard rail placed between outgoing traffic and the secondary inspection area.
On one memorable evening an inspector came to my office and told me that my car had been involved in an accident. It seemed that a tourist in an RV, a heavily loaded pickup truck with a slide-in camper, was somewhat unhappy with his inspection and was in a hurry to leave the area.
When the angry driver backed up to turn around in the inspection area, his rear bumper hit my rear bumper on the right corner at a 45-degree angle and jammed the left front bumper of my car against the guard rail. The conjunction of the two bumpers and their shapes, and the conjunction of the front bumper and the guard rail and their shapes, changed my car’s appearance forever. Nope, I never had the damage repaired.
The simultaneous contact of my car’s rear with the truck and its nose with the guard rail left my 1978 Volkswagen, a Panama Brown diesel Rabbit, in deplorable condition—visually, that is—the accident affected its appearance but not its performance.
The rear bumper was turned sharply up at its right corner, and the front bumper was turned sharply up at its left corner. Viewed from the front the little car resembled a snarling dog, the corner of its mouth turned up in a warning to something or someone, either animal or human. Viewed from the rear it looked like a dog with its right hind leg lifted, its foot high in the air in the stance a dog adopts when it urinates. Had the tourist hit the car and pushed it straight against the guard rail my Rabbit would probably have bent in the middle and wound up looking like a dog humped for a dump—that’s just speculation, of course, and a bit crude, but you get the picture, right?
I left Texas a few months later, headed for an assignment at Customs headquarters in Washington, D.C., and I passed my Rabbit over to one of my daughters. At the time she was commuting to work between Brownsville and Donna, Texas, a daily round trip of a hundred miles. A couple of years later I donated the Rabbit to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas with its lip still turned up in a snarl and its rear leg still lifted in that classic doggie stance.
At the time of our parting the little car had performed beautifully for 186,000 miles—the only maintenance in that time, other than routine oil changes, was the replacement of a broken fan belt that gave up the ghost at 100,000 miles. My little Rabbit did have a strange quirk, however. Its fuel supply had only one small strainer between the tank and the cylinders, and when the strainer became blocked the car would begin to slow down, and would finally come to a stop with the engine starved for fuel.
That is a subject worthy of a future posting, so stay tuned.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: acccident, Brownsville, bumper, camper, conjunction, custmhouse, customs, DC, diesel, dog, inspector, McAllen, panama, pickup, rv, salvation army, Texas, truck, Washington
A special introduction to this posting:
I have multiple reasons for making this posting. As with almost every posting that I make, my intention is to record significant moments in my life for the benefit of my daughters. Many of those moments occurred before my girls were born, and I consider this the ideal vehicle in which to store those moments to make them available at the touch of a computer key. In this instance it is also an effort to educate others. The human female’s reproductive system with its various apparatuses is literally the source of life—it is mankind’s future, and its various components are probably some of the most complex and most misunderstood areas that exist in our society. I can state unequivocally and unashamedly that I learned from researching the remarkable subject of this posting, and I trust that what I have learned will benefit others that are as uneducated in this area as I was—in many respects I remain uneducated—but I’m learning!
I introduced Betty, a fellow teenager friend from long ago, on my blog in my last posting. Click here to read about that introduction, our first and only date to see a movie, and about me being slapped off her porch and into the yard—it’s worth the visit.
Betty’s father was a commander in the United States Navy, stationed in Washington, D.C. He was almost bald, of short stature and in retrospect he reminds me of Lt. Commander Queeg, the part played by Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny. The commander’s wife and my sister-in-law spent a lot of time in my sister-in-law’s kitchen drinking coffee, smoking and talking about the various things women talk about while drinking coffee and smoking.
Our duplex was small, with no closed dividers between the living room and the kitchen, and people in one area could clearly hear conversations in the other area if normal volumes were used. Low whispers would not be detected, however. Betty’s mother was not whispering when she told my sister-in-law about the monthly physical exam her husband made of their daughter, then twelve years old. She either had forgotten that I was in the living room reading, or else did not care that I might be listening to the two women conversing over coffee and cigarettes. There is a slight possibility that she may have wanted me to hear her, feeling that I would thus refrain from any thoughts I might have in mind that, if converted into action, would affect the findings of the next monthly exam—you’ll understand that comment in a moment.
What I heard the mother tell is this: She told my sister-in-law that her husband gave their daughter a tub bath at least once a month, and as part of that action determined whether she was still a virgin. I know, I know—the only proof of virginity is an intact hymen, but the hymen can be breached and destroyed without intercourse having taken place. An intact hymen may indicate that vaginal intercourse has not taken place, but its absence does not prove that such intercourse has in fact taken place.
Now for the sensitive part of this discussion of a father playing doctor with his twelve year old daughter—how does one determine the presence of, or the absence of, a girl’s hymen? If not through questioning, it would have to be through one or more of the five physical senses, and through a process of elimination we should be able to determine the manner in which this remarkable father followed his daughter’s progress towards adulthood.
If one were inclined to do so, as was Betty’s father, the intact hymen can be easily examined through a combination of our physical senses. Betty was probably treated to a warm bath shortly after we returned home from the movies, and I hasten to add that had the examination produced unsatisfactory results I might have been suspect, but I was in no way involved in the above mentioned area, nowhere even close. It could well be, of course, that I lusted in my heart, just as former president Jimmy Carter, in his interview with Playboy magazine, said that he was inclined to do. Incidentally, Jimmy and Rosalyn have been married for 64 years—I congratulate and salute them!
In our search for the hymen we can eliminate the auditory sense, that of hearing—contrary to The Vagina Monologues, history holds no record of a talking vagina. We can also eliminate the gustatory and olfactory senses—neither would in any way confirm the presence, absence or condition of the hymen.
Through our scientific elimination of three of our five physical senses, we are left with the visual and tactile sense, our senses of sight and touch. The only sensible way to confirm the presence or the absence of the hymen is by combining the human senses of seeing and touching. If the hymen is there it can be seen and touched, and that combination will detect and confirm its existence and its condition, or its absence.
The story told in this posting is true. If Betty’s mother and father are still alive, both are well past the century mark in age and if still living, Betty would be in her seventh decade of life, far beyond any fear of her father failing to find an intact hymen. I wish them all well, whatever their condition or location.
Postscript: I posted this story in an effort to educate and perhaps, with a smattering of humor to entertain, and I make no apology to anyone that may be troubled by this posting in regards to their standards of decency. If you are offended by the subject matter, I offer the world of WordPress for your consideration. Use the search feature—Search WordPress.com—you’ll find every sexual act known to mankind, discussed in street language, not once, not twice but thousands of times. Wade through that compendium of filth, then compare my work to those entries—in comparison my efforts should earn, at the very least, honorable mention in the annual quest for a Nobel prize.
That’s my story, and in the words of Steve McQueen in his masterful performance in the movie Tom Horn, I’ll have nothing further to say about that.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: auditory, bogart, caine mutiny, coffee, commander, daughter, duplex, father, gustatory, hymen, Navy, olfactory, sister-in-law, tactile, virginity, visual, washington dc
As a teenager I spent two winters in Suitland, Maryland and there were heavy snowfalls in both years, heavier than any snowfall I remember in my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi or in any other location in which I spent time in my teenage years. The lack of snow in our winters was just one of the three reasons that I never owned a snow sled. The other two reasons were that we had no hills in Columbus worthy of sledding, and even had there been mountains, my family could not have afforded a sled—after housing, food, clothing, transportation and even a slight attention to health, there was nothing left for winter pleasures such as sleds or skis or mukluks or hot toddies. The only sleds I was familiar with were the wooden-skidded sleds drawn by mules on the farm, sleds used to move heavy items such as bagged fertilizer, wood for fireplaces and kitchen stoves, and to move corn and watermelons and pumpkins from the field to storage. No, we never tried sliding downhill on those sleds—never even considered it!
I arrived at Union Station in Washington, D.C. in December to live with my brother and his family in Suitland, Maryland and a heavy snow fell early in the spring. I had no sled, but some of my new friends in Carry Homes where my brother lived had sleds, and all were generous in sharing them with me. My brother’s duplex sat at the top of a long and fairly steep hill, and most of the sledders in the neighborhood favored that hill for sledding. I quickly became adept at sledding—it seemed to come natural to me—not that sledding is difficult to learn, because gravity does most of the work. The sled operator needs only learn to steer the sled by the sled’s handle grips and body movements and learn how to avoid anything that might impede the sled’s race to the bottom of the hill.
Yep, sledding came easy for me and I reveled in it, but I learned, late one evening on a cold and still night after the other sledders had gone home, that I still had a lot to learn about sledding. One of my playmates abandoned his sled at the top of the hill near my house, and I appropriated it for some late night sledding. There were several cars parked on the hill, but only one on the right side—keep that one in mind—but the center was open and I made several speed runs to the bottom, exalting in the bitter cold, red cheeked and nose running faster than I could keep it licked off, and I felt really happy and alive—too happy for the feeling to last.
During the day I had seen some of the kids sledding backwards down the hill, and I decided to try it. Got the picture? Can you guess what happened on my first try? If you guessed that I slid under the only car parked on the right side of the street, you win the stuffed gorilla. At the beginning of my slide I kept an eye turned over my shoulder, but as the ride progressed I became careless, feeling that I had already mastered backwards sledding.
The sled had no trouble clearing the underside of the sedan that it went under, the only auto parked on the right side of the street. It continued its journey under the rear bumper, the muffler, the transmission, the engine and the front bumper without slowing and thence to the bottom of the hill, but its successful trip did not include me. I stopped abruptly when my head hit the rear bumper.
I don’t know how long I lay on my stomach under the car, but I know that when I awoke I had a huge goose egg on the back of my head and a headache—no blood, but the mother of all headaches. I remained there for awhile, speculating on whether I should turn myself in for needed medical attention—for a concussion, perhaps, or loss of memory, or the possibility of broken speech and uncontrollable movements indicating severe brain damage. The more I considered it the longer the list of adverse possibilities became. At one point I felt that I was the victim of all those problems, but after awhile the headache began to subside and the goose egg, although still very large, was a bit less sensitive.
I crawled out from under the car, wandered around in the cold night air for awhile to get my bearings and finally trudged home, entered the house and announced to all that sledding was very tiring and that I was going to retire early. I never told anyone about the time I stupidly slid downhill backwards on a sled and had my ride interrupted by a car bumper. You, the reader, are learning about it at the same time my children are.
Eventually the goose egg disappeared, and in that winter and the following winter I had ample opportunities to go sledding—for some unaccountable reason I never sledded again. Once was enough for me—in that slide downhill with me facing uphill, I learned everything that one should do and not do while in that position on a snow sled speeding downhill. And as for skiing? Forget about it!
Oh, concerning the sled I left at the bottom of the hill that night—I’m guessing the owner found it, but I have no way of knowing that he did—at least none of the kids came around asking if I had seen a lost sled.
That’s my story about sledding and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: blood, brain damage, brother, bumper, carry homes, clothing, Columbus, engine, Family, food, goose egg, gorilla, hill, hot toddies, housing, Maryland, Mississippi, muffler, mukluks, skis, sleds, snowfalls, Suitland, transmission, transportation, union station, washington dc
Betty lived with her mother and father in a Carry Homes duplex in Suitland, Maryland, the same duplex in which I lived with my brother and his family. The units were identical with living room, combination kitchen and dining, two bedrooms and one bath. I was an underdeveloped lad of barely fourteen years, and she was an overdeveloped lass of twelve, but well on the way to thirteen. She had black hair and blue eyes, with a face and figure that—well, let’s just say that she was twelve going on twenty-one.
She spoke with a pronounced lisp, and I teased her unmercifully about it. She seemed to tolerate the teasing, but at some point I went too far with it—that is the subject of this posting.
A fateful day came to pass in my relationship—make that my friendship—with Betty, a day during which I learned an important lesson, namely that if one pushes another too often and too hard something bad may happen, similar to the adage that tells us that even a rat will fight when cornered.
My sister-in-law asked me to go next door and see if our neighbor, Betty’s mother, could spare a cup of laundry powder. I dutifully went next door, rang the bell, stepped back and sat down on the hip-height railing of the small covered porch. Betty came out, slammed the door behind her and told me forcefully in an angry tone, “My teacher thed I do not lithp, tho there!”
I was taken aback by her tone and the words but I recovered nicely, and mindful of my assignment to borrow washing powder I said, “My thister-in-law wanth to borrow thum Thuper Thudth,” and Betty hit me. I never knew whether she slapped me or used her fist, but it made no difference. I flipped over the railing and landed on the ground, shaken but unhurt, extremely remorseful and mortified knowing what a spectacle I made. I looked around carefully but my discomfiture had apparently gone unnoticed. I told my sister-in-law that nobody was home next door.
It took some time to restore my friendship with Betty, with me making all the overtures, but after awhile she forgave me. Her forgiveness was based on my cross my heart and hope to die statement that I would never again mention her lisp, the one that she did not have. We even managed to tolerate each other through a full-length black-and-white movie starring a Hollywood cowboy that many years later would become president of the United States. This would be our one and only sojourn away from the watchful eyes of her mother and father.
Yep, we saw Ronald Reagan in one of his better appearances on-screen—King’s Row, a film in which Reagan is crushed by a boxcar and loses both his legs, amputated needlessly by a surgeon that hated him. Cutting the legs from under Ronald Reagan was quite an accomplishment, something that the Democrats could not accomplish in the eight years that Reagan was president, and they tried very hard over those eight years.
But I digress—Betty wanted to see a certain movie, and my brother allowed me to use his Chevrolet two-ton dump truck to take her to the theater in downtown Washington, D.C. A full-grown dump truck—a really romantic touch, huh?
Thinking back on that evening I am reminded of a little ditty my brother used to sing—I have forgotten the last line of that little ditty, and I can’t think of a word that rhymes with front, and that’s probably a good thing. This is just one stanza of a very long string of stanzas of the same ilk—I’ll share others whenever the opportunity arises. One of them involves an elephant at the circus—that’s one of my favorites.
I took my girl to the movies,
We sat away down in front,
And every time the lights went out,
I’d grab her by the (I’ve forgotten the last word).
Tickets for children under thirteen were half price. I bought two half-price tickets, gave Betty hers and we entered the theater. The old grouch taking tickets inside asked me how old I was, and I said twelve. He sneered and said something on the order of, Yeah, right, twelve years old with a voice like that, sure you are. However, he halved my ticket and returned the stub. He obviously had no problem with Betty’s age, although he lingered long in looking at her, then took her ticket and halved it without comment. The old fellow was obviously biased in favor of young females.
Over the years I have come to suspect that Betty was born to her parents out of wedlock, at least three years before they married—well at least two years and nine months—so they waited almost three years before they started counting her age. Given that supposition, that would make Betty at least fifteen years old when I knew her.
Hey, it sounds plausible to me—I have not seen another twelve year old girl in the ensuing sixty-four years that could hold a candle to Betty in grown-up looks. Evidently the years between twelve and fifteen are quite favorable to the female of the species—the same span of years did very little for me.
More on Betty in a later posting, a rousing tale—so to speak—of the monthly physical exams to which she was required to submit, examinations performed by her father—I’ll bet that got your attention!
Stay tuned—I’ll get back to you later with more details, but just as a teaser, had there been a child protective service in those days the family would be broken up, leaving Betty with her mother and her father in jail.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: adage, bell, chevrolet, democrats, ditty, duplex, friendship, lad, lass, laundry, lisp, overdeveloped, president, reagan, spectacle, super suds, teacher, teasing, underdeveloped
Baseball’s 1947 World Series on television—in color!
I’ll bet my daughters don’t know that I watched the very first World Series baseball game broadcast on television. That was in October 1947, played between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers—the Yankees won the series in the seventh game. My brother and I watched the game through the showcase windows of a closed Sears store in Washington, D.C.—in color—very poor color, but still color. Click here for a description of the game.
I was living with my brother and his family in Carry Homes, a community of one-story duplexes in Suitland, Maryland, built mainly for, and primarily occupied by, veterans returning from overseas in World War II. Most of our neighbors were either active duty, retirees or discharged war veterans. Carry Homes community has long since been demolished, giving way to progress and eminent domain exercised by the government—the site is now occupied by the federal Census Bureau.
I went with my brother to the Sears store in Washington, D.C. one evening to pick up some truck parts. Sears was a fascinating place for me—parking on the street was limited, so most customers parked on the roof of the store and then walked down a flight of stairs to the shopping areas below. Hey, there was nothing like that in my little town of Durant, Mississipi, my last home before being shuffled off to live with my brother.
On that evening we parked on the street opposite the store, but found that the store had closed just a few minutes before we arrived. The television was placed in a storefront window for the benefit of pedestrians in the area. This was my first encounter with television, either color or black-and-white, and not until December of 1952 would I see television again—that was in an Atlanta motel while I waited for the next morning to begin my reenlistment in the United States Air Force. I was scheduled for a physical exam and indoctrination the following day. That event is worth reading about—click here for the full story.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: Air Force, Atlanta, baseball, carry homes, census bureau, color, DC, december, dodgers, durant, exam, Maryland, Mississippi, Sears, Suitland, Television, Washington, world series, World War II, yankees
The Chesapeake Bay ferry . . .
This is a story of beagles, a bachelor and a bridge, a Crosely convertible auto, Chesapeake Bay, a ferryboat and deep sand. It’s a story of an overnight business trip my brother and I took to Salisbury, Maryland in 1947—yes, that’s some 63 years ago but I remember many of the details, and I promise to tell the story with no embellishments.
My brother was in the trucking business in the Washington, D.C. area in those years. He returned from overseas duty in World War II, acquired two 1946 two-ton dump trucks—a Ford and a Chevrolet—signed up several other independent truck owners and secured various contracts for hauling. One contract was for hauling coal to federal buildings in DC, buildings that were steam-heated in those days. Other contracts included hauling sand, gravel and asphalt for road construction in the Washington/Baltimore area. I acquired my first traffic ticket at the University of Maryland while driving one of his trucks loaded with ten tons of hot asphalt—I was fourteen years old, and the fine was $17.95, immediately paid in cash to a sharp-eyed Maryland state trooper. I’ll hold the other details for a future posting. Stay tuned!
The trip to Salisbury was to discuss a possible contract, and I went along on the trip from Suitland, Maryland to Salisbury near the tip of the Chesapeake peninsula. There was no Chesapeake Bay bridge then—that bridge was completed in 1952—in 1947 a ferryboat provided access to the peninsula. We made the trip in a 1941 Crosely convertible—yes, an auto made by the same people that made refrigerators and radios, autos that initially were sold through hardware store outlets.
Our Crosely was a two-door, four passenger convertible with an air-cooled two cylinder engine that moved the car 50-60 miles on one gallon of gasoline. It was lightweight, about 1000 pounds. I remember us changing the left front tire by loosening the lug nuts, then my brother holding up the left corner of the car until I could remove and replace the wheel and tighten up the lug nuts.
We were the first in line to board the ferry, and we were the first to debark. We had a problem because the rise from the ferryboat floor was too high for us to climb without making a running start, and we were jammed between the incline and the car behind us. After several tries, the driver behind gave us a not-so-gentle bump and bounced us up onto the dock. Our trusty transportation would face another problem late in the evening that day.
My brother’s business was completed late in the evening and we were traveling through dense fog trying to return to the ferry dock for a return the next morning. We made a couple of wrong turns and wound up in deep sand on an unpaved road out in the boondocks. Our Crosely tried mightily to best the sand but finally gave up the effort. We abandoned the car and trudged through the sand towards lights in the distance.
The lights turned out to be the home of an aged life-long bachelor, one that sported a bald head and a full beard and raised beagles—a bearded bald beagle-raising bachelor—just a little alliteration there. Our host was a gentle and talkative soul that bade us welcome, served sandwiches and milk soon after we knocked on his door and invited us to spend the night, saying that at daylight he would use his tractor to haul our car out of the deep sand and on to a paved road.
Whether the beagles were raised for commercial purposes or show was never made clear, but please know that there were lots and lots—and lots—of beagles there. They seemed to come and go, so a true count was impossible because they all looked alike. They had the run of the house, and shared the dining table with us as we supped—every chair around the large dining table was occupied by at least two beagles, all quiet, well mannered and evidently well-fed because there was no begging. They simply sat and watched us in silence, obviously and politely acknowledging us as guests.
They also shared our sleeping quarters. The single bedroom had a standard-size bed and a cot—I slept on the cot and my brother shared the bed with our host. I had several beagles at the foot of the cot, and several more shared the bed with the bachelor and my brother.
Our Crosely was extracted from the sand with the tractor without mishap, and we were hauled a short distance to a paved road, with our benefactor of the previous night giving instructions to the ferry landing. I don’t recall whether my brother offered to compensate him for the food and lodging, but I don’t believe the offer would have been accepted—of course I could be wrong about that.
Just one more memory of our trip:
Have you seen the mud flaps on commercial trucks with the name Fruehauf? I met the man—he was elderly, he drove a 1942 Lincoln Continental with a 12-cylinder inline engine and he wore long-handle underwear, the type with the flap in back. How do I know that? There was snow on the ground and I was in my shirt sleeves and complaining about the cold. He first turned up his sleeve then pulled up his trouser leg to show the underwear and said, “Thon, you thud wear thith, and don’t give a thart about how you look.” Yes, he spoke with a lisp.
And that reminds me of an incident involving a girl with a lisp and a request for Super Suds washing powder—I’ll get back to you later with the details. Stay tuned!
Hey, here’s a boat joke: Have you heard about the little tugboat that was unhappy because his mother was a tramp and his daddy was a ferry? Think about it—the joke is there—it’s politically incorrect but it’s there!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: asphalt, auto, autos, bachelor, beagles, benefactor, bridge, chesapeake bay, continental, contract, crosely convertible, dump, ferry, ferryboat, fog, fruehauf, hardware, lincoln, lisp, long handles, Maryland, powder, radios, refrigerators, sad, soul, Suitland, super suds, tractor, tramp, truck, tugboat, university of maryland, Washington, World War II
The comment that follows is one that I posted concerning a photograph of newlyweds my daughter placed on her blog. The middle one of three daughters, she is the one that lives, loves, laughs, labors and lingers with her husband in Northern Virginia (my favorite daughter and my favorite son-in-law, but don’t tell the others). Click here to see her original post entitled, After the rain . . .
Before making the comment I e-mailed her for permission to use the photograph and to provide an advance reading of the comment. This is the comment as I posted it:
I have labored long and strong to produce this comment. Brilliant poetry does not come easy for semi-literate persons—it takes a lot of erasing and changing, and I’m submitting it for your consideration. Depending on your decision—to keep or delete—that is the question.
I will either post it verbatim or I will return it to the bowels of my brain and save it for some other use, but mark my words: It will be published, somewhere for some reason, without photos, of course. I may submit it for competition in the search for the world’s best poem.
A beautiful bubbly bride in a gorgeous gown, a handsome, albeit hairless, groom with the Garden of Eden beckoning in the background—one cannot resist speculating on whether at the end of the ceremony the couple will go hence, as did Adam and Eve, into the Garden—into the bushes, so to speak—and if such be the case that gown, already precariously balanced and threatening to succumb to the effects of gravity, will quickly be weighted down with beggar lice and cockle burrs, and that weight added to the pull of the earth’s center and the predictable possibility of the groom stepping on the gown’s train, accidentally of course, will produce predictable results, and from that spurious speculation springs a poetical predilection:
An ode to newlyweds
Hark! What is that I see?
Is that an apple on yon tree?
And does a serpent nearby lurk,
Upon its lips an evil smirk?
And will that tale of Bible lore,
As in the long gone days of yore,
Perhaps repeat itself once more?
Hark! Not from that apple on the tree,
Nor from the serpent hanging ‘round,
Did life began for thee and me,
‘Twas from that pear on the ground.
Anonymous? Not really. I’m guilty. I wrote it. All by myself.
The poem includes one homonym—betcha can’t find it!
Just a tiny hint: It’s one of a pair of words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings—note the word pair in this sentence and the word pear in the poem.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: apple, beggar lice, bible, bowels, brain, cockle burrs, competition, daughter, gown, groom, hint, homonym, husband, lips, mark, newly weds, ode, pair, pear, photograph, poetry, post, rain, serpent, son-in-law, train, Virginia
A personal message from a smuggler . . .
I began my career with U.S. Customs as a trainee—GS-7—at the port of Progreso, Texas and was upgraded to the journeyman position—GS-9—after one year. During that year I learned more from one officer at the port than from all the others combined. Not that they didn’t help me learn the ins and outs of the job—they were very helpful, but the port director and I became a team, both professionally and personally. I felt that our relationship was that of brothers, each of us looking out for the other’s back.
Some ten years older than I, he took me under his wing in the way a mother hen hovers over her chick—figuratively, of course. He placed me on the right path for success in my new profession and set me straight when I strayed from that path. He raised hell when I made mistakes, and he lauded me when I managed to do something right, such as making seizures and accurately documenting our various Customs activities.
He had been recently promoted and became the port director at Progreso when it became a port separate from the larger port of Hidalgo near McAllen, Texas. His name was Paul, and he died at Christmas time in 1973, just two years after I met him. His cancer disease was diagnosed in mid-1972 and a scant eighteen months later he was dead. He was buried in Brownsville, Texas. Click here for a posting of the relationship I enjoyed with the port director—my boss, my mentor and my friend.
Sundays at the port were overtime days, and the port director shared in the overtime pay and the workload created by increased public traffic on Sundays—commercial activities were suspended. Early one Sunday morning the port director called me to the secondary area and told me to check out the driver of a Ford station wagon that had been referred for secondary inspection, with particular emphasis on the white T-shirt the driver was wearing. The Ford Country Squire station wagon one of many made over a period of some forty years—this one was from the late 1960s.
The driver was a Mexican national with a tarjeta, a local border crossing card, an official Immigration document that authorized him to enter the U.S. with certain restrictions—he must stay within 25 miles of the international border and return to Mexico within three days. On the surface the driver seemed calm, but he was wearing a white T-shirt stretched tightly across his chest, and with each beat of his heart the area over his pectus excavatum—the depression in one’s chest—fluttered. He was probably thinking, be still, dear heart! Yes, I learned the term for a sunken chest from Wikipedia—three cheers for Wikipedia and the Internet!
I escorted him to the Customhouse and asked another officer to detain him in case he decided to return to Mexico—to make a run for the border, so to speak. I felt reasonably certain that he had something to hide in that station wagon, and in fact he did.
From Wikipedia: The Ford Country Squire was a full-size station wagon built by the Ford Motor Company from 1950 until 1991; it was based on the Ford full-size car line available in each year. The Country Squire was the premium station wagon in the Ford range, and always featured imitation-wood trim on the doors and tailgate. As a full-size wagon, it could carry up to 9 passengers with the unique side-facing seats.
The station wagon exuded a strong smell of glue when I opened the rear swinging door, and the cargo area appeared to be freshly carpeted. A cursory examination showed that the carpeting was glued down, restricting access to the storage area beneath. I removed the carpet and opened the area. The vinyl-covered cushioned seats and back rests had been removed from the steel panels and the storage area was neatly filled with marijuana compressed into blocks—smugglers used commercial trash compacters to process the weed, then wrapped it in foil and plastic hoping to conceal the odor of drying marijuana from detector dogs and inspectors.
One can always find humor in a situation if one looks hard enough and long enough—I didn’t have to look very long, and I started laughing when I raised the seat panels. Atop the load of marijuana was a large piece of cardboard with a phrase in Spanish written with a felt-tip marker. This was the printed phrase:
Chinga tu madre, Mike!
The tu madre means your mother, and the Mike is my middle name. Chinga is the imperative form of the Spanish verb chingar, a crude form of a verb meaning to have sexual intercourse with, a term extensively used in Mexico and particularly along la frontera—the border. It has many meanings, but in this case it was directed to a person named Mike, telling him to do the dirty with his mother.
I had no doubt then, and no doubt exists now, as to the author of the message. Unknown to anyone at the time, an employee of a local Customs broker was moving contraband across the border, and in due time would be caught, arrested, charged and convicted and would serve time in a Texas prison. His arrest and subsequent incarceration will be covered in a future posting.
Although I was the new kid on the block, I had compiled an unusual series of arrests and seizures—I say that in all modesty, but I have the letters of commendation and the in-grade pay raises to prove it. I have no doubt that the broker employee set up the illegal importation of a prohibited substance and left the message in case I intercepted the load.
I wanted to keep the cardboard message as a souvenir, but it was kept with the seizure and was destroyed with the other marijuana. As the junior member of our inspectional force at the port of Progreso, I was privileged—well, not exactly privileged—I was ordered to destroy marijuana seizures by open-air burning when the case was closed. That task is the subject for a future posting. In that posting I will either confirm or refute that smelling the smoke from burning marijuana—other than from a pipe or a hookah or a joint—will give one a high.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: Brownsville, cancer, cardboard, carpeting, chest, chick, country squire, customs, customs broker, director, employee, ford, hen, hookah, marijuana, marker, message, Mexican, mother, port, profession, Progreso, smuggler, station wagon, tarjeta, team, Texas, trainee
The APP in the title does not stand for an application for your phone or your computer or any other of the flood of digital gadgets on the market. It stands for A Previous Posting. I originally posted this brilliant essay on the use and misuse of certain words in June of 2009 in response to a request from one of my daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia. The same daughter just commented on a recent posting and asked me if I would write something on the use of the word bodily, so now you know why I dragged it all the way here from fifteen months ago. I posted it specifically for her, but I’ll cheerfully share it with you.
Bodily fluids do not exist
A certain phrase is frequently—nay, incessantly—used on television and radio stations, in face-to-face conversations, in magazine articles, books, newspapers, pamphlets—in every element and circumstance in which English is spoken and written, we hear and read this phrase—bodily fluids.
A pox on the multitude of unlearned speakers—a pox, I say, on those that use the term bodily fluids.
Bodily fluids do not exist—there is no such thing.
The human body does not contain any bodily fluids, nor do the bodies of any other organisms contain bodily fluids—not the lower orders of animals, whether bipeds, quadrupeds or no-peds, not mammals, not ruminates or non-ruminants, not bees, birds, flies, fleas, ticks, termites, aardvarks, arachnids, reptiles, mollusks or crustaceans—not one zoological organism that exists among our planet’s fauna—nothing that flies, walks, runs, climbs, crawls or slithers, whether on land, in the air or in the world’s vast oceans—not one contains bodily fluids.
However, all contain body fluids, substances which are vital to life, including those that remain in the body at all times unless spilled in accidents, or deliberately spilled in altercations, up to and including death. There are, of course, specific body fluids that are expelled naturally through normal body functions—perspiration and tears are a couple which come to mind, but there are others.
Why, you may ask, would I say there is no such thing as bodily fluids? Well, just in case you do ask, I will answer in advance. Bodily is an adverb. Adverbs are usually formed by adding ly to a verb, and the new word is intended to take the action of the verb that precedes it (it usually, but not necessarily, follows the verb in the sentence).
An example would be, “He spoke softly.” He is the subject, spoke is the verb, and soft is the object of the verb, the word which takes the action of the verb, with ly added to show how he spoke—softly.
Please note that body is not a verb—it is a noun, and therefore proper English does not authorize the suffix required to transform it into an adverb. Body can stand as the object of a verb, as in “He caressed her body gently.” Her body is the object of the verb caressed, and the adverb gently tells us how he caressed it—that’s gentle with the e dropped and the y added.
But I digress—on with the posting.
Example of bodily’s proper use:
“The bum was bodily ejected from the club by the bouncer.”
This tells the reader or the listener that the bouncer (subject) ejected (verb) the bum (object) bodily (how he was ejected). Not only did the bouncer eject the bum’s hat, shoes, underwear and outer clothing—he ejected his entire body including everything he was wearing—by ejecting the bum’s body, he ejected him bodily.
Example of body fluids proper use :
On arriving at the crime scene the CSI investigators collected items intended for DNA testing—included in their collection were traces of semen, sweat, spittle, urine and feces (those CSI people are very thorough). That which they collected were traces of body fluids, not bodily fluids (judging by the above, this may well have been a sex-related crime scene).
And now, finally, the conclusion of this posting:
Nobel prize winners, doctors of medicine, doctors of letters, ambassadors, presidents (oh, yeah!), senators, congressmen and most egregious of all, newspaper columnists and virtually every talking head and commentator and journalist on television—all, almost without exception, refer to body fluids as bodily fluids—the misuse is so universally voiced that some doubt exists (mine) as to whether the proper term will ever be used. I fear that, similar to the word nuclear, the improper use of bodily as an adjective has corrupted our language and is here to stay.
Consider our penultima president (that’s the next-to-last president, the one immediately prior to the current occupant of the White House). He frequently had need to use the word nuclear, and he consistently pronounced it new-key-ler. Affected (and infected) by his eight years on television, approximately half the English-speaking world (my estimate) now pronounces the word new-key-ler. I predict that our current president, simply from exposure to television and talking heads, commentators and roving whatevers, even with his ivy-league education, may soon endorse that mispronouncement and make it mandatory by issuing a presidential edict—in that event, the word would probably appear on his teleprompter as new-key-ler.
A pox on the multitude of unlearned who use the term bodily fluids:
Bodily fluids do not exist. There is no such thing. Fluid in the body is body fluid.
A pox on the multitude of unlearned who say new-key-ler:
The word is spelled nuclear. It should be pronounced nuclear.
That’s my story and my complaint, and I’m sticking to both!
Tags: adjective, adverb, arachnids, biped, bodily fluids, body, body fluids, bouncer, crustacean, CSI, fauna, feces, fluid, mammal, mollusk, noun, pox, quadruped, reptile, ruminate, semen, spittle, suffix, uring, verb, zoology
I began my career with U.S. Customs as a GS-7 trainee at the port of Progreso, Texas and I was upgraded to the GS-9 journeyman position after one year. During that year I learned more from one officer at the port than from all the others combined. Not that they didn’t help me learn the ins and outs of the job—they were very helpful, but the port director and I became a team, both professionally and personally. Almost from the beginning we were like brothers, respectful of each other and each always looking out for the other’s back.
As a measure of how well the port director taught me, I was awarded an in-grade pay increase in my second year and another in my third year, both based on my duty performance, particularly on my arrest and seizure record. An in-grade pay increase is a pay raise given for outstanding performance, and is in addition to the normal longevity raises given to federal employees based purely on successful duty performances. In-grade pay increases are the gifts that keep on giving!
Some ten years older than I, the port director took me under his wing like a mother hen protects a chick—figuratively, of course. He placed me on the right path for success in my new profession and set me straight when I strayed from that path. He raised hell when I made mistakes, and he lauded me when I managed to do something right, such as making seizures and accurately documenting our various Customs activities. I also was brash enough to submit several suggestions that I felt would improve port operations, and upper headquarters felt impelled to implement my suggestions and provide remuneration for my ideas. How about that!
His most recent assignment was at the port of Eagle Pass, almost 300 miles upriver from Progreso. In the latter part of 1971 Progreso became a separate port from the port of Hidalgo, and he was promoted to the position of port director for the new port. His name was Paul, and he died at Christmas time in 1973. His cancer disease was diagnosed in mid-1972 and a scant eighteen months later he was dead.
Paul, my first port director and supervisor in Customs—my friend and my mentor—was buried in Brownsville, Texas some fifty miles distant from Progreso. I was unavoidably delayed at the port and the casket was closed when I arrived at the funeral home. The funeral director offered to open the casket for my viewing but I declined the offer. I figured that Paul had once again been promoted and was already on the way to his next assignment, that shining port in the hereafter, and I was reluctant to slow him down.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: Brownsville, cancer, casket, Christmas, eagle pass, friend, funeral, hearafer, hen, hidalgo, journeyman, longevity, mentor, port director, Progreso, team, Texas, wing
On Monday, December 20, 1971 I reported for work as a United States Customs inspector at the international bridge at Progreso, Texas just across the Rio Grande River from the small town of Las Flores, Mexico, also known as Nuevo Progreso—as opposed to old Progreso, an even smaller town on the U.S. side of the river. The image at right shows the old bridge—a larger four-lane bridge now serves the public at Progreso.
I reported for work wearing civilian garb—official uniforms would come later, purchased at a clothing store in Brownsville, an international city at the southern tip of Texas, a city that combined with the city of Matamoros formed a significant metropolitan complex.
Following a welcome briefing by the U.S. Customs port director and introductions to fellow Customs officers and officers with U.S. Immigration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I was assigned to work with the Customs officer that was checking incoming traffic. In those days Progreso had only one inbound lane, and the officer on duty there checked pedestrian traffic as well as vehicles arriving from Mexico. Vehicles were referred for secondary inspection as necessary, and pedestrians were referred to the offices of Agriculture, Immigration and Customs as circumstances dictated.
The long-time inspector I was working with—let’s call him Leo for the purpose of this posting—maintained a continuous dialogue with me, explaining all the ins and outs of the proper questioning techniques and various other requirements of a job that was completely foreign to me—no pun intended. An officer assigned to that position would work for one hour and then would be replaced, either by an Immigration officer or an inspector from the Agriculture office.
Just before our hour on the incoming lane was up, Leo referred a pedestrian to the office for a secondary inspection. He said he wanted to show me something associated with the man he referred for a personal search. We asked another inspector to take the line and we escorted the person to a room at the rear of the Customs office, a small area that provided privacy for strip searches and also boasted a barred cell for detention of suspects.
This suspect, dressed in sneakers, a T-shirt and slacks preceded us into the room, then turned and dropped his trousers as we closed the door behind us. He wore no undergarments and smilingly asked if he should “turn around and bend over.” The man was a long-time heroin addict and therefore was very familiar with personal searches. Leo replied in the negative, and asked him several questions concerning his drug habit.
When those trousers dropped I knew immediately why Leo had referred the man for a personal search. He had conducted numerous strip searches of the man in the past, and his sole reason for this search was so I could see the addict’s sole tattoo.
Yep, that was the only reason, and I saw the tattoo almost instantly as his trousers dropped to the floor. It was a tattoo of a large spider, a full-grown spider, a spider with all its limbs and antennae fully visible, a spider instantly identifiable as a spider, perched menacingly on the exposed glans of the suspect’s flaccid penis. Sorry, no penis pics in this posting—only a spider.
At this point I must apologize for the PG-14 rating I have given this story. I have a tale to tell, and I am striving desperately to maintain that rating and not let the story descend—or ascend as the case may be—into an X-rated tale. I also strove desperately during the inspection to restrict my imagination concerning the spider’s measurements should its owner become excited for one reason or another—unsuccessfully, of course—my imagination ran rampant—in fact it still does!
That’s it—that was my introduction to the process of conducting strip searches on our border with Mexico. Such searches were required because many seizures and arrests were made from strip searches. The order for a suspect to “turn around and bend over” sometimes showed a shiny substance in the anal area, indicating the use of vaseline or some other lubricant that may have been used to promote the insertion of illegal items such as pellets filled with heroin or cocaine. The contraband was first wrapped in aluminum foil, then packed into the reservoir tip of a condom. In some seizures those packets numbered one hundred and more.
Questioning of the person and search of personal articles would often show that the shiny substance was there for other reasons, thus erasing suspicions of smuggling—you can use your imagination to speculate on the nature of those other reasons.
Many such seizures have been made at ports of entry at airports, land border ports and seaports. If a traveler also possessed laxatives and an item such as Immodium in a pocket or a purse or a suitcase, that traveler, whether male or female, was immediately a strong suspect for narcotics smuggling. Smugglers use the Immodium to restrict bowel movements until, and at the proper time, the laxatives can be used to promote bowel movements to excrete the contraband.
Hey, it’s a nasty business, not only for the law enforcement officer but also for the smugglers themselves. Some have died because of such methods of concealment, both male and female smugglers—others have survived, but were severely damaged physically by the botched attempt to enter with the narcotics.
And as for how many people have successfully entered our country through airports, seaports and land border ports with contraband concealed in their bodies, and how many continue the practice and will continue to escape detection?
It’s anyone’s guess.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: addict, agricultue, bowel, Brownsville, cocaine, condom, contraband, customs, drug, excrete, flaccid, foil reservoir, garb, glans, habit, heroin, Immigration, immodium, las flores, lubricant, matamoros, narcotics, nuevo progreso, officer, packets, pedestrian, penis, Progreso, Rio Grande, river, spider, t-shirt, tattoo, Texas, traffic, vasline
My first seizure—425 pounds of marijuana . . .
I made my first significant seizure early in my first year as a Customs inspector working on the international border between Texas and Mexico. The port was Progreso, Texas, the day was Saturday, the month was February and the year was 1972. The marijuana was in a pickup truck driven by a Mexican national with a tarjeta, a local border crossing card, an official Immigration document that allowed him to enter the US and travel no more than 25 miles from the border and remain in the U.S. for no more than three days.
To my question as to citizenship, he replied Mexican and displayed the tarjeta. To my question of what, if anything, he was bringing to the US he replied Nada—nothing. There was nothing visible in the front seat or floorboard and a quick glance into the bed of the truck through a side window of the camper showed nothing. And to my question of the purpose of his trip, he said a comprar cosas—to buy things—in other words, to go shopping.
I stopped asking questions and told him to park the truck and lift the hood for me. Not that I expected to find anything under the hood—I expected to find something in the roof of the camper. My quick look into the rear should have shown me metal, but I noticed that the roof of the camper was paneled, indicating possibly that the ceiling was fitted with insulation. I needed to see what kind of insulation had been installed, so the order to park and lift the hood was an attempt to allay any suspicion he might have concerning his referral for a secondary inspection.
He was driving a late model Ford pickup truck with a camper shell installed. The truck had a manual gearshift, and while he talked he kept the truck in gear and the clutch depressed with his left foot. On the surface he seemed calm and at ease, but the clutch on that Ford was apparently very stiff—he was having a hard time keeping the clutch down and disengaged, so hard that his leg was shaking from the effort and I could hear coins jingling in his pocket, and the rest is history.
He parked the truck, killed the engine, stepped out and raised the hood. A brief glance and my suspicions were confirmed—nothing there. I took the driver by the arm and told him we needed to talk inside. He went with me without protest, and I turned him over to the inspectors inside and told them that I believed he was loaded.
Subsequent inspection of the camper’s roof revealed 425 pounds of marijuana in small plastic–wrapped packages. The camper’s roof was fitted with 2x4s on edge along its length, with stiffening blocks running from side to side. The packages were placed in the spaces provided and the paneling added by screwing it to the 2x4s. This was the first of many that would be intercepted following dissemination of the method of concealment Service-wide, but seizures dropped when the smugglers learned of our findings and went to other methods.
I am convinced, and I am honest enough to admit it, that had I not heard the coins jingling in the driver’s pocket I probably would have released him without any inspection beyond the primary questions.
I learned a lot about making enforcement that day, the day of my first significant seizure. I learned that the smallest, most seemingly unimportant action of a person could be very important, and I learned that just because someone is a fellow inspector it doesn’t mean he can be trusted.
One of my fellow inspectors, an old-time Border Patrol officer that transferred to the more leisurely life of an inspector, obligingly helped me open the ceiling of the camper and extract, count and weigh its contents.
When the time came to document the enforcement action, I was ordered to share the action with the old fart—I can call him that without fear of repercussions—he is long retired and long dead. The port director apologized for the order, explaining that was how the system worked and he had no choice. Had I told the other inspector to keep his hands and his distance away from my seizure, I would have not been required to share it.
The result was that he shared equally in the citations that the Service provided in recognition of our enforcement efforts. He knew full well what he was doing and why, and capitalized on my ignorance of seizure procedures. Another factor was that Customs wants as few inspectors involved in individual seizures as possible—should such cases go to court, the fewer inspectors involved in the seizure the better, because of the drain on personnel resources on court days.
I made many more mistakes in my 26-year career in federal enforcement, but this was the first and the only mistake I made of this nature. We live and learn by our mistakes, so I always make a determined effort to not repeat any mistake I’ve made.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: camper, coins, document, engine, ford, immigrtion, inspection, marijuana, Mexican, Mexico, pickup, Progreso, seizure, shell, Texas
On a memorable day in my career as a United States Customs Officer, I was asked this question by a female administrative aide:
How many inspectors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Now tell the truth, how would you have answered that question? I know that the aide meant to say replace a light bulb, but that’s not what she said—she asked how many it would take to screw in a light bulb—a rather significant difference in the query, wouldn’t you say? The politically correct answer is two inspectors—one to hold the light bulb and another to turn the inspector holding the bulb.
My answer? I told her that two could do the job, but it would have to be a really large light bulb.
And no, she did not file an employee grievance charging sexual harassment—she and I were, and had been for many years and still remain, close personal friends—so there!
Okay, have you recovered from the sidesplitting laughter engendered by that joke?
If so, here is the second classic joke—I won’t disclose its source on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me:
A female asked this question: Have you ever tried to nap while a crew of roofers hang and bang? I know what the lady meant, but she left a listener with two choices of the meanings of hanging and banging.
My answer: It would depend on the location of the roofers while they were ganging and banging, and also where you were at the time. Were they on the roof or in the house? If they were on the roof and you were in the house, sleep for you would be difficult. If both they and you were in the house, I should think that sleep for you would be impossible—but of course I could be wrong.
Please don’t hate me too much for these puerile writings.
I can’t help it—it’s in my nature.
Besides, I’m trying to make a minimum of one posting per day, and this one qualifies for today. Check it out—today is the 12th of September and this is my 12th posting of the month.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: House, light bulb, officer, roof, roofers, sleep, US Customs
During the early 1980s I was one of two second-level Customs supervisors in the inspection force at the port of Brownsville, Texas and on a very special evening I was performing my supervisory duties on the swing shift—4 pm to 12 midnight—at the Gateway Bridge. At some time near the middle of the shift, a pedestrian of a different kind walked in from Mexico and the officer on sidewalk duty referred him to my office.
The pedestrian was an elderly Anglo male, probably in his sixties, wearing slacks and a white shirt, his tie still knotted but hanging loosely. There was blood on his face and his shirt was stained with blood, apparently from a nosebleed. He walked erratically and seemed oblivious of his surroundings. My first thoughts were that he was either drunk or under the influence of drugs, but his answers to my first questions were always the same—I don’t know. My most pertinent question was Do you know where you are? His answer was simply No.
I asked him for his name and he said Fred Siemens. I asked him where he lived and he said San Antonio, and my next question was Are you an attorney? He said Yes and I realized that he was Fred Siemens, a prominent attorney in San Antonio, nationally and internationally known for his work in criminal law. Because of him and an article on him that appeared in one of San Antonio’s local newspapers, I became a devotee of Henry David Thoreau’s writings, specifically Walden or, Life in the Woods and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. The image on the right is my well-thumbed copy of the work on which Mahatma Ghandi based his passive resistance movements. Click here for an explanation of how, when, where and why I first met Thoreau and his writings.
I suspected that he could be the subject of a missing person alert, and I immediately called the Brownsville Police Department and asked for an officer to come to the Gateway Bridge. Two officers arrived in record time, and I told them that they should contact the San Antonio Police Department and would probably find a missing person lookout on the man. They thanked me and gently escorted the attorney to their vehicle.
Now read about the non-existent grateful appreciation expressed by the Brownsville police for giving them a well-known missing person and the opportunity to shine a bright light on the coordination between local and federal law enforcement in the city of Brownsville. I never heard from the Police Department—I called the Department the next day and the people on duty claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.
However, several days later a lengthy article appeared in the local daily newspaper detailing the fine work done by Brownsville’s police in returning a missing person to his home in San Antonio. The article stated that in the early evening on a certain day Mr. Siemens was found wandering around in the vicinity of the Gateway Bridge, apparently unaware of his surroundings, and an investigation determined that a missing person lookout for him had been made by San Antonio police. Obviously there were some really ambitious officers on Brownsville’s police force!
I should have known what was going to happen, because the two officers that took custody of the missing person neglected to ask for my name or for my position in the Customs hierarchy. If I gave that any thought at the time, it would probably have been that they would return for the specifics of the interdiction, and also to tender the thanks of the local department to the Customs officers on duty that evening, specifically to the inspector on pedestrian traffic duty and to the supervisory officer on the shift, the person that recognized the missing person and initiated the investigation. I mean, like hey, everybody likes to shine!
So I can only offer kudos to the local police for their fine work in solving a missing person lookout and returning a brilliant and nationally-known criminal law attorney to his home and to his loved ones. Good work, guys!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: attorney, blood, bridge, Brownsville, civil disobedience, criminal law, fred siemens, gateway, kudos, missing person, police, San Antonio, Thoreau, Walden
In 1977 I began the year as a journeyman Customs inspector at the port of Progreso, Texas at the international border with Mexico, just as I had done for the past six years since beginning my employment with the U.S. Customs Service in December of 1971, just six months after my retirement from the U.S. Air Force in July of that year.
In the summer of 1977 I applied for a supervisory position at the port of Roma, some 75 miles farther upstream on the Rio Grande River, and I was selected in the competition for the position of a first-level supervisor at that location. I went to Roma in October of 1977 and remained there two and one-half years until 1980. Early in 1980 I was promoted to a second-level supervisory position at the port of Brownsville, Texas and I relocated there in April of that year.
My home was in Donna, Texas, a small town in the lower Rio Grande Valley some 60 miles distant from my duties at the port of Roma. At the time I was driving a 1972 Ford LTD that used a considerable amount of gas per mile, so I searched for a more economical vehicle. I sold the Ford and bought a 1978 Chevrolet that turned out to be a gas hog, so I traveled to San Antonio is search of a vehicle a bit easier on fuel.
I returned to the Valley with a Panama Brown 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit equipped with the original Rabbit gasoline engine that had been modified to run on diesel fuel. Diesel in Mexico was selling for a whopping 12 cents a gallon at that time, and the station was a mere one-eighth of a mile from the Customhouse, across the river in Miguel Aleman, Mexico. I gave the Chevrolet to one of my daughters in Donna, Texas.
The Rabbit had four doors and seated four passengers in relative comfort considering its diminutive size, with front bucket seats and a floor-mounted manual gear shift. It had the basic required dashboard instruments, but the only extras were a radio and air conditioning. Its color was called Panama Brown, but it could only be considered a rather bright shade of orange.
I started making the 120 mile round trip between home and work and soon realized that I was getting excellent mileage, but I wanted to know exactly how far the little car would run on a full tank of diesel. The tank held 10 gallons—I told the station attendant in Mexico to pack it in, and filled a one gallon can with diesel to carry in the car. I intended to run until the tank was empty—I couldn’t think of a better way to get an accurate picture of the performance of a gasoline engine configured to run on diesel.
I decided to run without air conditioning for the test because I knew that the compressor took a toll on the engine’s power. I zeroed out the mile indicator and maintained a steady maximum speed of 60-65 miles per hours for the duration of the test. I drove until the engine stopped running and then let the car coast to a stop. The coasting didn’t gain much, because the terrain between home and work was flat, with no hills and no curves.
Including the one hundred feet or so covered in the coasting when the tank ran dry, I recorded exactly 600 miles. With a ten-gallon tank that means the little orange Rabbit averaged 60 miles for each gallon of diesel—I sure wish I had it now!
I drove the Rabbit for the two and one-half years I worked at Roma, then for another three and one-half years that I worked at the port of Brownsville, a round-trip distance of 100 miles between my home in Donna and my work site in Brownsville. In October of 1983 I passed the Rabbit to my daughter that at the time was living in Donna and making the same 100-mile round trip in the gas-guzzling 1978 Chevrolet. She parked the Chevrolet and I donated it to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas and took a decent tax write-off for the donation.
Now for the kicker: My daughter drove the Rabbit for another two years, then she parked it and came to live with us in Washington, D.C. I donated the little car to the same charity and took another decent write-off for the donation.
Its speedometer showed an honest 186, 000 miles, and here is the clincher—I never changed the glow plugs nor ever replaced a tire—never even had a flat. The only maintenance performed on that magnificent automobile during that 186,000 miles was the replacement of the fan belt—it broke at exactly 100,000 miles while I was on the way to work, still with about 30 miles to go. I lost all electrical power, but a diesel doesn’t need electricity—the heat of the glow plugs keeps it running. I drove directly to the Volkswagen dealer in Brownsville and had the belt replaced.
That’s my story of my 1978 Panama Brown diesel Rabbit, and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: belt, Brownsville, chevrolet, DC, diesel, donna, fan, fuel, glow plugs, McAllen, Mexico, panama, Rabbit, rio grande river, Roma, salvation army, San Antonio, supervisor, Texas, US Air Force, US Customs, vehicle, Volkswagen, Volkswagen Rabbit, Washington
A camera crew from Inside Edition appeared at the Customhouse at the Gateway Bridge in Brownsville, Texas one bright spring day in 1981 and requested permission from the port director to film from the bridge for a segment on that popular show. Because nobody else wanted to do it, I was asked—ordered, actually—to accompany the crew as they filmed, and provide information as requested by the crew, but to stay within the boundaries established by the Service.
There were two men, the reporter and the camera man. We went to the middle of the bridge and the camera panned 360 degrees, covering Matamoros on the Mexican side and downtown Brownsville on the US side, with closeups of vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the bridge, both outbound and inbound. Several minutes of that and the camera was focused to closeup on me, and a series of questions was asked by the reporter. I answered them as best I could—I don’t recollect having to say I don’t know to any of the questions. I believe the reporter had done his homework on Customs and Immigration operations, and most of his questions dealt with my opinions on the effectiveness of our enforcement operations and our control of illegal immigration. The image above is the Gateway Bridge in the early part of the 20th century—no, I’m don’t go back that far—I just thought it might be interesting to show how it was then. The image below shows Brownsville’s seaport—the waterway stretches inland to Brownsville from the Gulf of Mexico—it’s part of the 3,000 mile Intercoastal Waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
I gave the authorized percentages, items such as “We probably intercept no more than ten percent of the narcotics entering the US,” and referred the reporter to the Immigration supervisor for immigration statistics. The interview was rather brief, considering how far the crew had traveled—all the way from New York to the tip of Texas. I remember that I was asked my opinion on illegal immigration—we were allowed to use the term illegal aliens in those days. In fact, many in law enforcement still used the term wetback, mindful of the audience, of course, because political correctness was becoming more and more the norm.
I discussed the mortality rate of children born in Mexico—the statistics in that era—the early eighties—showed that for every ten babies born in Mexico only six reached the age of five years—the other four died before that age, a mortality rate of forty percent. The opinion that I voiced to the reporter was that I placed no blame on families wanting to come to the United States. I also told the reporter that I was familiar with the Mexican economy, both la frontera—the border—and the interior of the country, and if for some reason I were banished to Mexico I would be back in the US the same day by going over, under, around or through any barrier erected by law enforcement, just as illegals have always done, are doing today and probably always will—and I would repeat that entry as many times as necessary, just as they are doing today. The records show that individuals have been deported fourteen times and more—deportation is no more than a speed bump in the road. It simply slows an illegal immigrant down for a day or so.
I may as well voice my opinion on illegal immigration here and now—not that it will be noticed. Stop the hiring of illegal immigrants and they will stay in Mexico. They can’t find work there, and it’s useless—completely unproductive—to brave the Border Patrol to enter the US in order to not find work here either.
The reporter on the Inside Edition team dutifully took my name and mailing address and told me that a personal copy of the audited tape would be mailed to me and I would be informed of the date it would be aired. And I’ll bet that you, the reader, can guess the rest of that story.
You’re right—I never heard from anyone connected with Inside Edition. I have long suspected that if a copy were mailed, it went to the official address of the bridge and was intercepted by the port director, but of course I could be wrong, and I can’t ask him about it—he is no longer on active duty with Customs. In fact he is no longer on active duty anywhere, unless he has a position UP THERE, or DOWN THERE, as the case may be. He died several years later while on a Customs assignment in Puerto Rico—or maybe it was Guam—I’m unsure.
I am sure that at sometime after I left Brownsville the port director was charged with several deviations from acceptable procedures, including bringing in alcoholic beverages without having federal and state duties and tax collected and for having items imported and the proper declarations not being made—I believe he dodged a bullet on the charges, very similar to the investigations of improper actions of numerous members of our House of Representatives and the Senate, and similar to the completely inadequate resolutions thereof.
I am sure of the deviations because I have a copy of the article that appeared in the Brownsville paper.
Such a shame about my personal copy of that tape—my performance may have been good enough to qualify me for a future in films!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: border partol, bridge, bullet, camera, crew, customhouse, deportation, gateway, guam, House of Representatives, illegal aliens, illegalimmigration, inside editon, interioor, la frontera, matamoros, mexican brownsville, mortality rate, narcotics, pedestrian, puerto rico, reporter, road, senate, service, speed bump, tape, vehicle, wetback
Before I begin this dissertation, please allow me to digress with an explanation of supervisory titles in the US Custom Service. A first level supervisor is equivalent to a captain in the military, equal in pay and responsibilities, and wears the twin silver bars of a captain in the military. A second level supervisor is equivalent to a major in the military and wears gold oak leaves on the uniform. Chief inspectors and port directors are usually the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the military and wear silver maple leaves when in uniform. Many Customs port directors have higher grades and have the option of wearing uniforms or civilian garb—most opt for civilian dress.
Program officers at Headquarters also have the pay and similar responsibilities of lieutenant colonels in the military, and unless involved in some field action requiring the uniform, normally wear civilian garb. The pay and responsibilities of program managers at headquarters are also similar to the duties and responsibilities of a full colonel in the military. The comparisons to military personnel continue up to the pay and responsibilities equal to the grade of a four-star general.
During my 26-year career in federal law enforcement I had the misfortune—oops, I meant the good fortune—of serving US Customs for several years at the Brownsville, Texas port of entry located at the tip of Texas, opposite the city of Matamoros, Mexico. I began my career at the port of Progreso and I was promoted to a first level supervisory position at the port of Roma. After two and one-half years there I was again promoted and transferred to the port of Brownsville, Texas some 125 miles down river from Roma. Click here for a posting on Progreso.
My position at Brownsville was that of a second level supervisor, one of two such officers responsible for supervising a staff of three administrative persons, six first level supervisors and a staff of sixty senior, journeyman and trainee inspectors. I performed my duties under the watchful eyes of the chief inspector and a racially and professionally biased port director, and I was the favorite target for any person that lodged a complaint against management, regardless of the source. Those activities were dictated and urged on by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). Near the end of my tour at Brownsville, the Chief Inspector left my side and joined in the target practice.
A friendly journeyman told me that NTEU had directed the local Union Steward to have every grievance addressed to me, regardless of the supervisor involved—I was one of nine supervisors, yet all complaints came to me to be investigated and the results forwarded to upper levels including national headquarters, whether resolved or unresolved. The same friendly inspector said that every meeting of the Union members, whether locally or at District or Regional Headquarters, began with a request for input on me and on my actions.
Just as an aside, the Port Director and the Chief Inspector have since been arbitrarily transferred to that shining Port of Entry in the sky—a headquarters directed assignment, so to speak—and one may be reasonably certain that a significant number of the journeyman inspectors have joined them—some were quite advanced in age, and I left Brownsville 27 years ago. I can truthfully say that at this stage of life I hold no rancor for any of them—well, okay, perhaps a trace of rancor for the Port Director!
In spite of the onslaught of arrows (employee complaints) fired at me, none struck a vital organ. To paraphrase William Faulkner in his acceptance speech in 1950 for the Nobel Prize in literature, I did not merely endure—I prevailed. My actions and my decisions were upheld by mid-level and top-level management in every instance. The grievances filed numbered in the hundreds—none was resolved in favor of the complainant, neither by me nor by someone in the upper echelons. Most of the grievances stemmed from my efforts to reduce inspector overtime in accordance with instructions from upper level management given to me prior to assuming my duties there. Misuse of overtime was rife at that location, and my success was in inverse proportion to the number of grievances—as overtime declined, grievances increased.
The pay was good and there was no heavy lifting, so I stalwartly bided my time. I successfully withstood the onslaught for three and one-half years, from April of 1980 to October of 1983, and once again was promoted and transferred to US Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC as a program officer. Halfway through my three year tour in Washington I was assigned the title and assumed the duties of Program Manager for Customs’ National Canine Enforcement Program, and therein lies some tales to be told. Click here for an example of my duties, a tour of canine operations in California. This is just a teaser with more stories to follow, so stay tuned.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: Brownsville, california, canine, captain, chirf inspector, civilian, district, faulkner, garb, general colonel, headquarters, inspector, literature, major, Military, nobel prize, port director, port of entry, Progreso, regional, Roma, supervisor, target union, Texas, tour., uniform, us custom service, washington dc
When I worked at the Port of Progreso in the Rio Grande Valley south of Weslaco, Texas there was a large asphalt-paved parking lot directly behind the Customhouse, paved expressly for visitors that wanted to park and walk across the bridge connecting the United States and the town of Las Flores in Mexico. Most visitors to the Valley had heard some of the horror stories of driving in Mexico and many were reluctant to drive across—well, not just reluctant—they were afraid to drive across the bridge.
One afternoon while I was doing sidewalk duty—checking pedestrians returning from Mexico—an elderly gentleman, a winter tourist, approached me from the parking lot and asked me if I could go with him to check on his wife. He explained that his wife was sleepy and had stayed in the car while he walked across the bridge, and when he returned he could not awaken her. He said that he thought she might be dead.
I called for a relief at my position and asked another inspector to accompany me and the tourist to check on his wife. We found her sitting upright behind the wheel, but unmoving. The windows were down and there was a definite odor in the area. No, not the odor of death, but certain odors that are associated with death. When a person dies, any controls that the person may have had over body functions such as bowel movements and bladder contents are gone.
Normally when death occurs, the sphincter muscle relaxes and the contents of the lower bowel are expelled, and the bladder is emptied. The other inspector could not find a pulse at the carotid artery, and the woman’s skin already showed the evidences of death—no flow of blood and oxygen to the skin, especially to the upper extremities. When the elderly husband asked in a quavering voice if she was dead, the inspector replied that she was indeed dead. The husband seemed to be in control of his emotions, but I imagine that the full impact of his wife’s death had not yet struck him—the real emotions would probably come later.
We made the husband comfortable in the Customhouse and made the necessary phone calls to the proper authorities. I went off duty before they arrived, and I took my leave from the grieving husband with his thanks ringing in my ears.
This is only one brief instance of one busy day in the six years that I worked as a trainee and journeyman Customs inspector at the Port of Progreso, and there are many stories to follow, all true and I hope, interesting to a viewer—stay tuned!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: bladder, bowel, bridge, customhouse, heel, las flores, Mexico, odor, Progreso, Rio Grande Valley, spincter muscle, weslaco, wife
I’ve written about performing Customs duties on the Mexican border, but I have not gone into the specifics of individual actions. The work was very exciting and educational to me, especially in the early days of my Customs career, and I’ve decided to share some of those events with my viewers, and trust me, the posts will be considerably briefer than I am accustomed to writing—and as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing!
On a busy winter day at the Port of Progreso in South Texas, a man died on the inbound sidewalk in the middle of the bridge, the victim of a massive heart attack. There was only one bridge in those years (the seventies), with only one vehicle lane in each direction. There have been lots of changes since then. The image at right shows the old bridge. Click here to see the old and the new.
It was late in the afternoon on a wintry Saturday. Traffic was fairly light outbound to Mexico, but the line of vehicles inbound stretched across the bridge, through the city of Las Flores, Mexico and a mile or so farther in, according to inbound travelers. Millions of winter visitors—snow birds—were in the Rio Grande Valley, and they and locals were returning from Mexico after shopping and visiting friends and relatives. Saturdays were always busy, but this one appeared to be a record breaker.
I was working vehicle traffic at the primary inspection point, and a lady driver told me there was a man lying on the bridge near the international marker. She said she believed he was dead. She told me that he was lying on his back and his eyes were open and he was not moving. When I was relieved from my duties I walked out to the center of the bridge to see for myself.
The man, an Anglo that appeared to be well past middle age, was lying just as the woman had said. He was dressed casually, as most winter tourists are dressed, and was lying near the international marker. His eyes were open and his face had begun to darken from the lack of blood and oxygen. I could not detect a pulse in his carotid artery.
I returned to the Customhouse and told the supervisor, who in turn called the police in Weslaco some ten miles away, the closest place that could send an ambulance and medical technicians. He told them of my findings, and they asked whether the body was lying in Mexico or on the United States side of the international marker. I told the supervisor that he was lying across the line, partially in the U.S. and partially in Mexico.
Several hours passed before an ambulance arrived from Weslaco. It seems that officials in that city had called federal officials on the Mexican side of the bridge to determine which country was responsible for the dead man. The Mexicans said that they had viewed the body and they agreed that the body was lying on the international boundary, but they argued that more of the body was in the United States than in Mexico. They therefore declined any responsibility, and eventually medics and police from Weslaco arrived, stopped traffic on the bridge, recovered the body and things at the Port of Progreso returned to normal.
That was just one incident that occurred on one day in the six years that I worked at the Progreso bridge. A work shift rarely passed without at least one untoward event taking place. The image at right shows the new four-lane bridge with its covered walkways, completed in 2003. I began my Customs career at Progreso in 1971 and transferred six years later in 1977 to a supervisory position at the Port of Roma, almost 80 miles upstream on the Rio Grande River. In future posts I will detail some of the incidents that transpired at that port also, so stay tuned.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: ambulance, Anglo, blood, border, bridge, career, carotid artery, customs, driver, heart attack, lady, las flores, Martha Stewart, Mexican, Mexico, oxygen, primary inspection, Progreso, rio grande river, Roma, saturday, snow birds, south texas, supervisor, traffic, weslaco
This post is about my Uncle Dalton, one of my mother’s younger brothers. I never knew him, and I saw him for the first and last time at his wake. I can’t pinpoint the year he died, but my best guess is that it was around 1940. I know it was before 1942, the year my mother unwisely brought a stepfather into our family, and when I picture myself standing at my uncle’s coffin and listening to my mother explain how he died, I appear to be somewhere around the age of seven or perhaps eight years—hey, don’t laugh—I said it would be a best guess, right?
My Uncle Dalton died in the old Bryce Hospital, an institution for the insane located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. You can Google it here if you like—there’s lots of info on the Internet.
According to my mother and other family members, Dalton was the victim of a beating rendered by a fellow inmate, a not-so-gentle man that attacked Dalton with a metal bedpan and the beating proved to be fatal. I have a vivid memory of standing beside my mother and watching her lift the departed’s right arm and the hand dropping limply, indicating, as voiced by my mother, that the wrist was broken. I know now that the hand dropping, or drooping, was normal and did not indicate a break. Had the body been in the maximum stiffness of rigor mortis, the hand would not have drooped when the arm was lifted.
In humans, rigor mortis commences about 3 hours after death, reaches maximum stiffness after 12 hours, and gradually dissipates until approximately three days after death. I am reasonably sure that Uncle Dalton had been dead for at least three days before he lay in state at his wake prior to his burial. Therefore it was natural for the hand to drop, or droop, when the arm was lifted. If you like, you can click here to confirm my findings concerning rigor mortis.
My mother told me that Uncle Dalton was a perfectly normal young adult until he unwisely dived head-first from a tree limb into shallow water and lost consciousness when his head struck the bottom—her expression was, I believe, that his head stuck in the mud. He remained unconscious for several minutes and was finally revived, but was never quite the same after the accident, and some years later was committed to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, an institution for the mentally disturbed—insane, if you will.
My mother visited Dalton numerous times during his tenure at Bryce, and she had interesting stories to tell about those visits. She said that he loved chewing gum, and she always took him gum on her visits. Patients were not allowed to shave themselves, and Mama said that he invariably removed a stick of gum from its wrapper, then reconstructed the wrapper and pretended to shave with it. She told me a joke that she claimed Dalton told her—I seriously doubt the origin of this joke, but I must admit that it’s funny!
The joke my Uncle Dalton supposedly told was of a mental patient that had been told that after thirty years in the asylum he could go home, so he was given a razor and told to shave. As he faced the mirror and began shaving, a nurse stopped in the hallway to congratulate him, and he turned away from the mirror for an instant, and while he was turned away the mirror slipped of its hanger. When he returned to face the mirror he exclaimed, “Damn, thirty years in this place and the day I get ready to leave I cut my head off!” If that story is true, I have some doubt as to the severity of Dalton’s insanity.
One more story about my insane Uncle Dalton, and I’ll leave this posting for posterity. An official from Bryce Hospital called Dalton’s family to tell them that Dalton had wandered away from the institution and was believed to be returning to his home. A couple of days later his mother noticed that a shotgun that normally hung over the fireplace was missing. A report was made to local law enforcement, and a search began for Dalton in that area. While the search was in full swing, Dalton appeared at the house with the shotgun and several squirrels he had bagged. He said that he left the hospital with the intention of going squirrel hunting and having his mother make squirrel stew for him. As the story goes, the local law officials arrived to take Dalton back to the hospital, but waited until he had finished a meal of squirrel stew.
Possible? Yes, but plausible? No, but it makes a good read, especially as told to me by my mother, and I would like to believe it. Well, why not? It’s all in the past, and whether true of false it’s an indication of the frailty and the goodness of human nature, and our acceptance of both attributes.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Postscript: I overlooked a memory of my uncle, something my mother told me and was confirmed by at least two of her sisters. One manifestation of his separation from reality was his insistence that the air was filled with clocks, all manners of timepieces—clocks large and clocks small, all showing the same time of day or night, and he couldn’t understand why others could not see them.
Was that proof of his mental imbalance? Perhaps, but according to my mother and my aunts he never carried a pocket watch and never wore a wristwatch, yet when someone asked, he could give them the correct time, at any moment of the day or night. Such a gift has its advantages—assuming that the clocks required neither winding nor batteries, the absence of maintenance costs and physical effort would mount up over a lifetime.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: arm, asylum, bedpan, bryce hospital, coffin, death, Family, frailty, gum, hand, hospital, human, human nature, hunting, insane, institution, joke, limb, mirror, nature, nurse, rigor mortis, shotgun, squirrel, stepfather, stew, tree, tuscaloosa, victim, wrapper
I remember all my maternal aunts—my mother’s sisters—except for the one named Vera, a young woman that died in childbirth or shortly afterward, unmarried and outlawed by family and friends. Pregnancy without benefit of clergy was socially unacceptable and frowned on in the early years of the twentieth century.
My aunt Vera’s baby boy was taken in and brought up by Vera’s mother—my maternal grandmother, a short stout white-haired whirlwind of energy that seemed to take great delight in applying a peach tree switch to the derrieres and legs of recalcitrant grandchildren, girls and boys alike. I was one of the most recalcitrant of the bunch, and was dealt with accordingly.
My grandmother’s name was Viola, but her nickname was Odie and she was called Miss Odie by all, including me and the other grandchildren. I intend to devote and dedicate a separate posting to her at a later date, so stay tuned—it will be worth the watch and wait!
My favorite of my mother’s sisters, for various reasons was Aunt Dessie. Two of those reasons were her daughters, both a few years older than I—my first cousins and by far the prettiest of the entire gaggle of cousins. I’m speaking of the female cousins, of course. There may have been male cousins that were more beautiful, or at least as beautiful, but I was not then, nor am I now, into recognizing and interpreting beauty in males, cousins or otherwise, not even if some had sported the marbleized features of a Michelangelo.
For several years in my early boyhood, the years between my age of six to the age of nine, Aunt Dessie lived, with her two beautiful daughters and her city police officer husband, next door to me and my family. Aunt Dessie was always, in my memories of the earlier years, a lady of ample proportions and a lady afflicted, or perhaps gifted, depending on one’s point of view, with a pronounced proclivity to accumulate and produce intestinal gases. She and my mother and my two elder sisters would frequently get together in her living room to sit on a sofa, form a quartet and sing gospel songs.
I didn’t hang around to listen to their singing because the vocals were sometimes punctuated with the release of said intestinal gases, but never was a note dropped nor any mention made of the activity by the other singers. Not all the punctuations were audible but the lean to the right was unmistakable—politically speaking she always leaned to the left, but for that purpose she usually leaned to the right because she was usually seated to the right of the others.
My aunt would sort of hitch up one cheek and tilt slightly to the opposite side to accommodate the action. Evidently the other two women had grown inured to the effect but I had not, and therefore did not long linger in the living room, regardless of the quality of the singing. I always found something to do or watch outside, something more interesting and more rewarding, both on auditory and olfactory levels.
Well, that’s enough of the religious references. I liked my aunt’s husband. He worked with the city for many years as a uniformed patrolman and drove a black-and-white in the performance of his duties. On more than one occasion he pulled up beside me and suggested that I return home because I had no business in whatever particular part of town I had wandered into. I usually followed his advice and headed in the direction of home, but depending on the circumstances I sometimes reversed my direction when the cruiser was out of sight.
I don’t know how much a uniformed police officer made in those days, but it must have been considerable. My aunt’s home was nicely furnished, and she and her daughters were always dressed in the latest fashions and had all the evidences of an upper-class family, including new toys and bikes, birthday parties, beauty parlor visits and vacations.
I often heard the adults in my family and their friends speculating on the source of my aunt’s family income and the prodigious outgo of that income, but the only emotion I can remember is envy, whether mine or that of the others.
In her later years Aunt Dessie lived the life of an unmarried alcoholic widow, a frequent visitor to the seamy side of life in Columbus, Mississippi in an area across the river where several unsavory hangouts existed at the time. As a young GI, just returned from a two-year assignment in the Far East that included a 15-month combat tour in Korea, I had occasion to visit those hangouts several times while on leave en route to my next duty assignment in South Georgia. I remember the name of only one bar, that of the Dew Drop Inn. I Googled Columbus’ night clubs of today and found lots of names: He Ain’t Here, Elbow Room, Hitching Post, First And Last Chance, Gravel Pitt, etc., but no Dew Drop Inn—bummer!
I encountered my aunt several times at different locations, always with a different person and always sodden with strong drink, as they say in the Bible. On one memorable occasion she asked me to give her a ride home at closing time, and during the ride she made several improper overtures to me, all of which were politely rejected.
I drove her straight home, and when I told my brother about her proposals he confirmed my suspicions—apparently my aunt was available to any bidder or buyer of drinks. I never saw or spoke to her again—not that I purposely avoided her—it’s just that I was never again in the circles in which she moved—she lasted several more years before leaving the bar scene and life for an unknown location—I trust that it is on a higher elevation than the plane on which she lived in the latter years of her life.
My favorite aunt has long ago departed the scene, as have all my maternal aunts and uncles, and I would suppose also all my aunts and uncles on the paternal side of my family. If any paternal aunts or uncles survive, they are nearing or have already passed the century mark in longevity—I seriously doubt that any are still among us.
There is much more to talk about, especially about my aunt’s daughters. I was delighted to see both women several times in later years. The younger daughter was active in the music scene in Memphis, Tennessee for many years. My brother said that she was a high class you know what, a hundred dollar an hour lady—in those days and in that area one hundred dollars an hour was indeed high-class, considering that the hourly minimum wage was only seventy-five cents per hour. You can click here to confirm that if you like.
I don’t believe the younger daughter ever married, but I know that she had one son in a relationship without, as they used to say in those days, benefit of clergy. She died at an early age, relative to the average life span at the time. The elder daughter, her sister, may or may not still be alive. That daughter lived an exemplary life—she married and had what the old folks in that era referred to as a passel of kids. I don’t know her married name, nor do I know of any way to determine whether she is here or gone to join the others.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: alcoholic, auditory, bible, boyhood, boys, century, childbirth, clergy, Columbus, cousins, derrieres, dew drop inn, GI, girls, gospel, grandchildren, Korea, michelangelo, Mississippi, officer, olfactory, patrolman, peach, police, pregnancy, seamy, south georgia, tree, whirlwind, widow, woman
Next month will mark the twenty-seventh year that has passed since that October day in 1983 when you, as Shakespeare has so poignantly observed, “shuffled off this mortal coil.” As you probably are aware, I did not attend your funeral, but I can make no apology for that—when the call came with the news, I was en route to Washington’s National Airport to take a flight to Miami for an assignment that was critical to my job with the U.S. Customs Service.
I had prepared for the flight for several weeks and could not afford to miss it. I’m sure you understand—the bills were still arriving with monotonous regularity—I know it’s trite to say, but I needed to be able to “put food on the table and shoes on the baby’s feet.” Please know that I was there with you in spirit—I thought of little else on the flight to Florida.
I’ve written letters to two of our sisters, Hattie and Jessie, and I plan to write to Dot and Lorene, our other two sisters, and possibly in the future to our mother, our father and even to the stepfather our mother unwisely allowed into the family in 1942. All are gone now, but I trust and would like to believe that you are in communication with them. I have serious doubts that the stepfather is available—he may be somewhat lower on the metaphysical level of existence than the others.
I would like to couch this letter in terms of us remembering certain times when we were together. My memories are still just as fresh as they ever were, and I hope yours are also—I would not want to talk about happenings that you may not remember.
I remember vividly the fishing trip you took me on when I was about four, perhaps five years old. We lived at the old Box place in Vernon, Alabama, and we went fishing in Yellow Creek near the house. My float went under and I snatched the hook out of the water and snagged it on an overhead branch. I thought I had a really big fish until you reached up to remove the hook—I was really disappointed, but at least you had a good laugh.
You were at home on leave from President Roosevelt’s CCC—the Civilian Conservation Corps—a respite from helping build in Utah what you described as“ roads that started nowhere and ended nowhere.” The family had a homecoming party that included a washtub filled with ice and beer. Someone left a partially filled can on an inside table and I drank some of it, and a short while later I stood on the top step of our front porch and barfed it up in view of the entire family. Shades of child abuse!
Do you remember taking me on a rabbit hunt on a snow-covered day just a year two later when I was in the first grade? We were living on Eleventh Street South in Columbus, Mississippi and you were home, once again, from Roosevelt’s CCC. We only found one rabbit that day, but that one generated memories that are burned into my psyche—memories of the rabbit, a nylon stocking and a bedpost that will always be there. A click here will refresh your memory and will create a memory for any potential viewer of this letter.
Do you remember when I was living with you and your wife Toni and your two boys in Suitland, Maryland and I broke my right leg sliding in to home plate in a ball game? I had a full cast from my toes to mid-thigh, with a forty-five degree angle at the knee, and you bought a set of crutches for my use. Long before the cast came off, I used one of the crutches in an attempt to kill a pesky bee and broke it—the crutch, not the bee—the bee escaped unharmed. In spite of my pleas, you refused to replace the crutch, saying that what I did was dumb, that it’s impossible to buy just one crutch and you told me to manage with the remaining crutch—I managed.
I wrote a long-winded story, more than a bit fictional, of that broken leg, a tale that was told and can be found here. The tale tells how I and my Little League team won the national and international championship that year.
You bought me my first bicycle, a beautiful item that needed only the pedals, seat and handlebars installed to make it complete, but you made me disassemble it right down to the wheel bearings which I cleaned and repacked with the special grease you used on your fleet of trucks. I followed orders with some resentment, but I realize now that your method contributed to the bike’s longevity and to my safety. Click here for the full story of my first bike, first kiss and first train ride.
You may have put this memory aside, but I remember coming home late one evening and you were seated in the living room with a half-full pint of whiskey, and Toni was crawling around on her hands and knees on the floor, groaning and moaning and mumbling. You explained that you had caught her at a place where she should not have been, with a person she should not have been with. You said she had swallowed a lot of sleeping pills and that you would take her to the hospital to have her stomach pumped out after she went to sleep. Toni was mumbling something over and over that sounded suspiciously like he hit me, but I couldn’t be sure—it could have been my imagination.
Being a young fellow of at least average intelligence, I took my leave and returned to the apartment in Suitland that our mother and our sister Dot were renting from month-to-month, and stayed there until things quieted down. We never discussed the incident after that evening—I don’t know whether you took her to the hospital or to a doctor. I’m guessing that she did the same thing with the pills that I did with the beer I drank at that party some ten years earlier. That would probably have rendered a trip to the hospital or to a doctor unnecessary.
The outcome of that incident was a temporary breakup of your family. Toni and the boys went to her mother’s place in New York City, and you and I returned to Mississippi. I have no knowledge of your activities or whereabouts for several years, and just four years later in 1948 I was reunited with you and your family in El Paso, Texas as the result of our stepfather casting me, our mother and our sister Dot aside in Midland, Texas and we managed to negotiate the 300 miles to El Paso on a Greyhound bus.
That refuge was broken up a short while later—our mother and sister returned to Mississippi, your wife and sons took a plane to New York City, and you and I pursued her—our pursuit first took us to Dallas where we met the Greyhound bus you thought she may have taken from El Paso. You said she may have taken the train and we could meet the train in St. Louis. We failed to meet the train in St. Louis because we spent the night in jail in Valley Park, a suburb some 20 miles west of St. Louis. We continued on to New York City and stayed with Toni and the children in her mother’s apartment in Greenwich Village for several weeks, and finally from there back to Mississippi. If your memory is faulty in this instance and you have access to the Internet, click here for the full story of our trip across the continent to New York.
Do you remember the sleeping arrangements in your mother-in-law’s apartment? It was a two-room affair with a tiny bathroom, and we slept, cooked and dined in one large room—pretty crowded but far better than our room in the Valley Park jail. I was accustomed to such luxurious surroundings from years spent in places that either had no bathroom or the bathroom was somewhere down the hall and shared with others.
As for our sleeping arrangements, I remember that the two boys shared a baby bed, and each night we placed the top mattress of the only bed on the floor for you and Toni, and I slept on the bottom mattress on the bed near the window.
I’m sure you remember the night when an intruder threw a leg over the sill of the apartment’s only window! Although we were on the second floor of the building, someone managed to climb up and enter through the open window. The shade was pulled down—yes, windows had shades in those days—and when the intruder straddled the window sill the shade rustled and you awoke and shouted and threw a shoe at the window. One loud curse and the burglar was gone. We never knew exactly how the person climbed up to the window. Evidently the intruder survived the drop, because there was nobody in sight when we finally got up enough nerve to raise the shade and take a look outside.
We finished the night with the window closed, and without the occasional breezes that slipped into the apartment. We had a really uncomfortable night. Nope, no air conditioning in those days, and no fan. I hadn’t slept well before the incident, and it certainly didn’t reduce my insomnia for the remaining nights in that apartment.
I remember you and Toni arguing one morning and you telling her that we were leaving and that you were taking the two children with you. I will never forget Toni running downstairs to the sidewalk, screaming for the police, and returning with two of New York’s finest. The officers said that you and I could leave and take our personal things with us, but nothing else—you were ordered, under the threat of arrest, to not attempt to take the children away from their mother.
You left the apartment before I did, and as I was leaving Toni told me that if I ever needed anything to call her. I never saw her or talked to her again—I know that she remarried, but I never knew her married name or her whereabouts, and to this day I do not know whether she has also shuffled off this mortal coil—if still alive today she would be about 86 years old. I would like to believe that she is alive and well—I have never wished her anything other than well, and whatever the event, I still wish her well.
I doubt that you ever saw the picture I’ve included in this letter. It’s from a 35-millimeter slide, probably taken in the mid-1970s—I’m guessing 1975 because there were some other slides that showed our 1975 Oldsmobile 98—it looks new, and we bought it in that year. The slide was scanned in and printed by Cindy, your niece that lives, loves and works in Alexandria, Virginia. Unless my memory fails me, the black-and-tan hound was named Bugler, and the little Cocker Spaniel in the lower right corner was named Useless.
Larry, there are many things I would like to discuss with you, but this letter seems to have legs. Let me chop them off for now, with the promise of returning soon with a whole new set of reminisces. I trust that you and any potential viewers of this letter will understand my feelings and my reasons for taking them back in time. Some of my memories are pleasant, and I enjoy speaking of them. Not all are pleasant, of course, but in this world of Yen and Yang we must take the good with the bad, and learn to smile with the one and frown with the other.
From your only brother, the only member of our family still standing—all the others are gone.
Postscript: Regarding the names of the two dogs in the image above, my memory did indeed fail me. My niece in Arkansas, my brother’s daughter, e-mailed me on 9-5-10 to say that the black-and-tan-hound was named Sam and Bugler was his pup, and the Cocker Spaniel I presented as Useless was named Puny. Thanks, Deanna, for straightening the names out for me.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: Alabama, apology, bee, beer, bicycly, cocker spaniel, coil, crutch, Dallas, El Paso, fish, Florida, future, greyhound, homecoming, Internet, knee, lingevity, Miami, Midland, Mississippi, National airport, new york city, oldsmobile, roosevelt, safety, Shakespeare, sleeping pills, St. Louis, stepfather, Suitland, Texas, US Customs, Valley Park, Vernon, Washington, whiskey, yellow creek
Near the end of my three-year assignment to US Customs Headquarters in the nation’s capital, I traveled to Seattle, then to Blaine, Washington, then to San Francisco and on to Los Angeles on official business—my duties at that time were those of the National Program Manager for Custom’s detector dog program. In Seattle I met a fellow officer from Los Angeles, and together we observed and evaluated Customs’ operations in Seattle, at Customs’ land border port of entry at Blaine near the Canadian border, Customs’ operations in San Francisco and finally Customs operations in Los Angeles, with concentration on the detector dog program in the various locations.
My purpose in this post is not to bore the viewer with details of Customs enforcement programs—my purpose is to relate two separate incidents, one that was hilarious and one that was somewhat embarrassing.
My fellow Customs officer told me that his baby in Los Angeles would meet us in San Francisco and travel with us back to Los Angeles. I assumed that his baby was his wife, and therein lies a tale. His baby, an amiable and quite presentable young woman—much younger than he—dined with us at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco that evening, checked into the hotel with him and traveled with us on the flight from to Los Angeles the following day. Dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf included fried octopus, my reluctant first—and definitely last—encounter with that creature as cuisine.
We had adjoining rooms at an upscale hotel near the airport. When I went to check out, my fellow officer was already checking out, so I fell into line behind him. While I waited I heard him tell the woman behind the desk that he was bothered by noises coming from the room adjoining his. He said there was a party in that room that included an animal, one that sounded suspiciously like a goat or a sheep, and that the sounds continued late into the night.
The clerk registered a mixture of surprise, skepticism, incredulity and something akin to horror, and said that she would tell the manager right away and an investigation would be made. I stepped forward and told the clerk that the room was mine, and that all the party goers were of sound mind and legal age—including the goat.
Okay, I admit it—that was funny, but the surprise that awaited me at his home the next night when I accepted his invitation to dinner was not funny. I arrived with a screw-top bottle of fine wine, rang the door bell and was invited into the house by a very lovely and very pregnant lady that introduced herself as the wife of my fellow officer. Nope, it was not the same baby that met us in San Francisco and traveled to Los Angeles with us—didn’t even come close. The best part of the evening was my feeling of satisfaction with my selection of wine for a dinner gift.
That was an embarrassing moment for me. I wisely held my counsel until the following day, at which time I ticked off the reasons why I should not have been misled. My scorn was wasted on him—he found the incident far funnier than the goat in my hotel room debacle.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: airport, animal, baby, blaine, border, capital, clerk, cuisine, customs, detector dog, dinner, eadquarters, fisherman's wharf, gift, goat, horror, hotel, incredulity, los angeles, octopus, officer, port, room, San Francisco, screw top bottle, Seattle, sheep, skepticism, surprise, Washington, woman
I recently attempted to clean up my Word files. They were filled, and still are, replete to the point of obesity with quick thoughts and URLs and lots of pitiful starts for postings that never matured enough to become part of my official archives, a record that is maintained by my daughter in Virginia, and by Word Press, of course. My daughter is just naive enough to believe that my musings could—and should—be published in book form—an anthology perhaps. I’m not sure that anyone would spend real money for such a tome, but of course I would.
I would probably follow the path of Henry David Thoreau. One thousand copies of his first publication—A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers—were published in 1849, and five years later 706 copies remained unsold. Needing the storage space, the printer shipped them to Thoreau and he stored them in the attic of his parents’ house. He then boasted in his private Journal that, “I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.” Having published my tome I would probably make a similar boast.
In the attempt to clean up my attic—my Word files—I found an item that expresses my thanks to a commercial blogger for “showcasing my daughter’s wedding.” I blush with shame when I profess that the item is beautifully written, but I’m not ashamed enough to keep it hidden among comments that I have posted. Click here for the blog that showcased my daughter’s wedding.
This is the comment I posted to the wedding blog:
A beautiful posting and a nice tribute to the bride. Her wedding in 2009 was a memorable event in a small Texas city, especially memorable for me as the father of the bride. I am also the King of Texas, and Cindy is one of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. I can truthfully say, with all seriousness aside, that my family is endowed with a tremendous amount of talent. However, there is a slight hitch—Cindy has it all!
Her wedding was unusual, perhaps unique in some respects—the theme-decorated tables and the bowered setting, a pleasant grassy shaded area amid towering pecan trees with goats bleating in the background—yes, there was a small island in the backwaters of the Guadalupe River behind the wedding site. The island is occupied by a family of goats, and the goats refuse to leave, not even to forage among nearby resort homes. To vacate the island they would necessarily have to swim—that they refuse to do, and must be fed by property owners in the area. They seem to thrive there and are very vocal when people are around. Predictably they reproduce in order to maintain the strain. The population is consistent because kids born on the island are usually adopted by homeowners or visitors, whether for pets or ingestion is unknown.
As the father of the bride my contribution to the wedding was monetary and fiscal, and I am now operating under a budget deficit caused by that contribution. However, my major contribution to its success was the moment I took to the dance floor in response to the strains of music from Hollywood’s Saturday Night Fever, an unforgettable moment in my life and in the lives of those present—yep, I did it, and I have the photos to prove it—shades of John Travolta!
Thanks for showcasing my daughter’s wedding. You have made my day and brightened hers.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Tags: anthology, attic, blog, book, bride, concord, daughter, goats, guadalupe, island, journal, King of Texas, Merrimack, pecan, river, saturday night fever, Thoreau, Virginia, Word
Okay, once and for all, let’s explain the difference between jealousy and envy:
From Wikipedia: Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, whether friendship or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness and disgust. It is not to be confused with envy.
Jealousy is associated with that which we have and which we guard with all our might to keep. We cannot be jealous of something someone else has—it’s impossible. Jealousy is the emotion that is generated when someone attempts to take away, to appropriate or to use inappropriately, something that we have. The emotion of jealousy raises its ugly head when our neighbor attempts to possess our house, our Mercedes-Benz and our wife, whether figuratively or literally. We will guard all three jealously—but not necessarily in that order.
From Wikipedia: Envy is best defined as an emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. It is not to be confused with jealousy.
Envy is that which we feel when we do not have that which another has and which we would like to have. Prime examples of envy would include our desire to possess our neighbor’s house, his Mercedes-Benz and his wife, but not necessarily in that order.
It’s impossible to envy something we already have. We envy others because they possess something we would like to have. We may envy our neighbor because his house is larger than ours, his Mercedes-Benz is newer than ours and his wife is prettier than ours—not necessarily in that order—but it is impossible for us to be jealous.
The difference between envy and jealousy is very simple and very easy to understand. Given that simplicity and ease of understanding, why do so many people misuse the terms? Is it because such people know the difference and don’t really care to be accurate in describing emotions? Or is it because their education is sadly lacking in the teaching and learning process of the usage of those two terms? In my experience the talking heads on television are the most frequent users of the terms envy and jealousy, and are by far the most consistent offenders of their definitions.
Alas—so many errors and so little time to correct them!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Tags: anger, anxiety, disgust, envy, fear, friendship, House, insecurity, jealousy, love, mercedes, relationship, sadness, Television, wife