Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Trouble on 281

I’ve always told stories based on facts and actual events. Debbie has commented I stretch the truth so much that someday it’s going to break and slap me right in the face. I don’t think that will ever happen but I will keep it in mind. If I didn’t make the stories more “colorful” they would be boring. To be honest, I don’t have enough imagination to actually make a story up from scratch so I’ve relied on the humorous memories of my past to keep the tale alive.

All that said, the following story is a complete work of fiction. I made it all up and it’s a step or two away from my norm. Oh sure, I did actually have a seafoam green 1967 Pontiac Tempest when I was in college and yes, it did give me all kinds of trouble with overheating. And, yes I’m sure I did make at least one trip down state Hwy 281 in order to watch a cousin get married in Llano but the rest of it…..total fiction.

Trouble on 281…

I had been driving since six in the morning and making great time. My absolutely beautiful seafoam green 1967 Pontiac Tempest with chrome-reverse wheels, baby-moon caps and Goodyear Widetrack red walls definitely made a statement. The statement was, “Man, I wish I could have afforded the GTO but this is a nice alternative!” I was proud of my new car and it had no problem getting on down the road. I was on Texas state Hwy 281 headed south. I had passed through Stephenville and was about four miles from the Hwy 6 intersection when I heard an unhealthy whine from under the hood. Being smarter than most nineteen year-olds I knew this whine was simply my imagination and would go away as soon as I turned up the 8-track player. After another couple of miles the car began to lurch….you know….LuRCh. You’ve had it happen, right? Your driving along and all of a sudden...LURCH. You look at the gas gauge and realize you should have filled up in Stephenville. Because you are a kind and considerate individual you are able to make the car lurch on down the road to a little, run-down but excellently located gas station. That’s what happens, right? Not so much for me either.

When the Pontiac started to lurch along, I pulled over to the side of the road. As soon as I stopped I realized the whine I had heard earlier was not my imagination. It was high pressure steam coming out of the radiator. The car wasn’t out of gas. It was out of water. Now I don’t know how many of you take the time to check all your fluids before heading out on a road trip but I do this religiously….unfortunately I didn’t start until after this trip. I was in trouble. If I didn’t make it to Llano for the rehearsal dinner on time my cousin Joe Bob would never ask me to be his best man again for any of his future weddings. But I wasn’t sitting on the interstate and there just wasn’t a whole lot of traffic out on 281 at this time of day. I started to walk down the road in the direction of Hico but I knew it was too far away. After a few minutes I walked back to my car and took a seat behind the wheel. There was no point in trying to figure out how to fix things. The radiator was empty and even if I could have found water I had noticed that most of the steam had been coming from a long crack along the bottom seam of the radiator. Nothing but a tow truck was going to help me. While I thought about what to do I turned on the radio to see if maybe I would get an idea how far away I was to civilization. You are probably thinking, “Poor old Russ. His trouble on 281 was a broken down Pontiac but it will make a good story someday”. Well, I didn’t know the real trouble on 281 hadn’t even started. As I found a local station on the radio I heard this public service announcement: “Please be advised! Two murders have been committed on state Hwy 281 between Stephenville and Hico. All travelers are advised to lock their doors and not pick up any hitchhikers. The suspect is approximately 20 years old, 145 pounds, 5’10”, with brown hair and long sideburns”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! They just described me! I was in some real trouble. If I had been one to use profanity I would have gone through my complete library of four-letter words. If I had been one to use good sense, I would have sat there in my car waiting to be arrested. Instead, I jumped out of my car and headed east across the rolling prairie toward...well, I had no idea where I was headed. And it was a good bet I wouldn’t get there fast since I was dressed for a wedding rehearsal dinner. As I ran I tried to answer my own question of “why am I running?” but all I could get to process through my brain was “ARRRGGHHHH”!

After about thirty minutes of running, throwing up, and running more I realized I was acting more guilty than I would have seemed just sitting in my car. I also realized it was summer in Texas. Summer in Texas means lots of water, stay out of the afternoon sun, and watch out for rattlesnakes. Okay, as soon as I thought of rattlesnakes I did use one four letter word familiar to most of us. I slowed down and took stock of my situation. I was already lost, I had on dress shoes instead of boots, I had no water, and oh yeah, I was wanted for two murders!

I decided to go back to the highway and wait for the police to arrive but when I looked around I had no idea what direction the highway might be. It was straight up noon so the sun was beating down on the top of my head with no hint of where it would eventually set. I needed to go west but all the terrain was identical and the sun was no help. All of my two hour survival training from Cub Scouts hadn’t prepared me for this. I wanted to cry but it’s true that real men, and especially those homegrown in Texas, never cry. I started to climb the nearest hill so maybe I could see where the highway was hiding.

As I started my climb I was reminded again to watch out for rattlesnakes. A rattlesnake ten feet away is what reminded me. Using that four letter word for the second time in my life I slid back down that hill as fast as I could. I guess it was too hot for the snake too. He just looked at me like I was an idiot. I agreed with his opinion. I found another nice hill a few hundred feet away and climbed it instead. As I reached the top of the hill I saw a glimmer of light about two miles away. It looked like an aluminum roof reflecting the sun. I headed for that roof.

It seems like I walked for hours to find that shiny roof. I was afraid I was probably going to find nothing but a barn but if there was water I could at least stay until dark and rest. But, as I came over a small rise I saw a large ranch style house sitting there as welcoming as can be. I walked straight for the house and crossed a well manicured lawn which told me they at least had plenty of water on hand. As I got closer to the house I saw a middle-aged man sitting on the porch with his legs stretched out in front of him. He didn’t move as I approached. I waved. I smiled. I “hello-d”. I waved some more. He never moved and if it weren’t for his piercing stare I would have thought he might be a mannequin. Just as I reached the steps to the porch he moved. He raised a shotgun and aimed it right at my head. I felt like I was dehydrated but I was able to pee my pants just the same. With my hands raised high over my head I told the man I hadn’t committed any murders but I wanted to turn myself in anyway. The gun never wavered from my head. I began to cry.

Standing at arm’s length, the rancher motioned for me to sit down on the porch. He looked me over from top to bottom and if the movie Deliverance had already come out I would have been even more nervous. His first words to me were simple. “What kind of fool wanders around the prairie in dress clothes and no hat?” I have to admit with two murders on the news I would have started with other questions, but he was the one holding the gun so I didn’t argue. I told him my story from my breakdown on 281 all the way to finding his house. I told about the news report and how I panicked and ran. I think I also cried some more….just for effect, you know. When I finished I asked for water which he gave me along with some cold roast beef from “last night’s dinner”. He put the gun down and asked me who I supposedly killed. I told him I had no idea. His argument was that someone turning himself in for murder should at least know who he killed. I couldn’t even tell him if they were men or women, adults or children. Least of all, I had no idea why I had done it….if I had. He told me to sit while he went inside the house. When he came out he was carrying the keys to his pickup. He motioned for me to get in.

As the rancher drove down the dusty road toward town I found out I was closer to Hico than I had thought. He was transporting me to the Hico police department. When we arrived he made me sit while he honked his horn for someone to come out. When the deputy wandered out I nearly choked because he said, “Hey there sheriff. What cha got there?” The rancher/sheriff told the deputy he had a suspected murderer give himself up and Hico PD should process him. I have to admit, I still couldn’t believe I was in this situation. It was like a bad dream. The deputy was puzzled and asked who it was I had killed. I told him I hadn’t killed anyone. The sheriff told me to “fess up” so I said I was suspected of murdering two people out on Hwy 281 earlier in the day. The deputy continued to look confused until the sheriff started laughing. It was then I found out the culprit had been caught in Stephenville thirty minutes after the warning was given over the radio. I kind of wish I had listened to the news longer than I had.

The Hico police had my car towed into town and after waiting two days for a replacement radiator I was back on the road. I headed north on 281 instead of south though. I had missed Joe Bob’s wedding but promised to catch the next one. I was going home.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Day The Internet Died

It was another quiet morning. I had gone to the gym already and was back home drinking coffee and waiting for Deb to wake up. I picked up my computer to check e-mail and couldn't access it. I did exactly what any red-blooded American computer nerd would do. I set the computer back down and went out to my wood shop. A while later I heard a heart rending scream come from inside the house. I ran in wishing I had carried my 9mm with me. I guess I could have wished it wasn't unloaded and locked in my safe while I was wishing but I just wished I had it as I ran in the house expecting no telling what. I found Debbie moaning on the couch. There was no internet access and she couldn't start her day with "Heartland" on Netflix.

I mentioned to Deb that I hadn't been able to go on line earlier. She looked at me like I was insane while asking me....in a quiet, relaxed way why I hadn't done something about it then? She jumped up, ran to the router in another room and started the reboot process. I poured another cup of coffee. She then ran back to the den saying she couldn't get the thing to reboot. Here were her exact words: "You try to access on your computer while I call AT&T. Turn the TV on and set it on Netflix just in case it comes back on by itself. Hurry! Hurry! We have to fix this!" After a few more minutes, actually just long enough for me to finish my coffee, she came back with a sigh. AT&T was having a problem and they had no idea when they would be back up and running.

Before I tell the rest of the story I'll sidetrack for a minute. Debbie and I can't share computers. She does all kinds of things on the computer to make it "more efficient" and I can never find anything as a result. I bought my computer for one reason....to write. My software lends itself to my writing, saves automatically because I tend to wander off without saving, and makes my documents 'publisher friendly'. That's all I wanted. Well, I also wanted a friendly publisher but only the really expensive computers come with that software. It did come with other stuff but I have never used most of those things. Debbie's computer died a few months ago and rather than shell out another $2000 for a replacement Mac I offered to let her share with me. Within one day...and I am not making this up...within one day I couldn't find anything on my computer. I still have trouble finding this site and even though Debbie offered to "fix it" I'm not letting her touch it. She bought a new Mac. Now, back to the adventure.

After another short stay in the shop I came in to find Debbie reading. This is a past time she used to really enjoy. She read books constantly. Anyway, I was happy to see her lying on the couch reading. The TV was still set to come on if the service came back but so far the dragon still slept quietly. After a while it reared its ugly head and announced "Daddy's home". Debbie was so excited she immediately grabbed the remote to find "Heartland". I have some concerns based on this reaction. She might just possibly be addicted to TV. Or maybe she's just addicted to "Heartland". After it was over she turned the TV off and grabbed her computer. She advised me to get mine out too. She started going through all her programs and files looking for lost information. She found plenty and spent the next couple of hours repairing and replacing. At one point I heard her mumbling to herself. It sounded like, "mumble mumble mumble carry the one mumble mumble save mumble create file mumble mumble mumble E=MC squared mumble mumble.

After a while she looked up and pronounced her computer back up to speed with a few new dazzling files to help with efficiency. I was happy for her. She asked if I had found any problems with mine. I told her I hadn't really looked but it seemed to be okay. She asked what I had been doing all that time she was working on hers. I said, "I've been playing Solitaire"....mumble mumble move the black queen mumble mumble....

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's The Little Things...

Maybe it's just me but when I start to remember my youth I always focus on a small, insignificant event, place, or time. Today I started thinking about my dad's redwood woven fence. You remember those from the 50's don't you. All the really cool people had them. My dad was the first in the neighborhood to build one and all the envious neighbors quickly followed suit.

Building that fence was the first opportunity I had to actually help with a project. Of course I had tried to help before but my efforts were declined.....I think it had to do with the time I wandered into a freshly painted room, saw the trim paint sitting there opened and waiting to be used. I decided I would "help" by repainting the walls with the trim paint. Hey, I was like three at the time. The fence project was too big for one man and I was the closest thing to a helper my dad could come up with so I got to help.

"We" built the fence over the course of a week. We set the posts on a weekend and added the woven redwood during the evenings of the following week. It was a wonderful experience and I gained a whole new respect for this man in the family who could do absolutely anything he decided to do....and do it well! The fence was beautiful...in its early 50's kind of way. When it was finished my dad added a deep redwood stain to the already red redwood. He was an artist with paint. He then announced a rule....just one rule...easy to follow...DO NOT CLIMB THIS FENCE. I think he actually chiseled the command into stone but I may have imagined that part.

Now in fairness to all the boys who have ever been five and seven years old, it is a proven fact that fences are meant to be climbed. Fences with horizontal weaves all through them are especially in need of climbing. The fact that our dad added a 1 x 6 cap all along the length of the fence added the responsibility of not only climbing the fence, we must walk all along the top of it. We had to. It was our job and our destiny.

Glenn and I waited until the next weekend was over before trying out our balance on the fence. Maybe we waited that long to give the stain enough time to dry. Or maybe we waited to make sure all the posts were set properly. Or just maybe we waited that long because it was that long before our dad went back to work. At first we just climbed up and down the fence. We had a six foot advantage in height when we stood near the top. We yelled at our friends. We waved and showed off for the girls...not that we cared anything about girls then of course.

After a few days just climbing to the top became mundane. We decided that in the interest of manhood the top should be walked. I was older than Glenn by a couple of years so naturally I was more manly than him. I made the first trip down the fence balancing myself with youthful stupidity. Glenn quickly followed and made the trip successfully as well. After that, the top of the fence became a much traveled trail. We had a ball but sadly, even walking the top became boring.

After seeing a couple of knights facing off in a joust on horses and long poles in some movie, Glenn and I decided to do the same on top of the fence. This was a short-lived activity though because I was taller and had a longer reach. After a couple of falls off the fence Glenn decided it wasn't fun anymore. I thought it was a blast but I couldn't get anyone else to play the game with me.

As is the case with all toys, eventually the "new" wore off our fence. We went on to other adventures. And it wasn't because our dad led us out to the fence, pointed out all the scratches and lose boards, and said he was going to have to kill us. We just got bored with the fence....really.

I was sitting in the backyard a few years later feeling kind of blue. I was growing up too fast. After all, I was already twelve. I got to thinking about all the fun Glenn and I had on that fence. I decided to climb up and walk the top again. I made it all the way to the back of the yard without falling. On the way back, and just as I was over those vicious metal trashcans, I lost my balance. As I began to fall, I mentally ticked off all the rescue moves I could make to save myself from real pain.....actually all I thought was "oh no" (this is a family site) while wildly waving my arms in all directions. In one swing of my arm I touched a cable reaching from a tall pole to the back of the house. I grabbed it tight to stop my fall. It did not stop my fall. It snapped right off the house with exposed wires falling to the ground with me. I was a dead man. I hit the ground with a thud and expected the high voltage to fry me on impact. Instead, my sister came storming out of the house yelling at me and wanting to know what I had done. Her telephone call died in the middle of important gossip. Okay, there were two wires stretching across there. Fortunately, the high power line was well out of a twelve year-old's reach.

See, it's the little things...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

As the bitter north wind blew across the prairie...

...that we called north Tarrant County, a lonely individual sat by a tiny pine tree trying to keep it alive. That sounds like the terrible start to a terrible novel but it is history.

When Christmas came for my first son, Jamie, I wanted to do something special to remind us of the wonderful occasion. I bought a tiny pine tree down at Homer's Hardware store for us to decorate for our new son. My plan was to plant it in our yard after Christmas so Jamie could watch it grow along with him. He would be able to point to the tall tree and tell his children that the beautiful pine had been his first Christmas tree. Heartwarming, is it not?

The tree spent two weeks in a warm house before being planted outside. I didn't know much about planting trees but I knew this would be special. I had a hard time digging the hole for the tree because I kept stopping to pat myself on the back....such a thoughtful, sensitive man.

I finally got a hole dug deep enough to plant the little tree. I watered it as the north wind began to kick up then went inside to warm up. We lived as far north of town as we could get and like the saying goes, "there was nothing between us and the north pole except a barbed wire fence". It was a particularly hard winter that year. We had driving wind, dust storms, sleet. In fact, we had everything a winter can throw at a person except rain.

The next morning as I left for work, I noticed the little tree didn't look very well. In fact, it looked like it might actually be close to death. I went inside and got a bucket of water for it before heading out and slowly let the ground soak up the moisture. I was late for work that day. When I got home the tree hadn't improved but it wasn't worse. I worried about it all night and got up earlier than normal to check it the next morning. It's needles were turning yellow and curling up at the ends. I ran for more water. This went on for nearly a week until I was about to give up on it. I hated that my plan for planting a tree for each of my kids might be a failure. On Saturday, I clipped off a small branch and headed over to Homer's to see if anyone could help me save the tree.

It is true that most people working as clerks are just that...clerks. Not only have they not been training for the products they sell but they also have a distinct apathy for those products. I was disappointed to hear that the "Tree is dying dude. Have you considered watering it?" As I walked out of the store an old man stopped me and asked to look at the small limb. He examined it and told me the tree needed iron. I bought what I needed and memorized all the old man had told me:

  • Mix the iron with water.
  • Water the tree slowly, very slowly, once each week on the same day.
  • Try to water the tree at the same time of day.
  • Be patient.
I followed the old man's instructions to the letter. I chose Sunday at 3:00 o'clock for the watering because I knew I would always be home at this time. I had to feed the water very slowly so it wouldn't run off on the wind-baked soil. Some days it was cold. Some days it was okay. Some days it was so bitterly cold and windy that only idiots and tree lovers would be outside. I was one of the latter but always felt I was one of the former....especially when I would notice neighbors peering from their windows at the idiot sitting on the ground next to a twig. 

The tree didn't respond to my efforts. As the winter wore on it lost all its needles. There was nothing left of it but the tiny little trunk. It would have been easy to step on. A normal, sane person would have pulled it out of the ground. It was even too little to bother putting it in the trash...just pull it out and let the wind carry it away. Did I do that? No, I did not. I spent every Sunday afternoon watering my little twig sticking out of the ground. Debbie told me I was crazy. My neighbors stopping speaking to me. People passing in their cars just shook their heads, feeling sorry for the young lady married to the insane guy. 

When spring approached I will admit I was ready to give up. I couldn't see mowing around a dead twig. On the day I went out to pull it out of the ground I looked at it closely to make sure it was dead. I saw dozens of tiny buds sprouting. Jamie's little pine had survived the bitter winter. I was beside myself. I ran in and told Debbie, then I ran to Jamie's room and told him as I bounced him in the air. He said, "Gaagah googoo" which I interpreted as " Way to go Dad!" 

As it turns out, we sold that house a few months later and moved into Hurst. I drove Jamie and our newest bundle of joy out to our old house one day and showed them the Christmas tree. Cody just slobbered on his thumb and Jamie replied, "hmm". Impressed indeed!!

I learned a lot from this experience. I learned perseverance in the face of strong difficulty. I learned patience. I learned little boys could not care less about a tree you kept alive just for them. I didn't plant a Christmas tree for Cody. I am quite sure he couldn't possibly care less.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Gentle Annie....

...I apologize for that outburst just now. When my grandpa got upset he would yell "Gentle Annie". We had no idea who Annie was, why she was considered gentle, or why our grandpa always mentioned her when he was agitated. My grandpa didn't use profanity and he raised all his kids to avoid the same. All his kids followed his advice....except for Uncle Frog of course. Uncle Frog could weave a line of cuss words together better than any poet could ever put the words together to create a beautiful poem. But, I'm getting away from why I'm agitated and had to blurt out those foul words.

I had determined to write an eloquent story today. It was going to pull at your heart strings and probably cause tears to fall. At the end of the story I was going to wrap it all up as a lesson for all and possibly offer an idea for an excellent New Year's resolution. That's what I was going to do. And I did. The problem came when I tried to transfer the story from an unfamiliar publishing software to my blog page. The entire story transferred just as it should with one exception. The whole thing printed out as one line. I scrolled as far as I could to find the end of the story but eventually another blogger told me to get my words off his page. (That's not true....I made it up.) I tried to edit the job by pulling it up and resetting it in parameters for my own page. This took half an hour. When I tried to check the edited version, the whole thing had printed out in four lines reaching to the neighbor's blog again. At this point I cursed the computer with a good, strong "Gentle Annie" and deleted the whole thing.

I may write that story again someday....I promise, it made me want to laugh and cry at the same time if you can understand that. It was one of my better stories I must say...and I must say since evidently no one else will be able to read it any time soon. Before I rewrite the story I need to spend a little time removing some irritating software from my computer.

Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year. Please remember that prosperity isn't measured in dollar signs.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Present Building Past....

The last of the Christmas orders have been picked up. The tools have been cleaned and put away and the sawdust swept. It's quiet in this Santa's workshop today. Every year about this time I promise myself I will never make Christmas presents on order again. Around the approach of spring, which usually occurs around March 1st and lasts until the 2nd, I start looking forward to having a busy shop again. I have other orders to fill but nothing required before Christmas. I will start on the new projects after a short break until the first of the year.

Today I had planned on focusing my attention on the tons of fallen leaves in my yard. The neighbors would appreciate it and I would enjoy being outside. As luck would have it, today is the coldest and wettest day of winter for us so far this year. I guess just sitting here next to the fireplace is as good a place as any to waste time. The only thing better would be if Debbie would go out to the wood pile and start us a fire. That would be just wonderful but I'm not expecting it to happen. Since it's been so warm we've had only one fire this year so Deb stacked Christmas presents on the hearth. I guess I'll hold off on that fire until Christmas day when everything has been distributed to the little...and not so little grandkids.

I was sitting here reflecting on my 'Christmas present building past' with warm memories. I kept saying during those stressful days just before the deadline that I would look back on those days someday with fondness. I didn't believe myself at the time but now I do enjoy thinking back. Mainly because the days are past and I don't have to relive them ever again. My mailman asked earlier this week how I learned to make things out of wood. That started the memories. I'll give a quick summary:

It all began on a hot day in August, 1950. The place was All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.....

oh, sorry....Debbie told me not to go that far back.

It all started in 1979 when my doctor told me if I didn't learn to live with the stress of my job I wouldn't live to see 30. I was 29 at the time. Since I wasn't interested in starting a new career, he suggested I find a hobby to be accessible to me every day of the week. I could do anything as long as I did it daily. That ruled out most hobbies. No one....well, no one back then could play golf every day and fishing was out of the question. I could learn to cross-stitch and help Debbie with projects or I could learn to do something manly. Hunting was my first instinct but the city didn't think that was a good idea. I explained there was plenty of wildlife that needed thinning out around us but they said "no". Then I remembered my grandpa and how he let me help with his woodworking projects. Even though most of my help involved sweeping sawdust I enjoyed the time spent and thought, "Hey, that's what I'll do! I'll sweep!" Then I decided actually doing the woodwork would be more enjoyable. I came home from the doctor's office and told Debbie exactly what I had been told: "Go immediately to the hardware store and invest way too much money on quality woodworking equipment or you will be dead by your 30th birthday." It may have not been those exact words but that's the message I received from the doc.

After my first investment I had the basic tools to create tremendous volumes of sawdust. The tools looked wonderful in my garage and I hoped to actually turn one of them on eventually. Since grandpa wasn't around to supervise my ignorance I was a little bit scared of the tools. It took about two days to get enough nerve to turn them on and another week before I actually cut some wood. My first projects were Christmas presents for my unsuspecting family members. They were so kind. A few years later after I actually learned how to use my tools I offered to replace every gift I had given with something less fireplace worthy. My sister Julie took me up on the offer and after I made her another gift we agreed the stupid, lopsided "fern stand" would be tossed in the fire. It was a grand experience.

Learning to work with wood is a dangerous undertaking if you are teaching yourself. Too many times the self-taught have to make notes to themselves about things like not to get too close to the blade while it's rotating...and they usually have to make that note with the less dominant, and less bleeding hand. I was lucky to have spent time with my grandpa because even though my only functioning tool was a broom he drove the safety issues home to me regularly. So far, I've never bled from a cut. I have bled over a few splinters but that just adds to the mystique of a quality woodworker.

A few years into my woodworking saw the building of a shop for my hobby. All my tools laid out in permanent positions with built-in workbenches, overhead lighting, and a lock on the door. I had made my place in the prestigious world of "really good woodworker". Of course there is no award for that status, and I just made it up while writing this.....oh, and the status itself was in my own mind but darn it, I was proud of myself. People actually wanted me to make things for them rather than politely accepting the offered nightmares. I had arrived. My job wasn't slowly killing me anymore and my hobby was completely satisfying.

As I sit here in retirement and laugh at all the stress and worry I put into things that no longer matter, I'm glad I put some time into learning how to work with wood. I enjoy it and yes Debbie, I also enjoy complaining about it. It's all part of the hobby!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Year We Scared Santa Off...

Christmas traditions come and go as we age and our kids age even faster. It was fun to share the wonder and excitement of our boys when they faithfully believed Santa Claus gave them everything they wanted under the tree. I miss those times but you can't hold onto them forever. I know my parents and Debbie's parents weren't ready for us to leave their Christmas traditions and we held out as long as we could. We would have Christmas Eve with Debbie's family then come home late and get the boys to bed. Then we would begin assembling all the gifts "Santa" was going to bring them. We would finally make it to bed around 2:00 a.m. just to be roused around 6:00 a.m. by two very excited little boys. After we finished our own Christmas we would hurry to get to my parents house early enough for gift-giving with them. After that, Christmas lunch with Debbie's parents followed by Christmas dinner with my family. By the end of the day I hated Christmas. I got over it pretty quick each year.

It was on one of those schedules that my brother Glenn planned a special event for our boys. He was at his own in-law Christmas Eve but left it dressed as Santa. I called him right before we left to head home. When we pulled into the driveway and our headlights swept across the front of our house, there was Santa on our front porch about to walk in the front door. Debbie yelled, "look boys, there's Santa Claus!" They jumped up and looked just as Santa showed surprise and ran away. Jamie and Cody both let out a howl like I've never heard while screaming, "daddy, you scared off Santa Claus!" Although I assured them he would come back after they were asleep they were convinced he would be on the other side of the world by then. There was no comforting their broken hearts.

As Debbie herded the boys inside and got them ready for bed, I took off to find my brother. I had to get him back to our house to calm those boys down. I wandered the street yelling "Santa Claus! Santa Claus!.....Glenn?" He was no where to be found. I went back home telling myself the Lord would understand all the lies I was about to tell my boys. I walked into their room while Debbie was tucking them in. Jamie had manned up and become very quiet. Cody was still crying as hard as he could. I whispered to Debbie that I couldn't find Santa anywhere. She didn't know what we should do. Our boys thought we had chased off Santa Claus. But suddenly there was a Christmas "miracle". We heard a tapping at the bedroom window and looked over to see Santa peering inside. I opened the window and my brother's magic words calmed them down. "HO HO HO, you boys don't cry! I wouldn't let Christmas pass without filling your tree with presents. Go to sleep as fast as you can and I will come back after I know you are asleep". Thank you Glenn!!

I think that was the best Christmas the boys ever enjoyed as little fellas. The only bad part of it was the experience convinced them beyond doubt that Santa Claus really did exist. We worried as they grew older that they were holding onto that belief too long. When I felt the time was right, I casually mentioned one day how memorable it was when Glenn dressed up as Santa and got scared off our front porch. Cody said, "oh man, I knew it had to be something like that!" Jamie said, "SAY WHAT?" I'm just glad it happened before he left for A&M.