Monday, August 7, 2017

I love a road trip....

I bought new tires for the car. I love new tires. New tires make the whole car seem new all over again. Debbie couldn’t care less about new tires but I do. I really like new tires.

Debbie’s birthday was last week. I asked her what she would like for her birthday. She said she really didn’t need anything. I asked her if she would like new tires because I had already bought them. She told me no. She said she would like to visit Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. I said that was a wonderful idea since we hadn’t been on a trip in a while and after all, we do have new tires on the car. I made the plans and we left last Wednesday.

I did not realize Pawhuska, Oklahoma was so far away. It took us six hours to get to the neighboring town of Bartlesville where I had reserved a hotel room. Pawhuska was another thirty seven miles away. Whew. As we left the Metroplex area and got up to speed on I-35 I noticed a slight vibration in one of the wheels. I mentioned to Debbie that as soon as I got past 70 mph the vibration started but below 70 it was fine. She said no one in their right mind needed to drive faster than 70 so I stuck it in cruise control and forgot about it. It was a nice drive, light traffic, beautiful scenery. We got to our hotel around 2:30 in the afternoon and checked in. I was beat. I fell asleep almost instantly and Debbie sat and planned out our stay…..a little bit of shopping in Bartlesville, nice dinner and early bedtime. She had to drag me out of the bed and slap me around for a while before I was conscious enough to take her out shopping.

The next morning we got up early and headed for Pawhuska. Debbie wanted to have breakfast at the Mercantile. I have to admit, I really enjoyed the Mercantile. Great food, wide variety of merchandise, unbelievably high prices which discouraged Debbie from buying too much. Oh yeah, the restrooms were exceptional. All in all, our six hour drive up there was surely worth the two hours it took to have breakfast and shop the whole store. Debbie thought we would spend the rest of the day shopping in Pawhuska….there is no shopping in Pawhuska. By 11:30 we had seen it all and had no other plan than to head back to Texas.

I like to plan ahead for any trip I take by car. I like to use my road atlas and highlight the roads we will use. I have done this ever since we first started traveling early in our marriage. It’s entirely possible that if I’m ever elected President of the United States and then have a library in my name, all my road atlases will be displayed for posterity. Anyway, I had the return trip planned to cross Oklahoma on state highway 60, hit I-35 close to the Kansas border and fly like the wind south to Fort Worth. As I pulled out of the parking lot Debbie asked if I was sure my route was best. I said, “Of course! If you have doubts ask the Google lady.” Debbie asked the Google lady for the best route to Hurst, Texas. She said to get on state highway 99 and head southwest. I happened to be on state highway 99 heading for highway 60 at the time. Losing confidence in my plan I decided to follow Google Lady. Google Lady must have been laughing her electronic head off for suckering me into this decision. Her instructions took us two miles, turn left, go ¾ miles, turn right, turn left, go 100 yards, turn blue…..and then it really got bad. This is the honest truth. Google Lady had us turn into a residential neighborhood and drive around for a while before landing us back on…..yep, back on state highway 99.

As the day dragged on highway 99 became less like a highway and more like a game trail. It was a horrible situation and I had no idea how to change things. We were wandering around Oklahoma completely lost while Google Lady laughed maniacally. After two and a half hours we passed over what looked like a decent highway going west. I pulled to the side of the road and got out my atlas and saw that the road shot straight as an arrow west to I-35. I found the entrance to the highway and got moving. An hour later we were on I-35 headed south and nothing was going to slow us down….except being sleepy. I had to have a break so I asked Debbie to take over. I pointed her south, leaned back in the passenger seat and fell asleep. The vibration is what woke me up. The vibrating wheel….that only vibrates over 70 mph. I jumped up...or I should say I tried to jump up. The G force we were in kept my head plastered to the back of the seat. I strained my eyes to look left and saw Debbie hunched over the steering wheel blasting down I-35 so fast the car felt like it was coming apart. I tried to speak but my lips were pressed against my teeth and wouldn’t move. All I could get out was “BIBLP BIBLP’, which is pronounced BIBLP BIBLP. This sound disturbed Debbie long enough for her to let up on the accelerator. I was then able to ask her (in a calm, reassuring manner) if she didn’t think she should slow down to...oh, I don’t know, maybe 70? She explained she had to go fast because a truck had passed her twice and was about to pass her a third time. She couldn’t let that happen. I told her to go ahead and let the truck go on by. She could slow it down a little. A few minutes later the vibration started up again. I asked her why she was going so fast. She said, “You know I hate to drive behind trucks hauling pipe!” I looked up the road and saw a small blip of a truck on the horizon. I told her to let it go. I didn’t think she would be hit by any falling pipe unless she managed to catch up to the truck and ram it from behind. She suggested naptime might be over and maybe I should drive.

It was a great trip.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Danny and the Bear...

We spent a while in Roswell, New Mexico in the early sixties. My dad was with a team from General Dynamics sent to build underground missile silos during the height of the Cold War. His job was involved with all the wiring…..hmmm, I may have just spilled a huge pile of top secret information just now. I guess since these silos have now been filled with dirt I am fairly safe  from prosecution….but if not, HEY, I WAS JUST KIDDING! What’s a missile silo anyway??

We had a house built in a new neighborhood close to the old Walker Air Force base. This location was absolutely perfect for eleven and twelve year old boys to wander the countryside, chase tumbleweeds, sneak onto farmland, rearrange survey markers for new roads….you know, innocent stuff. Another new family moving in about the same time as ours had two boys close to Glenn’s and my age. One of the boys, Danny, became my best friend for the short time we lived there.

Our families became close almost immediately since no one knew anyone else in the neighborhood. Over time we started going on camping trips together up around Ruidoso. On one of these trips Danny and I begged our parents to let us set up our own campsite a few hundred feet from theirs. Danny had an old Army surplus pup tent and I had….well, I had nothing but my trusty cub scout knife. They agreed to let us venture off as long as we stayed in sight.

Our chosen site was down a low spot which we called a valley and back up a small rise which we referred to as “the next mountain over”. We found a clearing with a fairly level spot and spread the tent out. We figured and studied and then figured some more. Finally, Danny decided we should stretch the tent out and he would crawl inside it to set up a pole while I held the tent up and in place. It sounded like a plan so we got to work. Danny was in there for the longest time pushing, grunting, kicking, and so forth. After a while my arms got tired and I was bored. I began to slack off and started “studying the terrain”. That’s when I heard the thrashing noise behind me. I turned as much as I could while still holding the tent in place and saw a bear coming through the brush. I handled the situation calmly by screaming like a girl, dropping the tent on Danny while running right over it, all the while waving my arms in the air yelling, “B-E-A-R!!!!”. Danny poked his head out of the tent yelling, “WHAT?” I yelled it again, “BEAR!” while running, pointing behind me, and waving my free arm in the air. Danny saw the bear and after he got his eyeballs back in their sockets, caught up with me doing an imitation of an adolescent Tarzan… ”ARRGGGHHH!”. All this activity took the bear by surprise and he ran off in the opposite direction, waving his arms in the air and yelling, “CRAZY KIDS!”.

We stopped running after about a mile and circled back around to our families campsite. We calmly told our story….both at the same time with high pitched voices. After they finally understood our frantic babbling they believed us which, in hindsight was a real stretch of faith. They suggested we go back to the site, load up the tent, and come stay with them in the popup campers. We weren’t about to go back alone so our dads went with us and helped carry everything back. We acted like we were really put out having to stay in a dumb old camper instead of camping on our own mountain…..Danny may have been disappointed but I was tickled to death to sleep in that warm, safe camper.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Michael...

I had a cousin on my dad’s side named Michael. He was a year older than me and a lot bigger. He used to pick on me. In fact, it was standard procedure for him to hit me solidly in the stomach as soon as he saw me when the families got together. After I got my breath back we would have a pretty good time but that punch in the stomach always took a little bit out of me. One day my mom told me Michael and his family were coming over for dinner. She said she wanted me to let him have it as soon as he stepped out of the car and if I didn’t she was going to spank me after they left…...true motherly love….

I was scared to death when I saw their black and white Oldsmobile pull into our driveway. As it rolled to a stop I positioned myself where I thought Michael would step out of the car. As soon as he had both feet on the ground I placed a perfect punch into his stomach. He went to the ground gasping for air and groaning. I figured my uncle was going to finish me off but he just smiled and stepped over his son. I helped Michael up off the ground and we went on our way playing the day away. He never hit me again and we got to be pretty good friends.

I spent a couple of days with Michael one summer weekend. We wandered up and down the hot tar and gravel roads around his house, threw beer bottles at rocks as we found them along the road, and collected coke bottles we could redeem for cash at the convenience store. He taught me the art of getting the most out of my recycled change. I would have bought a nickel Coca Cola and a nickel Snickers. He introduced me to Topp Cola, which was twice as much in volume as the Coca Cola and Big Hunk, which was huge next to a single Snickers. It didn’t matter that these substitutes tasted awful. It was more for the money and we had a few cents left for comic books. We needed to stock up on comic books because we were going to camp out that night in his backyard.

We had a tent set up in the backyard and as soon as the sun went down we went out there. Only young idiots would want to sleep in a canvas tent on a summer night in Texas. We qualified! Our plan was to read all the comics we had bought ourselves and then trade. I have always been of the opinion that a comic book should be funny…..hence the name comic book. I bought Archie, Donald Duck, Little Lulu, and Beetle Bailey. Don’t laugh at me. This was quality stuff. Michael bought Thrills, Death Angel, Quilt Man, and Tales of the Crypt. It took me about half an hour to read all my books. Michael spent nearly two hours getting through his. I read mine two or three more times before getting to trade. After a while they weren’t funny anymore. Finally it came time to trade. I have never read anything more incredibly scary than Tales of the Crypt….and as fate would have it, this was the last one I read….in a dark backyard….that backed up to a deserted country road….at night...in a tent….did I mention it was in the dark? Michael slept peacefully dreaming about Betty and Veronica. I didn’t sleep at all. I saw mummies on the road, zombies sitting on the patio, and one or two ghosts drifting across the backyard. I was sure glad to see the sun come up and my beautiful aunt Evelyn wandering out to see if us boys were ready for breakfast. She was a saint!

Monday, July 10, 2017

I couldn't stop writing....

so please bear with me as I continue to pass on stories from my family to yours...

The Brassfields...

We didn’t go as often as we would have liked but when we did make a trip to the Brassfield’s farm in Missouri we knew we were going to have a grand old time. My aunt Irma and uncle Tom had about a dozen kids it seemed like and everyone of them enjoyed life to the fullest. From my earliest memory of hand feeding the calves, jumping from the loft in the barn, and causing my sister to fall face first into the pig pen, to the later visits when we were all mature teenagers…..and played “Piggy Wants A Signal” til it was time for bed, every visit was a memory maker.

I can remember being told one day that we were going to go visit Irma and Tom. I was just a kid not too far removed from running around the neighborhood in baggy underwear. I didn’t know Irma and Tom and I wasn’t too interested in meeting them. My mom told us we would have a great time because they had kids our age and they lived on a farm. I dreaded getting to the farm, and if I’m not mistaken the first farm was in Nebraska….I could be wrong. I guess I could call one of my cousins and ask them but that would be too much like “research”. Anyway, the trip seemed to take forever.  When we got there all six of us (Debbie Sue hadn’t joined the family yet)  climbed out of the car and stared into the faces of a dozen cousins staring back at us. It had rained most of the way up and even though a bright sun had broken through the clouds there was still mud everywhere. I didn’t like mud….not Nebraska mud anyway. It wasn’t the same as Texas mud. I gave those kids my most effective scowl and they didn’t even flinch. They were actually glad to see us. Evidently they remembered seeing us at some point that was lost on me. They immediately started making us feel right at home. Even all those girls were friendly to Glenn and me. I fell in love with one of them inside of five minutes but she was too old….and we were related after all.

After all the hugging and laughing at how much everyone had grown was past, we made it into the house. I never liked being in houses where I didn’t know anybody so I was ready to get back outside. Besides, who wants to be inside when you live on a farm? As I started back out my mother warned, “stay out of the mud”....well shoot, that kind of limited my options. Luckily, my newfound cousins followed me out and since they didn’t have the mud limitation I was able to follow them around. After just a few minutes I was thrilled to death to be there and loved being around my newfound cousins.

The next morning one of my older cousins, Bill, was told to get busy with his chores. Aunt Irma suggested he take me along to help. The look on his face was troubled but he tried to hide it. As the day progressed I figured out that his chores took twice as long for him to accomplish with my help. This was one thing I learned real quick about the Brassfields. They never complained. They just kept on smiling and going about their business. I felt like I was a real farm hand by the end of the day and Bill probably hoped I would be assigned to one of his brothers tomorrow. Bill had two older brothers, Kenneth and Leon, along with a younger brother, Cecil. Kenneth and Leon also had daily chores but I didn’t get to ‘help’ them. Glenn was assigned to Cecil. Cecil didn’t have anything to do except run around playing. He was good at that….Glenn was a happy guy. Poor old Bill got me again the next day.

My sisters were busy with all those girl cousins I had met. I figured I would never learn all their names so I just referred to them as the girls. I figured they were busy cooking, cleaning, mending socks, and such….you know, women stuff. I felt sorry for them being stuck inside working like that as I followed Bill around the farm. I was sure surprised when I saw one of my sisters in the hayloft giving serious thought to jumping out onto a huge pile of hay. All of a sudden one of those Brassfield girls came up behind her, grabbed her, and jumped out of the loft. They screamed with joy as they fell and disappeared into the hay. Then they climbed out and headed back up. Those girls weren’t doing women work at all. They were having fun! I left Bill with his chores and headed for that loft. As it turned out, Bill was able to actually get his chores done without me helping and was soon in the loft with us. Man oh man, what a day. I am scared to death of heights but jumping out of that loft was pure joy.

The only other memory stuck in my mind about this trip was saying something to my older sister Cindy and getting her to chase me. There was a small pen enclosed with an electrical wire where the baby pigs (piglets?) were kept. This was more than just mud. It was smelly, slimy, really disgusting mud. I knew about the pen and my sister didn’t. As she was chasing me I headed for that pen and jumped over the corner of it. She was right at my heels and tripped on the electrical wire getting herself a nice couple of jolts on her lower shins, all while falling face first into the middle of that pen. The spanking I got was well worth it although I did feel bad about the electrical shock.

I remember so little about this trip I’m surprised I was able to write so much. I have many more memories of later trips to the Brassfield farm in Missouri. I will write about them soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

So long for now....

I'm a story teller. I've always told stories and many years ago I decided to write some of them down for my future grandchildren. In the beginning I shared the stories with co-workers and then started showing them to my wife, Debbie. After a while she convinced me to compile the stories into a book for my siblings as a Christmas present. I printed off enough copies to give one to Glenn, my three sisters, my parents, and a copy for my cousin, Mike Cooper. They all seemed to enjoy the book so I started a blog to write more stories to share. I am a bit of a procrastinator and let several months go by (about twenty-four of them) without posting anything on my blog. Because of this I completely forgot my password and due to my procrastination I hadn't yet gotten around to writing the password down. That particular blog is now somewhere out there in cyberland full of forgotten stories.

I started this blog a few years ago and tried to stay somewhat regular in posting to it. I also wrote down my password which is something I highly recommend to everyone.

The stories I've written are just that....stories! All of them are based on true events but have never been intended as historical fact. Historical fact is usually boring. I've tried to enliven the past with humor. Hopefully the humor added has always been at my expense....oh sure, I have used Debbie as the victim on occasion but that was covered under the marriage vows, "Do you promise to not get mad at Russell when he tells stories about you?" "I do".

These stories are about the past as seen through my eyes. I'm not interested in writing anything to be published. I don't think any of my stories will ever be used at future reunions...."this is the way it happened according to our great ancestor Rusty Mihills". They are just stories, written mainly for my grandchildren to know what it was like when I grew up. I would rather they read a colorful story than thumb through a box full of dusty old photographs.

If I've recorded an event incorrectly I'm sorry. It wasn't intended to be offensive to anyone.

For now, I will write down my memories and store them away in a file for eight blessings in my life: Gracie, Nathan, Andy, Sam, Lily, Carter, Charlee, and Claire.

Thank you all for reading!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Case of the Drowning Cousins....

When I was about seven I loved to hang around my cousins Mary Wayne and Peggy. They were older than me but rarely chased me off. Peggy used to read to me and Mary Wayne was just cool. She was funny and never seemed to get tired of a snotty-nosed little cousin following her around like a shadow. I also liked all of their friends and always tried to be a part of things.

One day Mary Wayne, Peggy, and their friends decided to go swimming at Lake Worth. I got all excited and told my brother Glenn and cousin Bruce (Mary Wayne and Peggy's lanky little brother) to "Go get your swim suits. We're going to the lake!" Now this is why Mary Wayne was so cool. She had not invited us to go with them but since I assumed we were included she never said a word. She acted like that had been her plan all along.

As we left the house aunt Cricket reminded Mary Wayne and Peggy to keep an eye on those boys since they didn't know how to swim. Silly talk...we were nearly grown. We could take care of ourselves just fine.

If you are familiar with the area you know Lake Worth is a very old lake. The history around its shores is varied and colorful. What used to be Carswell Air Force base was a Strategic Air Command base throughout the Cold War and fighter pilots got their touch and go hours in constantly, flying just over the lake. Convair, now Lockheed Martin, tested fighters over the lake daily. There were rumors the Mafia had people working out of a floating restaurant/bar on the lake with tales of unsolved mysteries buried deep in the silt.

When we were kids there were a few slabs of old buildings beneath the surface of the lake and fishermen loved to work their lures along the slabs. We liked to walk on the slabs because the water came to our knees and there were no "surprises" to step on from below.

On the day I invited Glenn, Bruce, and myself along on the girls outing the three of us were walking along one of these slabs while the rest of the group swam out to a floating pier. I was in front with Glenn and Bruce following close behind. We were having a grand old time wading around while Mary Wayne and Peggy had a grand old time completely forgetting about us. As we walked the slab playing follow the leader I suddenly took a step off the slab into deep water. Taking follow the leader to an extreme, Glenn and Bruce followed me into the deep. I never saw or felt Glenn fall in but Bruce fell right on top of me. I grabbed him and pushed up to the surface. I quickly told him I would hold him up and he should scream and wave for help. I then slipped back down until my feet touched the bottom. I didn't know if Bruce's head was above water or not...if it wasn't he didn't have a prayer of saving himself because I wasn't letting go of him. I pushed myself up two or three times to gulp down some air then went back down. Eventually one of the girls looked over and realized we were gone. I feel like one of them saw Bruce and they all swam over faster than I'm sure they've ever done since. Bruce was grabbed and then me. No one saw Glenn until Peggy got a glimpse of his curly hair come to the surface. She grabbed his hair and yanked him up. They saved our lives without a doubt.

The water we fell into was probably only five or six feet deep but when you are four feet tall that's a lot of water. I've been afraid of the water ever since and didn't learn to swim until I was a sophomore in college. To this day I avoid swimming in a lake or the ocean. I try to stay away from pools but occasionally peer pressure....and avid swimming grandkids causes me to venture in.


Friday, June 9, 2017

What to do, what to do......

Here's how the day was supposed to happen: I would get up around six, drive over to borrow Cody's post hole digger, dig four holes in the backyard, place four posts in pre-selected spots, and build a small deck to hold our backyard swing....complete job in one day.

Here's how the day actually happened: I got a text late last night from my daughter-in-law Cayce asking that since I was coming over so early the next morning could I sit with two of the grandkids while she took a third to a speech therapy session. A small delay but quality time with grandchildren. Debbie offered to keep the kids here so I could keep my schedule (taskmaster that she is). We woke up to rain which voided my schedule so I called Cayce to tell her I would make the trip over there....too late, the kids were loaded and she was on the way. While we watched Sesame Street Claire got sleepy and went down for a nap. Carter wanted to pal around with me so we "worked" in the garage and watched the rain. Eventually Cayce came back and while waiting for Claire to wake up fell asleep herself. When she fell asleep Debbie and I both got sleepy. I drifted off while Debbie kept Carter and Charlee in check. After I woke up Debbie fell asleep. I thought for a minute I should check for gas leaks but figured that would be wasted time.....we have an all electric house. Around 11:30 everyone was awake so Cayce took the kids home......and I fell back asleep.

During all this sleeping the rain stopped. Our house is built on a hill so the drainage is great. An hour after a rain I can mow the lawn if I need to do such a silly thing. I could have gone out and dug those holes and started the project. That would have saved a portion of the day. Instead Debbie and I decided to watch reruns on Netflix.....and snack. We also decided since we had experienced such a difficult and taxing day we deserved a night out. We haven't had Tex-Mex in well over a week and that isn't looked on favorably in Texas.

All in all the day was non-productive. I got absolutely nothing done I had planned but sometimes a person just has to stop and listen to the rain...or smell the roses.....or toss it all out the window and play with the grandkids. Cayce complimented us wonderfully by feeling close enough to us to fall asleep in our home and dream away two hours in carefree abandon.

I am well known as a dyed in the wool procrastinator and I may find good reasons for not finishing that deck for another week or two but today....ah, today was bliss.