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Revisit: The day I lost my marbles . . .

I originally posted this story in July of 2010. I came across it while browsing today and enjoyed it so much that I decided to share it with the multitudes of people that overlooked it. I know they overlooked it because it garnered only one comment and that was from a lovely lady that lives in Montgomery, and she probably felt compelled to comment because she is my niece and I am the only surviving uncle from her mother’s side of the family. Actually, if I were a female I would be the only surviving aunt from her mother’s family—yep, of the original seven children I am the last one standing, and yes, I’m a bit lonely!

This is an intriguing—albeit rather sad—tale of one small boy’s attempt to establish and cement friendship and perhaps help to promote cordiality between races in the deep South at a time long before the marches between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama and long before civil rights legislation was passed by Congress. Well, alright, I confess that I was also trying to add to my collection of marbles and because of my politically incorrect older sister I failed miserably, and instead found my collection reduced by a significant number, including some of my favorite pieces. Bummer!

The day I lost my marbles

Many years ago in Columbus, Mississippi on the corner of Fourth Street South and Ninth Avenue South there was a large colonial style two-story house with stately columns and a balcony, a house converted into apartments during World War II to accommodate the influx of military personnel from Columbus Air Force Base, a pilot training center. I haven’t been in that section of town for many years—it may still be standing, or it may have been razed and a modern brick structure erected on that lot.

I lived there for several months with my mother, my youngest sister Dot—short for Doris—and my stepfather. Jessie, my oldest sister, also lived there in a one-room apartment that shared a bathroom with another tenant. That house holds many memories for me, several of which I have posted on my blog—some of those memories are pleasant and some are not so pleasant. Click here to read about The tomato tempest, a story that includes a visit to Alabama, a sharecropper family, a suicide, an Army-issue Colt .45 caliber automatic pistol, a recalcitrant young girl and a stepfather with a vicious temper.

The house was only two or three blocks from a section of the city that was called by many names, mostly names that are not used in polite society today. In these modern times of political correctness, certain words are voiced only by their first letter and the word word added, as in the N-word or the F-word or the Rword—the R stands for Republican, a word that some are reluctant to use in fear that they will looked upon as such.

I suppose that in today’s parlance, the neighborhood just beyond where I lived as a boy would be referred to as N-town, an area primarily comprised of black families—the term African-American was unknown then, unknown at least in the circles in which I moved. I’ve never understood the rationale for expressing something like that—if it is true that the thought is as bad as the deed, then saying the N-word instead of the actual word in nothing more than an attempt to cover up the real word, and it’s not covered up—try it—just say the N-word to yourself and check the mental image it creates, both in the speaker and the listener. Let’s face it—it’s a cop out—if you’re going to think it, you might as well say it.

I knew only one person that lived in N-town, a black lady that came to the house every weekday to care for my niece, Jessie’s young daughter, then just a toddler. Millie also cleaned, cooked and ironed for Jessie over a period of many years at several different locations in the city. I never knew Millie’s last name—we simply called her Millie, possibly the diminutive form of Millicent. An unmarried lady, she lived with her family just a short walk from our house. I vividly remember numerous Saturday nights when Dot and I walked with Jessie and our mother to Millie’s house. Jessie and our mother, along with Millie and her mother formed a quartet and sang church hymns, A Capella, all the old favorites and they sometimes belted out fast-paced tunes that contrasted sharply with the well-known songs—I suppose they were songs popular at the time—pop tunes, so to speak.

The group stayed in the house in inclement weather and neighbors came and sat and listened, and in fair weather they formed on the front porch and neighbors came and sat and listened. My sister and I stayed outside, both in inclement and fair weather, playing all the games children play in the evening—Kick the Can, Pussy in the Corner, Tag, Hide and Seek and others, and sometimes we sat on the porch and told stories, mostly ghost tales—and I’m here to say that those kids could spin some very scary stories!

Now that I’ve laid the scene, I’ll progress to the when, where, why and how I lost my marbles. I arrived home from school and Millie and my niece, Millie’s charge, were the only ones there. Left to my own devices, I swept an area of the front yard clean, drew a circle and began playing marbles. Soon after I began one of the kids from Millie’s neighborhood came by, watched my shooting for a few minutes and asked if he could play. I said yes, and the battle was joined—we played for keeps, meaning that when a shooter knocked one of the other shooter’s marbles out of the ring, that marble changed ownership—it now belonged to the one that caused it to go outside the ring. At first I seemed to be in control, but as the game progressed I realized that I had agreed to a play-for-keeps game with a kid that was a much better shooter than I.

So did I call off the game? Not on your life! I had a reputation to support and I worked very hard to reclaim some of my marbles that now resided in the black kid’s pockets. I was almost marbleless when Jessie came home from work. She briefly watched us at play and then entered the house, and a short time later Millie came out and headed for home. Then Jessie returned to the front yard—Jessie, my oldest sister and the sister that often gave orders that I was required to obey. She ordered me into the house, and I told my new friend—my adversary—that I had to go in, and he headed for home also, his pockets bulging with marbles that earlier had been in my pockets.

Jessie told me later that it was not seemly for me to be seen playing with a N-word child, that it would look odd to our neighbors. I pointed out to her that I had lost most of my marbles, and that I appeared to be on a winning streak at the time she stopped the game. Her response to that? You shouldn’t have been playing for keeps—that’s gambling, and gambling’s a sin. I didn’t bother to argue that I played with the black kids on Saturday evenings. I knew that the difference was the difference between day and night, between light and dark. I was in full view during daylight hours, subject to the stares of disapproving blacks as well as whites, and in the darkness of the evening I was not subjected to such stares.

That’s it—that’s how I lost my marbles, a loss that I was never to recoup. I never saw that kid again—sometimes I think that he may have been a ringer, a professional sent in from another area to pick up some easy loot in the form of marbles, similar to what Paul Newman did in his movie, The Hustler—bummer!

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

 

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Jawbreakers, bubble gum & molested chickens

World War II was over—the bombs had eradicated Hiroshima and Nagasaki and large segments of their populations, and neither my stepfather’s carpenter talents nor my talent to deliver newspapers were needed in Tennessee. The modular homes were being disassembled and the areas where hundreds of families had been living would soon revert to the wild. We left Happy Valley, Tennessee and returned to Mississippi because my stepfather had recently bought a 40-acre farm, complete with a skid-mounted grocery store with one manually operated gasoline pump, a small house, a large barn, a chicken house and an adequate outhouse.

His purchase included one milk cow, one white mule, one brown mule and a motley flock of chickens—White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds with a sprinkling of speckled hens. The flock was serviced by one lone rooster, a Rhode Island Red, hence his name Red.

Oh, and one more item concerning the chickens. Several of the hens were in poor physical shape. I learned soon after we moved to the farm that the hens had been—ah, had been subjected to—uh, ah, okay, I’ll just come right out and say it—they had been sexually molested, presumably by that dolt of a teenage farm boy in the family that previously owned the farm.

That was a presumption voiced by my stepfather, except that he didn’t use the term sexually molested—many of the words he used to explain the physical condition of the hens and to express his displeasure were limited to only one or two syllables. I’ve often pondered on that presumption, wondering and speculating on whether he arrived at that conclusion from reading, from other conversations or from experience—my stepfather grew up on a farm in Alabama.

I never knew, and I definitely was unwilling to question him. I’ll get back to you later with more information on that, so stay tuned. Until then, I’ll close that portion of life on the farm by saying that my stepfather put the hens out of their misery with blasts from a 16-gauge shotgun, after which the carcasses were buried far from the house, feathers and all, except for those that were scattered by the pellets.

There were no cats, an absence unusual for a farm. Also included in the purchase were two small terrier dogs, a pair that served no useful purpose and came to an untimely end through action taken by my stepfather soon after we took residence on the farm, again with the 16-gauge shotgun.

Also included in his purchase of the farm, to my dismay, were several acres of unpicked cotton. For the edification of those familiar with Roy Clark’s song in which he sang proudly that he never picked cotton, I am here to tell you that I have picked cotton and I didn’t like it. Early in cotton season, pickers were paid a penny a pound to pick, and later in
the season when the bowls were sparse and farther apart, pickers earned
two cents a pound.

I strived mightily to pick a hundred pounds in one day, but never made it, no matter how early I started and how late I stayed in the cotton field, and no matter how many times I peed in the cotton sack, an time-honored country-boy scheme to add weight to his pickings. Another way to increase the weight was to start picking at or before good daylight and pick frantically while the dew was still on the cotton, thereby adding the weight of the water—not much, but pennies went a long way back in the good old days.

One penny would buy a cigarette, two crackers with one’s choice of cheese or bologna or sausage, and a plethora of penny candies—an all-day sucker, a jaw-breaker, one piece of bubble gum or one stick of gum, a small handful of jelly beans and one’s choice of various individually wrapped candies such as Tom’s Peanut-butter Logs.

I have a vivid memory of reading a newspaper article saying that the price of cotton paid at auction was forty-one cents a pound, a total of $205 for a 500 pound bale. I was brash enough to ask my stepfather why he paid only two cents a pound for pickers when he was getting twenty times that amount, and he treated me to a prolonged lesson in economics—that effectively broke me from asking any more questions.

I have many more stories to tell about my brief life on the farm. One involves a beautiful cross-eyed redhead, another a tree filled with turkeys and still another of a wild cat I captured and thereby indirectly caused his death, so stay tuned—there’s more to come.

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

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Oh, no! Not another blond joke . . .

Oh, no! not another blond joke . . .

On a memorable March morning in a small country church the preacher ascended his pulpit and looked out over the congregation, and his gaze came to rest on the barely covered bountiful bosom of a blissfully blessed buxom blond beauty. The preacher strongly chastised her, saying that her mode of dress was unacceptable and asked why she would wear such a dress in a house of worship.

The young woman said, My husband is a music lover and he says that when he places his ear on one side of my chest he can hear bells ringing, and on the other side he can hear angels singing, and because I don’t want to deny him that pleasure I always dress like this.

Perplexed but thoroughly intrigued, the preacher asked if he could try it, and after a slight hesitation she demurely acquiesced. The preacher leaned down, and after first listening intently for sounds from one side and then from the other side, he stood and triumphantly announced, to the young lady and to the congregation, that he could hear nothing more than her heartbeat—neither bells ringing nor angels singing.

The blissfully blessed buxom blond beauty with the bountiful bosom stood and plaintively scolded the preacher, saying in a clear and remonstrative tone,

Preacher, you don’t understand—you have to be plugged in to hear the music.

Postscript: After writing this post and just prior to publishing it, I Googled the phrase plugged in and got almost 12 million hits—11,600,000 to be exact, so now there should be at least 1,600,001 hits which include that phrase. I followed the Goggle trail for several minutes and found that many of the entries involved being plugged in to religion, but none that I found referenced blonds or acceptable modes of dress for female church goers. There may be some that deal with such topics but I despaired of finding them and ended my search.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in heaven, Humor, religion

 

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The day after Christmas, 2010 . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hanging and banging . . .

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!

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2010 in friends, Humor

 

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Envy or jealousy—which is which?

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.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2010 in Family, Humor

 

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The day I lost my marbles . . .

Many years ago in Columbus, Mississippi, at the corner of Fourth Street South and Ninth Avenue South there was a large colonial style two-story house with stately columns and a balcony, a house converted into apartments during World War II to accommodate the influx of military personnel from Columbus Air Force Base, a pilot training center. I haven’t been in that section of town for many years—it may still be standing, or it may have been razed and a modern brick structure erected on that lot.

I lived there for several months with my mother, my youngest sister Dot—short for Doris—and my stepfather. Jessie, my oldest sister, also lived there in a one-room apartment that shared a bathroom with another tenant. That house holds many memories for me, several of which I have posted on my blog—some of those memories are pleasant and some are not so pleasant. Click here to read about The tomato tempest, a story that includes a visit to Alabama, a sharecropper family, a suicide, an Army-issue Colt .45 caliber automatic pistol, a recalcitrant young girl and a stepfather with a vicious temper.

The house was only two or three blocks from a section of the city that was called by many names, mostly names that are not used in polite society today. In these modern times of political correctness, certain words are voiced only by their first letter and the word word added, as in the N-word or the F-word or the Rword—the R stands for Republican, a word that some are reluctant to use in fear that they will looked upon as such.

I suppose that in today’s parlance, the neighborhood just beyond where I lived as a boy would be referred to as N-town, an area primarily comprised of black families—the term African-American was unknown then, unknown at least in the circles in which I moved. I’ve never understood the rationale for expressing something like that—if it is true that the thought is as bad as the deed, then saying the N-word instead of the actual word in nothing more than an attempt to cover up the real word, and it’s not covered up—try it—just say the N-word to yourself and check the mental image it creates, both in the speaker and the listener. Let’s face it—it’s a cop out—if you’re going to think it, you might as well say it.

I knew only one person that lived in N-town, a black lady that came to the house every weekday to care for my niece, Jessie’s young daughter, then just a toddler. Millie also cleaned, cooked and ironed for Jessie over a period of many years at several different locations in the city. I never knew Millie’s last name—we simply called her Millie, possibly the diminutive form of Millicent. An unmarried lady, she lived with her family just a short walk from our house. I vividly remember numerous Saturday nights when Dot and I walked with Jessie and our mother to Millie’s house. Jessie and our mother, along with Millie and her mother formed a quartet and sang church hymns, A Capella, all the old favorites and they sometimes belted out fast-paced tunes that contrasted sharply with the well-known songs—I suppose they were songs popular at the time—pop tunes, so to speak.

The group stayed in the house in inclement weather and neighbors came and sat and listened, and in fair weather they formed on the front porch and neighbors came and sat and listened. My sister and I stayed outside, both in inclement and fair weather, playing all the games children play in the evening—Kick the Can, Pussy in the Corner, Tag, Hide and Seek and others, and sometimes we sat on the porch and told stories, mostly ghost tales—and I’m here to say that those kids could spin some very scary stories!

Now that I’ve laid the scene, I’ll progress to the when, where, why and how I lost my marbles. I arrived home from school and Millie and my niece, Millie’s charge, were the only ones there. Left to my own devices, I swept an area of the front yard clean, drew a circle and began playing marbles. Soon after I began one of the kids from Millie’s neighborhood came by, watched my shooting for a few minutes and asked if he could play. I said yes, and the battle was joined—we played for keeps, meaning that when a shooter knocked one of the other shooter’s marble out of the ring, that marble changed ownership—it now belonged to the one that caused it to go outside the ring. At first I seemed to be in control, but as the game progressed I realized that I had agreed to a play-for-keeps game with a kid that was a much better shooter than I.

So did I call off the game? Not on your life! I had a reputation to support and I worked very hard to reclaim some of my marbles that now resided in the black kid’s pockets. I was almost marbleless when Jessie came home from work. She briefly watched us at play and then entered the house, and a short time later Millie came out and headed for home. Then Jessie returned to the front yard—Jessie, my oldest sister and the sister that often gave orders that I was required to obey. She ordered me into the house, and I told my new friend—my adversary—that I had to go in, and he headed for home also, his pockets bulging with marbles that earlier had been in my pockets.

Jessie told me later that it was not seemly for me to be seen playing with a N-word child, that it would look odd to our neighbors. I pointed out to her that I had lost most of my marbles, and that I appeared to be on a winning streak at the time she stopped the game. Her response to that? You shouldn’t have been playing for keeps—that’s gambling, and gambling’s a sin. I didn’t bother to argue that I played with the black kids on Saturday evenings. I knew that the difference was the difference between day and night, between light and dark. I was in full view during daylight hours, subject to the stares of disapproving blacks as well as whites, and in the darkness of the evening I was not subjected to such stares.

That’s it—that’s how I lost my marbles, a loss that I was never to recoup. I never saw that kid again—sometimes I think that he may have been a ringer, a professional sent in from another area to pick up some easy loot in the form of marbles, similar to what Paul Newman did in his movie, The Hustler—bummer!

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

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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An odd thing happened en route to the slaughter house . . .

Long, long ago, across the river from a land where bad things frequently happened and are still happening, I was working the dog watch—12:00 midnight until 8 AM—as the sole United States Customs Service inspector at a small port on the Texas-Mexico border and a strange thing happened during a la madrugada of my eight-hour shift—a la madrugada is Spanish for the wee small hours of the morning.

At that time the midnight shift at the port consisted of three people—one Immigration officer, one Customs inspector and one civilian toll collector for outbound vehicles and pedestrians. When I say a small port, I mean really small—it had a total of one inbound lane and one outbound lane—I don’t believe they get much smaller than that!

A bit of background first—the exportation of live animals to Mexico was legal and authorized provided that certain requirements were met, requirements established by Mexico and the United States. Live animals could be exported to Mexico only if veterinary facilities existed for the examination of such animals and quarantine facilities had to be present in the event that bovine diseases were suspected. Since there were no such facilities opposite my small port, the exportation of live animals was not permitted, a hard and fast rule with no exceptions permitted.

The Immigration officer on duty was manning the entry point for incoming traffic, both pedestrian and vehicles, the toll collector was manning the toll booth and I was in the Customs office studying our fascinating Customs regulations—hey, that was a long time ago and I refuse to say that I may have been snoozing—that wasn’t allowed while on duty, regardless of how sleepy one became and regardless of the absence of incoming traffic—I have a future posting in mind on that subject.

The toll collector sent an outbound citizen, one driving a stake–bed truck with high sideboards, loaded with a half-dozen head of live cattle—bovines if you will—to the Customs office with a question. The driver wanted to know why he could not export cattle to Mexico. He said he was taking the cattle to the slaughter-house at Rio Bravo, a city some fifteen kilometers—about nine miles—into the interior of Mexico and that he had already made the requisite payoff to the Mexican officials and would lose his mordida—his cash bribe—to the Mexican officials if he was not allowed to cross before morning.

I patiently explained the law, stressing the absence of inspection and quarantine facilities on the other side and the requirements established by Mexico’s importation laws and our exportation laws. I told him that no live animals could be exported. He briefly meditated on that information, then thanked me profusely, turned his truck around and headed back into the interior of the United States. A short time later, an hour or so after the driver’s departure, the toll collector called me to come to the toll booth, saying that my attention was warranted.

And so it was—I found a truck loaded with six dead cows, animals that had been alive earlier. The driver had gone to a remote location several miles away from the port of entry, parked the truck, sliced the throats of each animal, waited patiently until most of the blood had drained from the truck and then returned to the port to legally export a half-dozen dead cows—dead as opposed to live.

Yes, I authorized the exportation—there was nothing in the Customs regulations that prohibited the exportation of dead cattle. Those dead animals, regardless of their physical condition, could not possibly contaminate cattle herds in Mexico so they posed no threat to that sovereign nation’s food supply, and given the present circumstances of this particular exportation I felt sure that the Mexican officials would allow the importation of dead cattle into their country.

Hey, before you condemn the three of us that contributed to the demise of those six head of cattle—the driver, the toll collector and I—just remember that the toll collector and I had were unwittingly involved—we were simply the victims of circumstances. Had the cattle been exported alive and frisky they would have died a few hours later anyway because crews at the slaughter house in Rio Bravo were waiting for the load, and would have done the same thing to the cattle that the driver did, perhaps using a more humane way to slaughter them, but I seriously doubt it.

I know it’s a sad story, lamentable and gross, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South & Pussy in the Corner . . .

I lived with my family in the house on Nineteenth Street South in Columbus, Mississippi for an estimated four years with my mother and three sisters, one just eighteen months older than I, one about ten years older and the eldest sister some seventeen years older.

Neither I nor any of the other children on the block were ever allowed in the house next door to our house on the north side, nor was the only child in that family allowed into our house. It never bothered us, and I don’t remember whether my family ever discussed it, but in retrospect it seems a bit strange. This posting may shed some light on the subject.

The family’s name was Berryhill, a family that was comprised of the mother, the father and a young daughter named Sue, a cute girl around my age, with blond pigtails and a really nice wardrobe. Her mother was always dressed in, I suppose, the latest fashions—I remember the women in my family discussing Sue’s mother and how she dressed. I know nothing of the father’s profession, but judging by their clothing and the fact that the mother always left the house in a taxi and returned in a taxi they had money to burn. Very few people on our street owned cars, and a limited number ever used taxi cabs—they walked, whether to the grocery, the picture show, to church, to visit, to the doctor, to the barbershop, etc. The late 1930s and early 1940s were lean years in our nation but especially in Mississippi, a state still reeling from the War Between the States and the resultant reconstruction era.

Sue was allowed to come outside and play games with us, always with the stern admonition to not soil her clothing ensemble. Sometimes she was allowed to stay outside while her mother took a taxi to some unknown point, probably to the local Black-and-White department store on shopping trip for the latest styles in women’s clothing. Speaking of that store, its name and it storefront were black and white, but the store sold clothing and accessories of all colors. I’ve always wondered whether the name was intended to inform the public during those days of segregation in the South that the store welcomed people of both races—perhaps—could be—who knows? I got no help from Google on this one—I found a White House–Black Market store that sold only white and black clothing, but also sold many accessories in color. However, no reference to a Black and White Department Store—it may possibly have been a partnership between Mr. Black and Mr. White—again, who knows?

On one memorable occasion while she was away from home Mrs. Berryhill’s daughter and I and several other kids from homes on our block played games, one of which was called Pussy in the Corner, and that was the one we were playing in her front yard when she returned in a taxi.

Ordinarily we would have delayed our game to watch her dismount from the taxi and stroll up the sidewalk and into her house, slowly and deliberately, looking to the left and to the right with the steps of a runway model as she progressed, dressed in the latest fashions—or so I gleaned by listening to my mother and my older sisters. However on this day our game was at a really exciting point and as she passed us someone shouted Pussy in the corner! and all of us shifted positions as required by the rules of the game, none of which I remember.

Sue’s mother stopped her runway walk abruptly and turned toward us and we froze in our Pussy in the Corner positions. She faced us and said in strong forceful tones, “Children, I feel that it would be much better if you would say Kitty in the corner, so please do.” She then resumed her strut to the front door and into her house.

We tried mightily to do as we were told—for the remainder of the game we laughingly shouted Kitty in the corner when the game demanded it, but our fun was ruined. A short time later the kids dispersed and went in search of pastimes that posed fewer restrictions, games such as Kick the can, Ring around the roses, Pop the whip and Hide and seek, but the thrill was gone—taking out the term pussy took out the fun in the game.

And speaking of thrill—one of the most popular songs of that day was by Fats Domino, a  haunting melody in which the singer would say, I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill, the moon stood still, etc., etc. Without exception, every little boy on my block and probably all the big boys and the men, had at one time or another sang Fat’s song as, I found my thrill on Mrs. Berryhill, etc., etc. Speaking strictly for myself, I had no idea why the corruption of the song was so funny—I just played along with a joke that I didn’t understand.

I’m serious—I was probably the world’s least knowledgeable kid in matters of sex and all its ins and outs—so to speak. The sister seventeen years my senior birthed her first child in the house on Nineteenth Street. I was at home when the baby was born—I remember my sister making lots of noise on the day my niece arrived, but I was out playing when the doctor came to our house. After he left and I returned home, I learned that I now had a niece—I  questioned her source, and I was told that the doctor delivered her. Since I was not present when he arrived, I had no reason to believe otherwise. I didn’t really care where the doctor got the baby—the place from whence she came was of no particular interest to me.

I am totally serious. While living in the house on Nineteenth Street, I spent a long summer with one of my sisters, the second oldest of my three sisters, and when I returned home my mother asked me if my sister was going to have a baby. I told her that I didn’t know, and that if she was going to have a baby she said nothing about it to me.

In retrospect I remember going to a nearby creek several times with my sister and her toddler son to bathe—the toddler skinny-dipped, I wore undershorts and my sister wore a one-piece bathing suit, and I clearly remember that she had gained a tremendous amount of weight, most of which seemed to be centered in her abdomen. The big boys always explained such a condition as the result of the woman swallowing watermelon seeds—I suppose I believed that just as I believed the doctor delivered my first niece—hey, nobody ever told me the difference between delivered and delivered.

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

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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The littlest one there . . .

An important note for anyone that visits this posting: This story is a matter of record. It is copyrighted, and any unapproved use of it may bring legal action against the user.

The Littlest One There

Rocky Raccoon and Roxanne Raccoon
live in a tree behind a big house.
The house has a back yard.
And the back yard has a fence.

One night Rocky Raccoon came down from the tree.
He climbed the fence.
He jumped from the fence into the back yard.


And Roxanne Raccoon came down from the tree.
She climbed the fence.
She jumped from the fence into the back yard.
Rocky and Roxanne were very hungry.

In that yard is a big house and a little house.
Two animals live in the little house.
A cat named Tee lives there.
She has big shiny eyes.
Rocky calls her Terrible Tee.
A dog named Heidi lives there.
She makes loud noises.
Rocky calls her Horrible Heidi.

Horrible Heidi and Terrible Tee have lots of food.
They sleep in their little house at night.
But when they hear a noise they come out of their little house.

Terrible Tee makes her eyes shine very bright.
And Horrible Heidi makes lots of noise.

Four people live in the big house.
Debbie is the mommy.
Bill is the daddy.
Lauren is the big sister.
And Landen is her little brother.

On that night Rocky and Roxanne were eating the food.
Horrible Heidi came out of the little house.
She made lots of noise.

Terrible Tee came out of the little house.
She made her eyes shine very bright.

Then all of the people in the big house came out.
They saw Rocky and Roxanne eating the food.

Mother danced around and shouted at Rocky and Roxanne.
Father began babbling about Rocky and Roxanne eating the food.
Big sister laughed and laughed at her mother and father.

Little brother just ran around being the littlest one there.


So Rocky called mommy Dancing Debbie.

He called daddy Babbling Bill.

He called big sister Laughing Lauren.

And he called Landen Littlest Landen.


On the first night Rocky and Roxanne did not eat enough.

And they were still hungry.

But on this night they ate all the food.

Because Terrible Tee did not come out of the little house.

She did not make her eyes shine.

And Horrible Heidi did not come out of the little house.

She did not make lots of noise.


And none of the people came out of the big house.

Dancing Debbie did not come out of the big house and dance.

Babbling Bill did not come out of the big house and babble.

Laughing Lauren did not come out of the big house and laugh.

And Littlest Landen did not come out of the big house and run around.

But he kept on being the littlest one there.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Books, Childhood, Family, Humor, pets, Writing

 

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Parched peanuts and skin crawling . . .

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

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

Such a deal!

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

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

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

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

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

Bummer!

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

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

Bummer again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Kudos to Kathleen, Re: Teacher Letter to Obama . . .

Subject: Fw: Teacher letter to Obama

The following paragraph prefaced the “Teacher letter to Obama”:

“This is one very angry teacher—her letter is awesome. How many millions of Americans across this country think exactly what she thinks and has said in this e-mail? What scares me is that every day something surfaces that has been signed as a Presidential Order or suddenly just appears as law. Who does this stuff while we’re all sleeping at night? Those printing presses in DC must run night and day. These first (heaven help us) 100 days have been the most destructive period of time in our nation’s history, and we don’t even know the half of it.”

A Disclaimer from thekingoftexas.wordpress.com:

This complete text of the teacher’s letter follows, much as I received it in a friend’s e-mail. I took the liberty of cleaning up some of the problems the teacher’s writing accumulated from being passed around the Internet—items such as missing punctuation, incomplete sentences, broken paragraphs, etc. However, I added none of my thoughts, nor did I change any thoughts expressed by the author, nor did I express agreement or disagreement with the author’s opinions—I merely expressed admiration of her eloquence.

The letter is apparently real—a search on http://refdesk.whitepages.com shows that the purported author of the letter, Ms Kathleen Lyday, is a real person—a real school teacher, one who lives in Missouri and works at a real elementary school. Whether she actually wrote the letter and whether she actually sent the letter to the president is unknown—I would like to believe that she did write it and sent it, and that the president responded to it. However, whether the letter was written and sent by her, and whether it was received and answered are all moot points—the Internet has given it some tremendous exposure. My purpose in posting it to WordPress is to perhaps broaden that exposure even more.

Kudos to Kathleen for expressing her concerns so eloquently.

Subject: Fw: Teacher letter to Obama

April 17, 2009
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. Obama:

I have had it with you and your administration, sir. Your conduct on your recent trip overseas has convinced me that you are not an adequate representative of the United States of America, collectively or of me personally.

You are so obsessed with appeasing Europeans and the Muslim world that you have abdicated the responsibilities of the president of the United States. You are responsible to the citizens of the United States—you are not responsible to the people of any other country on earth.

I resent that you go around the world apologizing for the United States, telling Europeans that we are arrogant and do not care about their status in the world. Sir, what do you think the First World War and the Second World War were all about, if not the consideration of the people of Europe?

Are you brain dead? What do you think the Marshall Plan was all about? Do you not understand or know the history of the 20th century? Where do you get off telling a Muslim country that the United States does not consider itself a Christian country? Have you not read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States?

This country was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and the principles governing this country are from that heritage, and were governing us until you came along. Do you not understand this?

Your bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia is an affront to all Americans. Our president should not bow down to anyone, let alone the king of Saudi Arabia. You don’t show Great Britain, our best and one of our oldest allies, the respect they deserve yet you bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia.

How dare you, sir! How dare you!

You can’t find the time to visit the graves of our greatest generation because you don’t want to offend the Germans, but you make time to visit a mosque in Turkey. You offend our dead and every veteran when you give the Germans more respect than the people who saved the German people from themselves.

What’s the matter with you? I am convinced that you and the members of your administration have the historical and intellectual depth of a mud puddle. You should be ashamed of yourselves—all of you.

You are self-righteously offended by the big bankers and the American automobile manufacturers, yet you do nothing about the real thieves in this situation. What about Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelic, the Fannie Mae bonuses and the Freddie Mac bonuses? What do you intend to do about them? Anything? I seriously doubt it.

What about the U.S. House members passing out $9.1 million in bonuses to their staff members, and the $2.5 million in automatic pay raises lawmakers gave themselves? I understand the average House aide got a 17 percent bonus. I took a 5 percent cut in pay to save my job with my employer. You haven’t said anything about that. Who authorized it? I surely didn’t.

Executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be receiving $210 million in bonuses over an 18-month period—that’s $45 million more than the AIG bonuses. In fact, Fannie and Freddie executives have already been awarded $51 million. Who authorized that, and why haven’t you expressed your outrage at the group that is largely responsible for the economic mess we are in now?

I resent that you consider me and my fellow citizens brain-dead and not caring about what you idiots do. We are watching what you are doing and we are getting increasingly fed up with all of you.

I also want you to know that I find just about everything you do and everything you say offensive to every one of my sensibilities. I promise you that I will work tirelessly to see that you do not get a chance to spend two terms destroying my beautiful country.

Sincerely,

Name, address and workplace deleted

A visitor to this posting (see comment below) said that the teacher did not write the letter. A quick check of http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/ihavehadit.asp confirms that it was written by someone else.

The following excerpt is taken from Snopes.com:

Origins: This letter to President Obama began circulating in May 2009 as something penned by a fourth grade teacher from Hillsboro, Missouri, named Kathleen Lyday. However, Ms. Lyday has disclaimed being its author; her name merely became attached to it when she forwarded it to others. An earlier version circulated in mid-April 2009 credits authorship to one Franklin T. Bell of Columbia, Maryland.

Regardless of the author, it’s a good letter and I’ll stay with this posting.

 

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