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Tag Archives: Lone Ranger

Letter to Lorene, dated January 25, 1994 . . .

This posting is a letter I wrote to one of my sisters, the prettiest one and a lady that has always been at the top of my list of best loved, but don’t tell the other sisters or their children—they might not understand! This lovely lady left us behind almost seven years ago. I’m sharing the letter on Word Press because many people that knew and loved her are visitors to my blog, and this letter includes a lot of history from 1994. The image on the right shows the beautiful teenager that Elmer met and married after a brief engagementa very brief angagement! We miss her.

San Antonio Int’l Airport

January 25, 1994

Dear Rene,

I’m certain you are aware that just because B follows A does not mean that B was caused by A, or in fact is in any way associated with A except, of course, by virtue of B’s position immediately following A’s position in the alphabet or to put it another way, by virtue of A’s position immediately preceding B’s position in the alphabet. So the fact that you called and talked for a long time the other day does not necessarily mean that this letter was caused by that phone call, or in fact is in any way associated with it.

However, we can put the matter to a scientific test. You keep calling and see if a letter follows each phone call. After a few years of that, we will be able to determine if there is any correlation between the two events. Betcha there is, betcha there is, huh, huh, whatcha wanna bet, huh, huh?

Correlation or not, it sure was pleasant talking with you. I know you’re glad to be back home. Seems like every time we leave, the urge to get back becomes stronger and stronger. I’m like Papa John Weathers—I guess I hate to have my routine messed up! That’s good news about Jessie recovering from her accident so well. I know that brace is a bummer but as you said, she’ll just have to adjust to it.

Got time for a couple of jokes? Stop me if you’ve heard these, okay?

The Lone Ranger and Tonto rode into town and stopped at the saloon. The Lone Ranger said, Tonto, my horse is really hot from all that galloping. Run around him a few times to stir up the air and help him cool off. The Lone Ranger went into the saloon and a few minutes later a guy came in, tapped him on the shoulder and said, Hey, man, you left your Injun running.

The doctor examined a guy and told him he only had six months to live. The guy said Doc, there’s no way I’ll be able to pay what I owe you in just two months. The doctor said, Okay, in that case I’ll give you a year.

One more doctor joke: A guy’s doctor called him and said, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that your tests showed you have only two days to live. The guy said, That’s the good news? What’s the bad news? Nothing could be worse than that. The doctor said, Wanna bet? The bad news is that I’ve been trying to contact you for the last two days.

Well, I’ll shut up. Don’t blame me for the jokes. They came from Kelley. If the subject matter doesn’t depress you the subject matter will—oops, that’s another joke. Kelley heard the jokes from Gordon, and he made her promise not to repeat them, and she made me promise not to repeat them, so I want you to promise not to repeat them. They are so bad that they must be stopped!

Speaking of depressed, I have a program called Quicken which tracks all kinds of good stuff, including one’s finances. I spent several hours loading all my “finances” into it, then called up a report showing the totals. I was really happy with them until I divided what I have now by the number of years I’ve been working. Boy, am I depressed!. The program is a lot of fun, though. Gives you all sorts of charts and graphs, all in beautiful color. I just wish I had more to put into them.

I’m not really depressed. I have a wife that loves me, three daughters that love me, two grandchildren that love me, two big sisters that love me, a whole passel of nieces and grandnieces and nephews and grandnephews and even a couple, perhaps, of great grandnieces or maybe great grandnephews—don’t know whether they love me but all would if they knew me. I also have two cats and a dog that love me (I don’t care much for the dog), a good paying job with no heavy lifting, a nice place to live and a nice house to live in, way too much to eat, and good health. No, I’m not depressed, I’m blessed—hey, I made a rhyme!. See there, I’m even talented to go with all the above.

I said the job required no heavy lifting, but I just remembered something. Did I tell you about pulling a back muscle while lifting a heavy suitcase for an elderly lady last year? Well, I did, and suffered severe lower back pains. Went to the doctor and he said I had muscle trauma. I was sure it was kidney stones, and asked the doctor why it was taking me so long to get recover if it was only muscle trauma. And he said it was because I was a fat old man. Well, he didn’t actually say I was a fat old man. He said it’s because You’re 60 years old and overweight. So I left the doctor’s office and stopped at MacDonald’s for breakfast. I have lost some weight since then, though, and I’m working on the rest of it.

It’s 7 p.m. now, and I’m halfway through this 3-11 shift. The first 4 hours seem to pass fast, probably because we have several flights. The last 4 hours drag on and on. Seems like 11 o’clock will never come, but it always does, of course. Boring as the shift may be, you’ll never hear me griping to go on day shift. I’ve been doing this now for two and a half years, and I wouldn’t take the day shift on a dare. In fact, I live in fear that the other supervisor will decide he wants to evenings for awhile. Not too much danger of that, though. He is a politician, loves to make Chamber of Commerce meetings and other activities, and there’s not much of that on the evening shift.

Time has really flashed by since we returned to San Antonio. March will be seven years since I left Houston, one of the happiest days of my life, leaving Houston. Not because I was coming back to San Antonio, but because I was leaving Houston. I never really planned on staying in Customs this long, but as I’ve said before—at least I think I’ve said it before)—it’s hard to quit just when the money is good and the living is easy. It’s been so long since I really had to expend any significant effort on the job that I’m not sure just what kind of product I would come up with if I were asked to produce. So I’ll go on hoping I won’t be asked!

I see by the old computer screen that I’m near the end of the page, so I’ll close, or else I’ll have to subject you to another full page. I have lots more, but I’ll save it for the next letter.

Lots of love, from me and all of mine to you and all of yours.

SUPRISE! I’m back. Just called Alta and she said she had just finished talking to you, so I cranked up the word processor again. Alta said she asked what size unmentionables you wore so she could fill up the box she is sending. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, you won’t have to worry about bloomers for a long while, because the best I remember there is quite a bit of room there—in the box, I mean, not in your bloomers. Did she tell you about packing the outfit in a small box, then checking it later and finding that some of the stuff she put on it had been squashed—is that spelled right, or is squashed even a word? Anyway, she had to do it over. The more I look at squashed the worse it looks.

Our weather is still wet. It’s beginning to remind me of Viet Nam where we had to wrap our billfolds in plastic to keep the leather from getting moldy. And if we left a pair of shoes for several days without wearing them, they grew beards and moustaches. That sure seems like a long time ago. Well, shucks, it was a long time ago. I got back to the states in June of 1970. Would you believe more than 23 years ago?

Sometimes I have to work very hard to make myself believe I was even over there. I saw a movie the other night about the war, and relatives visiting the Viet Nam memorial in Washington, D.C. and placing different articles at the base of the wall. I went there several times while we were in Washington. It’s quite an experience, watching the grief displayed by so many of the people there. Some people call it the “Wall of Shame.” It seems to bring about a release of the emotions that people have kept bottled up inside themselves. I’ve seen hardened veterans fall to their knees and weep unashamedly, oblivious of everything else and everyone around them. It’s not an easy thing to watch, and it’s impossible to see such an outpouring of grief without being affected. And how in the hell I ever got into this subject is beyond me, but I’ll get out of it now.

Well, what can we talk about now? Did I tell you I have almost all the Louis Lamour books, the paperbacks? I think I have 105, and he wrote 110 or so. I even built a special bookcase for them—well, for them and for some other paperbacks. I also collected novels by John D. Hamilton, Ed McBain, Lawrence Sanders and a couple of others, along with a lot of the old western, the ones that were printed in the forties and fifties and sixties. And some day I’ll get around to re-reading them!

Compact discs are the big thing now. Grolier’s Encyclopedia has been put on a single disc, the same size as a music disc. And another disc has almost 2000 books on it, 2000 of the world’s great literary works, every word, complete and unabridged. I have a compact disc reader/player, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the San Diego Zoo, and in the Gallapagos Islands and South America’s rain forests and Australian deserts, at the Grand Canyon and all the national parks, all without leaving home. It’s a marvelous invention, especially for the world’s shut-ins, and it’s a shame that right now the cost is prohibitive for many of the people who could most benefit from such programs. The cost is coming down, but will still be out of reach for many people. And then again, maybe they don’t want it. What do I know? Maybe they all would rather watch Fresh Prince of BelAire, or some of the other zillion or so TV programs that pretend to be entertainment.

Boy, am I up on my soapbox, or what! Oh, drats! I’ve just come to the end of another page, and that means I’ll have to think of something to talk about to fill up that page, too. How about that drats? How long since you’ve heard that? I think it may be the first time I’ve used it, but it won’tbe the last. Has a nice sound to it. Try it. Drats! Drats! DRATS!

Speaking of jive, how do you like rap music? I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT! And I hate it regardless of what color the rapper is whether black, white, brown, yellow or purple. I hate it, so I use the only weapon I have—I don’t buy it, and I don’t listen to it any longer than it takes to turn it off.

San Antonio had a murder here a few nights ago. Murder is common here, far too common. This one, however, was different. No jealous lover or husband or drug deal involved. The dead man was a husband and father of three, active church member, finished choir practice, called his wife and told her he would be home soon, just had to stop at an automated teller machine and make a night deposit. A 17 year old boy and 13 year old girl waylaid him and made him give them his personal identification number for the money machine. His body was found on the side of the freeway, shot through the head, and several cash withdrawals had been made at various locations in the area with his card. Both the teenagers are in custody. The girl said in her statement that she was holding the gun on the man and her boy friend didn’t like the way she was doing it, so he took the gun from her and shot the guy.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things in the last few years, and capital punishment is one of them. I never believed in it before, but now I do. I feel nothing whatsoever for the two people involved, regardless of their ages. They took something away from another person, and they should pay for the crime by giving up the same thing. And the sooner the better. They better hope I don’t get on the jury. When the judge asks me if I can render a fair and impartial verdict, I’ll say, Yes sir, Your Honor, boy, oh, boy can I ever render a fair and impartial verdict, just put me on that jury and see how fast I can render a fair and impartial verdict, and as soon as I render that fair and impartial verdict, I’ll help you hang ’em or shoot ’em or fry ’em or draw and quarter ’em, however you want it done, just so long as it’s done soon and I get to help do it. I’m dreaming, of course. They would never let me serve on a jury.

Well, I really have to shut up now. If I keep on I’ll have to send this thing in two envelopes. Once again, lots of love from me and all of mine to you and all of yours.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 3, 2010 in death, law enforcement, Military, politics

 

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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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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