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19th Street South and mumps for Christmas . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Delphiniums and Al Gore . . .

Hey, since you’re already on my site, why not click here to check out my About the King of Texas? As I promised when I began blogging in March of 2009, I have expanded it, and I welcome comments on that expansion. And if you’ll click here, you’ll find lots of stuff about me that you really wanted to know but were afraid to ask.

Now on to this posting featuring a purple delphinium and Al Gore:

Earlier this year one of my three princesses, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia, posted a gorgeous image of a purple delphinium to her Word Press blog. The photo was so beautiful and I liked it so much that I spent a goodly amount of time composing a comment to express my liking, and I used the comment to express my opinion on a certain figure that looms large in our political scene, so large that at times it raises my ire and restricts my view. I’m unsure why the delphinium directed my thoughts to global warming—perhaps I felt that if global warming is a reality, there may be no purple delphiniums in our future.

Click here to view a delightful delphinium with a plethora of pulchritudinous purple petals (I really love alliteration!)  http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/fridays-eye-candy/#comments.

With full realization that one’s memory tends to wane as one ages, I do not believe my daughter has read my comment, so I am making it a separate posting on my blog. I’m bringing it out of the shadows of comments and into the bright light of its own posting. My humble opinion is that my comment deserves wider dissemination, and my ego requires it—nay, demands it!

Here is my original comment on the purple delphinium, and I welcome comments on my comment:

Your photographic representation of a purple delphinium finds me and leaves me at a loss for words adequate enough to praise its beauty. I can only say that it is NOT disgusting, grotesque, hideous, homely, offensive, plain, repulsive, ugly or unattractive.

As an afterthought, I suppose I could say that it is admirable, alluring, angelic, appealing, beauteous, bewitching, charming, classy, comely, cute, dazzling, delicate, delightful, divine, elegant, enticing, excellent, exquisite, fair, fascinating, fine, foxy, good-looking, gorgeous, graceful, grand, handsome, ideal, lovely, magnificent, marvelous, nice, pleasing, pretty, pulchritudinous, radiant, ravishing, refined, resplendent, shapely, sightly, splendid, statuesque, stunning, sublime, superb, symmetrical, taking, well-formed, and wonderful, so I will say it—in fact, I just said it.

As you well know, I face the East every morning and bow in homage to a giant, one that resides in the East—no, not the sun. I bow to a giant that is normally quite garrulous, a towering presence in all our media sources, but for some strange reason has fallen silent in recent weeks, a silence coincidental, perhaps, to the nation’s recent record snowfalls. Be that as it may, while bowing I repeatedly chant, “Al, baby, you’da most!”

My humble bow to that giant and my paying homage to Him (note the capital H) is in recognition of the fact that He is a giant that, for various actions ranging from beneficial to nefarious with all impinging on our society, will remain a giant unless discredited, and will be firmly ensconced in future annals of American history.

That giant is Al Gore, of course, the One (note the capital O) that foretold the extinction of our planet due to global warming caused by mankind, and for that prescience, that foresight, that knowledge of things before they exist or happen, had a Hollywood Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize bestowed on Him.

Let’s face it—in his prophecies, Al Gore rivals Nicodemus!

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I am deeply indebted to Al Gore for his invention of the internet—were it not for that prodigious discovery, I would really be at a loss for words—my comments on your blog postings would be reduced to words and phrases such as oh boy, great, nice, wow, okay, right on, you go girl, keep it up, make it happen, give us more, etc., etc., etc.

And also in the interests of full disclosure, I must reveal to your visitors from across the world that my compensation from you is based on the word counts of my comments praising your work, and varies in direct proportion to the number of words—fewer words less money, more words more money.

“N’uff said, or is that more than enough? Can you really afford me? Have your people call my people to discuss different terms of compensation.

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

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Bus driver, or cowboy . . .

Preamble: A preliminary statement, especially the introduction to a formal document that serves to explain its purpose.

A preamble is normally written before a document—I’m adding this preamble after I posted the document below. My daughter, the one that lives, loves and works in Northern Virginia, the one that I love best, but don’t tell the other two daughters I said that—tasked me with answering several questions concerning the person in this photo. In the interests of levity, I assumed the character of a criminal investigator in analyzing the photo in response to my daughter’s request. I identified her merely as a relative in Virginia, and she took umbrage—this addition to the posting is my attempt to correct my blunder.  And in the interests of full disclosure, I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be a criminal investigator, not in Washington DC or any other location. I merely presented myself as such in order to bolster my analysis of the photo.

The photo is an accurate depiction of my mother’s youngest son—me—and virtually all of the information I posted is true. The only time I seriously strayed from the truth was the part about  studying photos from various high school yearbooks while working in the Washington DC area—I freely admit that it was a real whopper! However, that I worked in that area for three years is a true statement—so help me, you know Who.

Here is the original posting, unchanged. The only difference is the addition of the preamble above—my search for an antonym to preamble was fruitless. I suppose we could call it a postamblewe could run that term up the flagpole and see who salutes it!

I recently received this photo from a relative in Virginia, accompanied with a request for me to apply the training I received over many years in the field of law enforcement and answer as many of the questions below as I could, with the answers based on the expertise I acquired—expertise in the use of observational techniques and in the questioning routines I used in conversations with subjects suspected of various crimes.

These are the questions:

Tell me something about this fella—-where he was mentally and physically at this time…How old was he? What was he was thinking about? What aspirations did he have?  He looks so pensive and serious. What was he dreaming about?

It was an unusual request, but it posed a challenge for me. There are, of course, more visual and physical traits to be observed when faced with the actual suspect, but some definitive conclusions can be reached simply by studying a photograph.

This young man, for example, has an exceptionally well-formed head with an Adonis-like visage. Each feature—eyes, ears, nose, mouth, cheekbones and chin—are in perfect harmony with the other features. Any observer would view him as a handsome young lad, undoubtedly popular with the girls and envied by his male peers. That beautifully coiffed hair places the boy in the company of Narcissus, and at this age the lad undoubtedly spent lots of time looking into a mirror. Narcissus, of course, fell in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it was his own. The photograph reflects no doubt—this young fellow knows exactly what he sees in the mirror and he is well-pleased with the image, a pleasure bordering on self-adulation.

Whether this teenager ever enjoyed any significant contacts with the opposite sex based on his looks would be pure speculation, and an investigator never, ever speculates—any investigative conclusions must be based on demonstrable facts.

Some conclusions may instantly be made—the photo is that of a young boy, perhaps in his early to middle teen years—he is white, Anglo-Saxon, with perhaps a bit of the old Irish in him. His age is  somewhere between fourteen and fifteen years. He has a delightful sprinkling of freckles, indicating that most of his years have been spent in sunny southern climes in a state, or states, well below the Mason-Dixon line. The hair style is representative of those affected by youths in the middle to late 1940s. I believe this photo was taken in late 1946 or early in 1947.

The source of the photo can often be helpful. One can deduce that the photo is not the work of a professional portrait studio. If it were, it would show the company’s name and logo near the lower edge—Olan Mills, for example. By an unusual coincidence, I worked in the Washington, D.C. area for three years, and on an unrelated assignment I studied student photos in the yearbooks of  several schools in the DC area—although some 13 years have passed since the assignment, I still vividly remember the photos.

This photo, judging by the pose of the subject and the clarity of the portrait, matches very closely the attributes of yearbook photos taken of students at Suitland High School in the city of Suitland, Maryland—the photo in question was published in that school’s year book for the period cited.

An astute observer will instantly be drawn to the left eye—it’s ever so slightly squinted, caused by a deliberate but subtle lowering of the eye’s upper lid. No definite conclusions can be drawn from that squint, but  here are some possible causes:

It could be that the photographer is an attractive young female, and her subject is speculating on his chances of getting it on with her, a term similar with today’s term of making out. It could be that the photographer is a school staff member, one for which the subject has no particular fondness—the squint could be saying, “Don’t screw it up—either do it right, or don’t do it!”

That squint is, perhaps, in imitation of some Hollywood actor favored by the subject, and is thus used in such situations. I must confess that I use it, but infrequently, and I believe that one of my own three offspring also utilizes the squint as needed in certain situations.

This unusual and interesting habit of squinting one eye is sometimes reflected in a person or persons closely associated with the squinter—a brother or sister, or a relative of the squinter, perhaps a daughter or son—daughters and sons sometimes tend to imitate one or more habitual physical traits exhibited by their father.

That squinted left eye leaves me with the thought that this lad did, for one reason or another, not complete the current school year at this high school. He probably dropped out of class near the end of the second semester. His failure to complete the year may have been caused by having to relocate in a distant city, or because he converted his thoughts concerning the photographer into action, or perhaps he broke his leg while playing in an American Legion Little League baseball game, or for some other completely unrelated reason.

As for this lad’s aspirations for the future, that’s very difficult to discern. My best guess is that his aspirations at that time were similar to those of Jethro, of Beverly Hillbillies fame—Jethro vacillated between becoming a brain surgeon or a short-order cook.

I believe this lad, at this time in his life, vacillated between becoming an old-time cowboy, broad of shoulder and tall—yeah, good luck with that—and lean of hip, with steely gray eyes perpetually squinted from checking the horizon for Indians and badmen—either that, or a bus driver.

Of course I could be wrong.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 19, 2010 in actor and acting, Humor, PHOTOGRAPHY, sports, Writing

 

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A return to THE TOMATO TEMPEST—check it out!

I began blogging in March, 2009 in response to an e-mail from one of my daughters. I ended that first posting with a question for my viewers, and ten months later I have yet to receive any answers to that question. This is a repeat of that first posting. Since the question remains unanswered I’ll ask it again, just as it appeared in the initial posting—the question will appear again at the conclusion of “THE TOMATO TEMPEST.”

Please feel free to voice your thoughts. I assure you that your comments will not be edited for content, whether negative or positive. However, I must state that any errors in spelling and punctuation will be corrected—I can’t resist that—it’s in my nature!

Note for readers of this posting (if any):

I’ll leave it up to you, the viewers who blindly stumble onto my blog—should I write my memoirs, with the purpose of publishing a book? Should I consolidate and cement those memories for others to enjoy, or should I be selfish and keep them all to myself?

If you respond, I have only one request:

Be honest, but be gentle!

The tomato tempest

Recently one of my three princesses (daughters) e-mailed me excerpts from a diary she kept early in her working career as a graphic designer. Her incredibly detailed (and lengthy) notes prompted an incredibly detailed (and lengthy) answer. To read those excerpts, check out that posting on her blog at http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/the-year-of-living-detailed-ly/

This is my response to my daughter’s e-mail

Your diary is a great read, and your posting brings back a host of memories for me. I wish I had the discipline necessary to do the diary thing. I believe I’ll start one now by backtracking through the past—it will necessarily be in the “stream of consciousness” vein, and nowhere approaching chronological order because I’ll probably never get the dates accurately sorted out.

Here’s a brief (?) example, a memory that came, unbidden and unexplainable, while I was reading your e-mail. It’s an incident that occurred a year or two after my mother married my stepfather.

I’ll call the incident:

The tomato tempest

My sister and I, with our mother and our recently acquired stepfather, traveled the 12 miles from Columbus, Mississippi to a farm near Ethelsville, Alabama to visit Papa’s sister, a red-haired wife who had become a widow a few weeks earlier—her husband killed himself. Yep, committed suicide. On a cool fall evening after supper he left his wife and three sons in the house, walked a short distance into the woods and into a ravine near the house (ravines are called hollows and pronounced “hollers” by Alabama country folks) and slashed his throat with a straight razor. His hounds found him early the next morning, and their baying alerted the family. One of his three sons was the first on the scene.

As Papa John explained it, “He damn near cut his head off.” I never knew why my aunt’s husband killed himself. Perhaps no one knew, but he may have done it because Papa’s sister, as long as I knew her, constantly whistled country singer Eddie Arnold’s “Cattle Call” song between her teeth—day and night, at work and at play. It may have been that her husband simply got “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore” and took the only way out—not the only way, perhaps, but certainly one of the quickest ways available to him—it may have been a classic case of, “One of us has to go, so it’s either her or me.”

The year would have been around 1942-1943. With the advent of World War II, America was recovering from the Great Depression, but recovery was slower in the South than in other sections of the country (similar to the South’s recovery after the “War Between The States,” known by some as the “Civil War”).

In a more serious vein, the father’s action may reasonably be attributed, at least in part, to the severe economic times. He and his family were share-croppers, tenants eking out a living by sharing the profits from crop returns with the land owner. The land-owner furnished housing, land, seed and farm implements, and extended credit to the family. In return the family did the work of clearing, planting, tending and harvesting the crops. The division of profits was always heavily in the landholder’s favor.

That the larger portion of profits accrued to the land-owner is understandable, but in far too many instances the paltry portion extended to the family, coupled with the family’s dependence on credit for the following year, guaranteed that they could never hope to rise above the share-cropper level.

A share-cropper and his family had a hand-to-mouth existence—they existed on credit until crops were harvested and sold, paid their debts with their share of the profits and promptly began using credit to get through the next growing season. If this seems to reflect a bleak existence with little hope for the future, it’s because the reflection was true—very little hope for the future existed.

I have vivid memories of the house. It sat near the woods a half-mile or so off the paved highway at the end of a winding one-lane dirt road, little more than two ruts between cotton fields. The farmhouse was typical of the time—built on piers, walls of unpainted ship-lap boards, rusting tin roof, a brick chimney, kitchen, dining room, living room and two bedrooms—the living room with the fireplace did double duty as a living room and bedroom.

The living room and two bedrooms were separated from the kitchen and dining room by a “dog-run,” an wide open concourse running from front to rear of the house. Breezes flowing through the dog-run helped cool the home in summer, and provided shelter for the dogs at night and in inclement weather (hence the term “dog-run”). In later years in many of such houses, the dog-run was enclosed to provide additional interior space, either as a wide hallway or for additional rooms or storage space—either way, the change put the dogs at a definite disadvantage. In all my memories, none is of full-grown hounds being allowed into the house, regardless of the weather—they took up far too much space and produced far too many bad odors.

This was my only visit to the farmhouse. My mother took various foodstuffs to the family on that visit, including a small bag of fresh tomatoes, items that would figure prominently in our lives following our one-day excursion to visit the family. We arrived early in the day and stayed until late afternoon. We ate dinner with the family at noon, a meal which included sliced tomatoes. My sister was about 12 years old, some 18 months older than I. She loved sliced tomatoes, and on that day ate perhaps what could be described as “more than her share” of them—however, the plate was repeatedly passed at her request with no admonitions from anyone.

When we left to return home, our route to the paved highway was blocked by a huge pile of brush placed there by my aunt’s youngest child, a boy a bit younger than my 11 years. If I ever knew why he did it I don’t remember the reason, but I do remember Papa’s frustration and his language—he had to clear the path before we could move on. I remember the air in that area turning blue. His language probably stemmed from his intake of alcohol during the day. We were to learn in later years that Papa John was a confirmed alcoholic, a trait that would exist for many years and figure prominently in our future.

Our supper at home that evening included a plate heaped high with sliced tomatoes. Papa John kept passing the tomatoes to my sister, and she cheerfully accepted additional helpings. However, when she had her fill of sliced tomatoes he insisted she take more, telling her that she had insulted him, his sister and his sister’s sons by eating so many at noon, that the tomatoes had been taken there for a grieving family, and should have been theirs. When she stubbornly refused to eat more, he reached across the table and struck her, open-handed, on the left side of her head, a blow that he repeated two more times, inter-spaced with the question, “I told you to eat them!” I remember my mother saying, “No, John, that’s enough, don’t hit her anymore.”

We lived in a two-story colonial style house that, in the early years of World War II, had been converted into several apartments. One of my older sisters lived in the front downstairs unit with her husband and young daughter, a two-year old, and we lived in the downstairs rear unit. Our combination kitchen and dining room opened onto the back porch.

When my older sister heard the commotion she rushed into our kitchen. All of us—my sister, mother, stepfather and I were on our feet when she arrived and charged into our stepfather. Papa John didn’t hit her, but he shoved her violently out the door with so much force that she fell off the porch. Other than minor bruises and injury to her pride, she was not hurt. Her husband wasn’t home at the time, and she returned to her apartment saying that she would tell him everything and he would deal with Papa John later. Our stepfather responded by saying his pistol was “loaded and ready.”

And it was. Papa John kept an Army-issue Colt .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol at his bedside, with a full clip and a round in the chamber, the safety off and the hammer fully cocked. His reasoning for that was to insure that the weapon could be fired quickly in an emergency—to fire it he could simply pick it up, squeeze the hand grips to override the final safety feature, and pull the trigger. He proudly told people that neither my sister nor I would ever touch the weapon—he was blissfully unaware of the many times I handled the Colt, pointing and sighting it at objects and people (including him), having morphed with the weapon in my hand into the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Lash LaRue, Don (Red) Barry, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers or any one of the host of Hollywood cowboys so prominent in my boyhood (trust me, I can name ‘em all).

Nothing else ever came of the incident. The end result was a permanent partial loss of hearing and untold psychological damage for my younger sister, and an enduring hatred of Papa John by the older sister he threw out of the kitchen. Later in the evening our stepfather apologized profusely to my younger sister, an apology that included tears—his, not hers. She listened stoically and made no response, nor did I respond, mainly because the apology was not addressed to me—I decided that the less said, the better, a maxim that would characterize and shape my actions far into the future, especially when Papa was involved.  To my knowledge, no apology was ever offered to the sister thrown out of the kitchen.

Okay, so what do you think?

Should I start writing my autobiography/memoirs, entitled something similar to “Memoirs of Mikey” or perhaps “Mike’s Memoirs” or maybe “Confessions of a Step-child”? This is just one incident in one day in a life which at this point has covered some 76 and one-half years. I can conjure up at least 16,900,027 vignettes from those years, all true. Not that truth matters—there is no one alive who can confirm, deny or dispute anything I might say or write concerning the first 19 of those years. For the following 57 years I’ll need to be stick closely to the truth, because your mother and your sisters may disagree with some of my memories.

Just imagine—Oprah might select my book for her reading club, and I would be on her show, and you could come along and photograph the proceedings—oh, and you could also save me a lot of money by producing my literary blockbuster.

Note for readers of this posting (if any):

I’ll leave it up to you, the viewers who blindly stumble onto my blog—should I write my memoirs, with the purpose of publishing a book? Should I consolidate and cement those memories for others to enjoy, or should I be selfish and keep them all to myself?

If you respond, I have only one request:

Be honest, but be gentle!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 17, 2010 in Childhood, death, Family, Humor, Writing

 

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32 Czars & counting—we need one more . . .

Our government now has 32 czars, each charged with oversight of a different segment of life in the United States. These positions are filled by people selected by unknown means, but some of whom admittedly know nothing about the segment over which they hold sway.

I suggest that President Obama appoint a Phart Czar. Were I the president, my selection would be a former vice-president—Al Gore.

Al Gore is one of the major causes of global warning. He is consistently, in the words of the bard, “hoist with his own petar.” Some of the bard’s analysts suggest that the phrase is a play on words and refers to the fact that the persons mentioned are lifted aloft by their own flatulence (see explanation below). In Al’s case, he is lifted by his own hot air, primarily generated by his pompous proclamations concerning global warming.

For now, the former vice-president seems to be a necessary evil, about which little can be done—it’s just something we will have to tolerate. Perhaps his appointment to the position of Phart Czar will add a bit of weight to a couple of his lightweight awards—the Oscar awarded by Hollywood and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here I must digress for a moment and offer my thanks for a site that is a great source for writer’s tips—check it out at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/hoist-with-his-own-petard/.

The information that follows was gleaned from that site:

Here is how the expression is used in Hamlet (III, iv, 206-208):

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar, an’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon.

A “petar” was an explosive device. It got its name from the French verb pêter, which means “to break wind.” The Old French noun pet means “fart.” Shakespeare was making one of his earthy puns here.

Another major cause of global warning, other than Al Gore—one that can be addressed and perhaps eliminated, or at least reduced—is the methane gas emitted by animals. This is the vast amount of flatulence produced by livestock, primarily cattle (cows). In 2005 the United State’s livestock population, including cattle, was almost 96 million—this would include horses, mules, sheep, swine and other lesser animals (lesser in size, not necessarily in the amount of methane expelled into the atmosphere). Of all the animals, those in the know tell us that cows are the worst offenders (I don’t know how that was determined, and I’m not sure that I want to know).

Our country needs a Phart Czar, one who can evaluate the situation, determine methods of controlling such emissions, and exercise control over such emissions by implementing those methods. The Czar’s duties would include intensive measurements of emissions collected from various breeds of cattle. It could be that Jerseys (cows, not people) emit more methane than the Holstein breed, for example. Armed with that knowledge, the Phart Czar could concentrate on reducing the Jersey population (cows, not people), or perhaps if deemed necessary, eliminating the breed through attrition (of Jersey cows, not people).

However, I believe that our major problem is not necessarily with the lower order (so-called) of animals. A corollary problem is methane—flatulence—produced by the higher order (so-called) of animals. That order is the human race, and that problem should be addressed immediately.

To my knowledge no effort has been made to measure the contribution to the atmosphere of methane generated by the herds of humans in our country—in concentrating on animal production we may have completely overlooked our own contributions. The estimated population for the United States in 2008 was almost 304 million human pharters, more than triple the number of livestock in the nation.

Who knows? Our collective contributions to global warming may approach, equal or even surpass that of livestock.

This should be the Phart Czar’s immediate concern—to determine the depth of the problem and make recommendations to reduce the output of something which, apparently, is detrimental to our health and to our future.

Who would have thought that such a normal function of our bodies could be harmful? Certainly not I. In fact, there is a little ditty that many of my generation learned at our mother’s knee and frequently recited over the years. It’s one that the U. S. Air Force officer who established the Wellness Clinic at Wilford Hall Hospital used as the opener in all his speeches promoting the program.

It goes like this:

Beans, beans, good for your heart,

The more you eat, the more you phart,

The more you phart, the better you feel,

So let’s eat beans every meal.

This would be the most sensitive part of the Phart Czar’s job:

Any analysis of the problem must—I repeat, must—include race. The amount of flatulence, as well as its olfactory and auditory effects, is in large part influenced by diet. Some foods promote the production of methane—examples are beans, onions, diary products (especially milk) and let’s not forget one of the worst culprits—broccoli. There are those among us who eat far more beans, broccoli, dairy, etc., than do other segments of the population and therefore should be so judged and subjected to intense scrutiny and evaluation, and corrective action taken as deemed necessary.

Of course, over time through on-hands management, diligent investigation, development of corrective measures and prompt application of those measures, the Phart Czar may find that other foods and other segments of the population may generate as much, or even more, methane gas. No one, including vegetarians, pescotarians, etc., can be exempted—all must be scrutinized and evaluated.

I also suggest that significant stimulus money be provided to persons and companies involved in the study of enzymes (some of which may reduce unwanted digestive issues). In theory at least, new enzymes could be developed that would significantly reduce or even eliminate flatulence, both in humans and in the so-called lower classes of animals. As we all know, flatulence is involuntary and therefore not the fault of the animal, whether human or otherwise—it’s the bacteria in the animal’s colon—they are the culprits—perhaps under the direction of the Phart Czar, a new strain of bacteria could be developed, one which could continue to make its necessary contributions to life without producing methane gas.

One can only hope and dream.

There is, of course, a downside to the complete elimination of methane emitted by living beings—some of us, and perhaps some of the animals, are not strongly disinclined with the conditions which presently exist.

And finally, this is why we need another czar—a Phart Czar:

According to Al Gore, time is of the essence.

As an aside, I recommend that those who invest in the stock market take a careful look at Beano, a product that is said to counter, or at least reduce, the effect of beans in the production of methane in humans. It may be found that by the simple introduction of Beano into beans and other foods, either in the growth process by injecting Beano into the seeds or in the preparation of beans for retail to the public, both uncooked and cooked—a good place to start would be in the vast numbers of restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants—that feature beans in virtually every dish offered to the public. One of the bean side dishes offered with many entrees is an ultra-delicious culinary delight—it’s called re-fried beans, an item that should be considered particularly suspect for its contributions to the cumulative deleterious effect of flatulence discharged into our atmosphere.

The makers of Beano claim that it counteracts the adverse effects of beans on the human digestive system (for some of us but not all), and offer compelling testimonials to its favorable action. I predict that Beano will in the future change the lifestyle of many people, perhaps propelling (so to speak) some into the rarified air of millionaires, provided that investors get in at the bottom (so to speak) and invest in the product. However, I must in the interest of full disclosure reveal that the product does not work for me.

It makes me phart.

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

 

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Age 10—fired from a job stocking groceries . . .

My mother remarried when I was nine years old, and her new husband was not one to allow a lad at the advanced age of nine years to remain idle. Over the next seven years he assisted me in obtaining employment, either after school or between school years, in such diverse areas as delivering groceries, stocking groceries, filling water tanks in mobile homes, selling newspapers, doing duty in a self-service laundry, and clerking and filling orders in a lumber yard—the clerking job was the last but certainly not the least—it was the job that paid the most, and it was the only one that I really enjoyed.

The first job—that is, the first job I had working outside the home—my stepfather kindly negotiated a job for me to begin delivering groceries for a small neighborhood grocer at the corner of our block. My primary duty was to deliver groceries to homes in the neighborhood. My tool was a large two-wheeler—actually it could more accurately be described as a one-and-a-half wheeler. The front wheel was perhaps one-half of the rear wheel’s size, scaled down to accommodate a gargantuan basket mounted above it—such vehicles are now relics, collectors’ items relegated (thank heavens) to museums and such.

My career as a bike-riding grocery delivery boy was brief—it began on Tuesday and, through no fault of my own, ended the same day. I made several successful deliveries, but then a huge balloon sprouted out of the front tire and exploded. I pushed the bike with its groceries to the proper address, delivered the groceries, pushed the bike back to my place of employment, explained the problem, and was told that a new tire and inner-tube would need to be ordered, and in the interim I was assigned to a satellite store several blocks away from the main store.

In reference to me riding the bike with the little wheel and the huge basket full of groceries, picture this:

I was a nine-year old kid, under-weight, under-height and sometimes underfed, and that was a man-sized bike—it was a struggle for me to control it with the basket empty—when underway with a full basket, my forward progress was similar to that of a western sidewinder rattlesnake navigating a stretch of hot sand.

The satellite store did not make deliveries and therefore had no delivery bike (thank heavens), so I was assigned to stock shelves, sweep floors, police up the outside areas and accomplish other duties as directed. One of the other duties was to walk several blocks to the main store with the days’ receipts—it was never a really substantial amount of money, but the way I was cautioned would make one think that I was relocating the contents of Fort Knox.

My grocery delivering career began on Tuesday and ended on Tuesday, but my shelf-stocking and money-transferring career lasted two and one-half days—it ended at noon on Friday.

This was the situation as I explained it to my employer:

I told him that I needed Friday afternoon off, and he asked why. I had not yet learned to feign pain, or sickness, or to claim a dental appointment so I told the truth. A new movie was in town and I wanted to see it—it was the newest horror film out of Hollywood—the movie was titled, “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf-man,” a sequel to the original Frankenstein film, long awaited and a must-see for ten-year-old boys.

My request was denied but I persisted—actually I insisted, and was told that if I took off to see the movie I was not to return—in essence I was fired, at age 10, from a job stocking groceries. I acquiesced to the terms, requested my pay for the three-and-one-half days I had worked, and was given two whole dollars!

Real paper money.

Greenbacks.

Silver certificates with some guy’s picture and the words “In God We Trust” printed on them.

Which reminds me of a sign often seen in bars:

In God we trust—all others pay cash.

And of course, one bar-sign joke calls for another:

Helen Waite, Owner

Need credit?

Go to Helen Waite!

But I digress—on with my sad tale of joining the ranks of the unemployed.

With the two dollars in my pocket I took the rest of the day off and relaxed in the coolness of the Varsity Theater, the only one of the three theaters in town that was air conditioned. There was a huge banner atop the building that featured Willy the Penguin of Kool-cigarette fame saying, “Come on it, it’s Kooool inside.”

Believe it or not, for those of us under 13 years of age the theater admission was only nine cents—nine cents, mind you, would give a kid access to a double feature, usually a western and a detective movie (Charlie Chan or Boston Blackie, for example), a weekly serial which ended each week with a cliff-hanger, several cartoons and loads of trailers for upcoming movies—and we could come and go as we pleased, provided that we held on to our ticket stub.

The answer to your question about the ticket stubs is “yes.” We sometimes adversely affected the theater’s daily take by passing our ticket stub to a kid who lacked the necessary nine cents for admission.

One thin dime would pay for the entertainment with a penny left over. A penny doesn’t sound like much, but that one penny would pay for any one of various penny-items stocked at the concession stand—an all-day sucker, a lolly-pop, a jaw-breaker, one of Tom’s individually wrapped peanut-butter candies, a stick of one’s favorite chewing gum, and even a long-lasting ball of bubble-gum to be deposited under one’s seat just before leaving the theater.

Oh, life was good in the old days!

I was never foolish enough to lie to my stepfather so, albeit unwillingly, I was truthful about my job loss. He was a bit perturbed at first, but loosened up when I told him about the two dollars, an amount which included any severance pay I may have earned. His secondary reaction was to discuss the matter with my previous employer, but my mother convinced him that such a discussion would be neither wise nor productive.

So that’s it—that’s how I landed my first job and that’s why I was fired, a firing that was “E pluribus unum,” which, as all know, is Latin for “Out of Many, One.”

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

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2009 in Childhood, Family, Uncategorized

 

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The tomato tempest

Recently one of my three princesses (daughters) e-mailed me excerpts from a diary she kept early in her working career as a graphic designer. Her incredibly detailed (and lengthy) notes prompted an incredibly detailed (and lengthy) answer. To read those excerpts, check out that posting on her blog at http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/the-year-of-living-detailed-ly/

This is my response to my daughter’s e-mail

Your diary is a great read, and your posting brings back a host of memories for me. I wish I had the discipline necessary to do the diary thing. I believe I’ll start one now by backtracking through the past—it will necessarily be in the “stream of consciousness” vein, and nowhere approaching chronological order because I’ll probably never get the dates accurately sorted out.

Here’s a brief (?) example, a memory that came, unbidden and unexplainable, while I was reading your e-mail. It’s an incident that occurred a couple of years after my mother married my stepfather.

I’ll call the incident:

The tomato tempest

My sister and I, with our mother and our recently acquired stepfather, traveled the 12 miles from Columbus, Mississippi to a farm near Ethelsville, Alabama to visit Papa’s sister, a red-haired wife who had become a widow a few weeks earlier—her husband killed himself. Yep, committed suicide. On a cool fall evening after supper he left his wife and three sons in the house, walked a short distance into the woods and into a ravine near the house (ravines are called hollows and pronounced “hollers” by Alabama country folks) and slashed his throat with a straight razor. His hounds found him early the next morning, and their baying alerted the family. One of his three sons was the first on the scene.

As Papa John explained it, “He damn near cut his head off.” I never knew why my aunt’s husband killed himself. Perhaps no one knew, but he may have done it because Papa’s sister, as long as I knew her, constantly whistled country singer Eddie Arnold’s “Cattle Call” song between her teeth—day and night, at work and at play. It may have been that her husband simply got “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore” and took the only way out—not the only way, perhaps, but certainly one of the quickest ways available to him—it may have been a classic case of, “One of us has to go, so it’s either her or me.”

The year would have been around 1942-1943. With the advent of World War II, America was recovering from the Great Depression, but recovery was slower in the South than in other sections of the country (similar to the South’s recovery after the “War Between The States,” known by some as the “Civil War”).

In a more serious vein, the father’s action may reasonably be attributed, at least in part, to the severe economic times. He and his family were share-croppers, tenants eking out a living by sharing the profits from crop returns with the land owner. The land-owner furnished housing, land, seed and farm implements, and extended credit to the family. In return the family did the work of clearing, planting, tending and harvesting the crops. The division of profits was always heavily in the landholder’s favor.

That the larger portion of profits accrued to the land-owner is understandable, but in far too many instances the paltry portion extended to the family, coupled with the family’s dependence on credit for the following year, guaranteed that they could never hope to rise above the share-cropper level.

A share-cropper and his family had a hand-to-mouth existence—they existed on credit until crops were harvested and sold, paid their debts with their share of the profits and promptly began using credit to get through the next growing season. If this seems to reflect a bleak existence with little hope for the future, it’s because the reflection was true—very little hope for the future existed.

I have vivid memories of the house. It sat near the woods a half-mile or so off the paved highway at the end of a winding one-lane dirt road, little more than two ruts between cotton fields. The farmhouse was typical of the time—built on piers, walls of unpainted ship-lap boards, rusting tin roof, a brick chimney, kitchen, dining room, living room and two bedrooms—the living room with the fireplace did double duty as a living room and bedroom.

The living room and two bedrooms were separated from the kitchen and dining room by a “dog-run,” an wide open concourse running from front to rear of the house. Breezes flowing through the dog-run helped cool the home in summer, and provided shelter for the dogs at night and in inclement weather (hence the term “dog-run”). In later years in many of such houses, the dog-run was enclosed to provide additional interior space, either as a wide hallway or for additional rooms or storage space—either way, the change put the dogs at a definite disadvantage. In all my memories, none is of full-grown hounds being allowed into the house, regardless of the weather—they took up far too much space and produced far too many bad odors.

This was my only visit to the farmhouse. My mother took various foodstuffs to the family on that visit, including a small bag of fresh tomatoes, items that would figure prominently in our lives following our one-day excursion to visit the family. We arrived early in the day and stayed until late afternoon. We ate dinner with the family at noon, a meal which included sliced tomatoes. My sister was about 12 years old, some 18 months older than I. She loved sliced tomatoes, and on that day ate perhaps what could be described as “more than her share” of them—however, the plate was repeatedly passed at her request with no admonitions from anyone.

When we left to return home, our route to the paved highway was blocked by a huge pile of brush placed there by my aunt’s youngest child, a boy a bit younger than my 11 years. If I ever knew why he did it I don’t remember the reason, but I do remember Papa’s frustration and his language—he had to clear the path before we could move on. I remember the air in that area turning blue. His language probably stemmed from his intake of alcohol during the day. We were to learn in later years that Papa John was a confirmed alcoholic, a trait that would exist for many years and figure prominently in our future.

Our supper at home that evening included a plate heaped high with sliced tomatoes. Papa John kept passing the tomatoes to my sister, and she cheerfully accepted additional helpings. However, when she had her fill of sliced tomatoes he insisted she take more, telling her that she had insulted him, his sister and his sister’s sons by eating so many at noon, that the tomatoes had been taken there for a grieving family, and should have been theirs. When she stubbornly refused to eat more, he reached across the table and struck her, open-handed, on the left side of her head, a blow that he repeated two more times, inter-spaced with the question, “I told you to eat them!” I remember my mother saying, “No, John, that’s enough, don’t hit her anymore.”

We lived in a two-story colonial style house that, in the early years of World War II, had been converted into several apartments. One of my older sisters lived in the front downstairs unit with her husband and young daughter, a two-year old, and we lived in the downstairs rear unit. Our combination kitchen and dining room opened onto the back porch.

When my older sister heard the commotion she rushed into our kitchen. All of us—my sister, mother, stepfather and I were on our feet when she arrived and charged into our stepfather. Papa John didn’t hit her, but he shoved her violently out the door with so much force that she fell off the porch. Other than minor bruises and injury to her pride, she was not hurt. Her husband wasn’t home at the time, and she returned to her apartment saying that she would tell him everything and he would deal with Papa John later. Our stepfather responded by saying his pistol was “loaded and ready.”

And it was. Papa John kept an Army-issue Colt .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol at his bedside, with a full clip and a round in the chamber, the safety off and the hammer fully cocked. His reasoning for that was to insure that the weapon could be fired quickly in an emergency—to fire it he could simply pick it up, squeeze the hand grips to override the final safety feature, and pull the trigger. He proudly told people that neither my sister nor I would ever touch the weapon—he was blissfully unaware of the many times I handled the Colt, pointing and sighting it at objects and people (including him), having morphed with the weapon in my hand into the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Lash LaRue, Don (Red) Barry, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers or any one of the host of Hollywood cowboys so prominent in my boyhood (trust me, I can name ‘em all).

Nothing else ever came of the incident. The end result was a permanent partial loss of hearing and untold psychological damage for my younger sister, and an enduring hatred of Papa John by the older sister he threw out of the kitchen. Later in the evening our stepfather apologized profusely to my younger sister, an apology that included tears—his, not hers. She listened stoically and made no response, nor did I respond, mainly because the apology was not addressed to me—I decided that the less said, the better, a maxim that would characterize and shape my actions far into the future, especially when Papa was involved.  To my knowledge, no apology was ever offered to the sister thrown out of the kitchen.

Okay, so what do you think?

Should I start writing my autobiography/memoirs, entitled something similar to “Memoirs of Mikey” or perhaps “Mike’s Memoirs” or maybe “Confessions of a Step-child”? This is just one incident in one day in a life which at this point has covered some 76 and one-half years. I can conjure up at least 16,900,027 vignettes from those years, all true. Not that truth matters—there is no one alive who can confirm, deny or dispute anything I might say or write concerning the first 19 of those years. For the following 57 years I’ll need to be stick closely to the truth, because your mother and your sisters may disagree with some of my memories.

Just imagine—Oprah might select my book for her reading club, and I would be on her show, and you could come along and photograph the proceedings—oh, and you could also save me a lot of money by producing my literary blockbuster.

Note for readers of this posting (if any):

I’ll leave it up to you, the viewers who blindly stumble onto my blog—should I write my memoirs, with the purpose of publishing a book? Should I consolidate and cement those memories for others to enjoy, or should I be selfish and keep them all to myself?

If you respond, I have only one request:

Be honest, but be gentle!

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2009 in Childhood, death, Family, Humor

 

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